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October 8 – October 15

Nathaniel Dorsky, Songs and Seasons

“If we do relinquish control, we suddenly see a hidden world, one that has existed all along right in front of us. In a flash, the uncanny presence of the poetic and vibrant world, ripe with mystery, stands before us.” – Nathaniel Dorsky, Devotional Cinema, 2003

For over five decades, Nathaniel Dorsky (b.1943) has been crafting work of arresting beauty: silent 16mm films exploring life, light and movement. Dorsky's supreme artistry of 16mm cinematography and rhythmic montage has given way to a distinctive mode of meditative cinema largely filmed in the streets, always without sound, and grounded in a penetrating understanding of film form. A professional and much sought after film editor, Dorsky is also a passionate and dedicated cinephile whose unique understanding of cinematic process is wonderfully captured in his published essay Devotional Cinema. The Harvard Film Archive is proud to screen two pristine prints from the HFA collection as part of Nathaniel Dorsky’s visit, and honored to host the world premiere of his four latest films. – Jeremy Rossen

Presented in partnership with the Film Study Center, Harvard. All prints courtesy the filmmaker.

For more about the work of Nathaniel Dorsky, please visit

Sunday October 8 at 4:30pm

Hours for Jerome

Directed by Nathaniel Dorsky
US 1966-70/82, 16mm, color, silent, 45 min

The footage was shot and edited from 1966 to 1970 and edited to completion over a two-year period ending in July 1982. Hours for Jerome (as in a Book of Hours) is an arrangement of images, energies, and illuminations from daily life. These fragments of light revolve around the four seasons. Part One is spring through summer; Part Two is fall and winter. – Nathaniel Dorsky



Love’s Refrain

Directed by Nathaniel Dorsky
US 2001, 16mm, color, silent, 22 min

Perhaps the most delicately tactile in this series, Love’s Refrain rests moment to moment on its own surface. It is a coda in twilight, a soft-spoken conclusion to a set of four cinematic songs. The devotional doesn’t require the embodiment of religious form... Devotional art subverts temporal compulsion. It’s there to inspire the verticality of one’s psyche. It breaks the absorption in the relative, allowing the mind of devotion to selflessly rest on phenomena. From a Buddhist’s point of view, the idea of trying to resolve yourself within the relative world is considered futile... This is not a new idea. When we view Egyptian pieces, they disrupt verticality. Art at its wildest best is so vertical that it suggests that death is as present as life. Metaphorically, this could be like seeing a film in a dark room, or seeing the world out of our own darkness. – ND

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Nathaniel Dorsky in Person

Sunday October 15 at 7pm

For the last two decades, my filmmaking has explored the language or the continuity of the various. A montage, bringing together associations and subject matter through a variety of moods and energies and juxtapositions, is what propelled and inspired these ongoing cinematic investigations. The goal was always unity. The varied atmosphere of the films followed the more intimate needs of my psyche.

Within this polyvalent or open montage, there are often small sequences made up of the same subject matter suspended within the stepping stones of the various. Over recent years, these sequences began to take on more major roles in the storytelling, at times with an almost rebellious determination to free themselves of the restrictions of polyvalence.

For the past several years, California has experienced an extreme drought: several winter rainy seasons with barely any rainfall. But, this past winter, good fortune brought a bountiful amount of storms and liquid refreshment. The spring that followed took on magical and celebratory qualities of energy, joy, fullness and rebirth.

In walking distance from my apartment is San Francisco's Arboretum, located in Golden Gate Park. I decided that I would make an entire film on a single subject and that subject would be the light, not the objects, but the sacredness of the light itself in this splendid garden. What I did not know is that the great beauty of this magnificent spring would bring forth not one, but four films, each one immediately following the previous. I began the second week of February to photograph and finished the editing of the fourth film during the first days of August.

These four films spontaneously manifested as four stages of life: childhood, youth, maturity and old age. Elohim was photographed in early spring, the week of the Lunar New Year, the very spirit of Creation. Abaton was photographed a few weeks later in the full ripeness of spring, the very purity and passion of the Garden. Coda was photographed in late spring, in the aftermath of this purity, the first shades of mortality and Knowledge appearing. And finally, Ode, photographed in early summer, is a soft, textured song of the Fallen, the dissonant reds of death, seeds and rebirth. – Nathaniel Dorsky

All films by Nathaniel Dorsky.


US 2017, 16mm, color, silent, 31 min



US 2017, 16mm, color, 19 min



US 2017, 16mm, color, silent, 16 min



US 2017, 16mm, color, silent, 20 min


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