“Beautiful Desolation”: The Movie

My new short film is finished and up on YouTube.

This project began as a musical piece which turned out so well, I decided it might make a strange and unsettling soundtrack for an original movie.  Sherron and I shot footage over two days and then loaded the images from our two cameras on to iMovie (a process rendered extremely difficult because of the age of my DV camera).  I commenced editing, spending many long hours shaping the footage to the music, even concocting a kind of/sort of narrative.

You can view the film here and then, I hope, either drop a comment on my blog or over at YouTube:

I won’t try to summarize or explain “Beautiful Desolation” except to say that even on a planet that now boasts over six billion souls, there are still places where one can gain a profound impression of isolation, neglect, Nature reclaiming her own.

Enjoy the movie and I hope it inspires some thought and reflection. Perhaps it will cause you to contemplate the place where you live and view it in an entirely different light.


  1. Kathy

    The music and the images are both evocative and enigmatic – wonderfully, not just work together, but speak into one another. I got desolation and isolation and neglect but what spoke louder to me was what I would call “echo” or maybe “imprint”. A history exists, not in the sense that it is in the past, but that it is imprinted on the physical. There is evidence that hints at the stories but is intriguing by what is only now a shadow. The music had that quality too. Then the bison at the end – I didn’t know quite what to make of them. The only living things in the film, yet almost monumental. They are of the present yet undeniably also of the past, the history. It felt a bit like it might have been some vintage film of bison/beasts of another time, present only in the flickering images, again an imprint, a shadow or an echo. The mailboxes (is that what they are?) with the padlocks still in place. Are there letters inside? I imagined old dusty letters, padlocked away for years, holding secrets, stories, revelations unknown.

    A new and interesting way to tell your stories Cliff!

  2. Cliff Burns

    Terrific dissection and interpretation of the piece.

    Intended as something of a Rorschach test—like many of my works (regardless of the field), much is left unsaid, veiled, subject to instinct and intuition. We are but a transient presence, a blip on an infinitely vast screen, barely discernible, gone between blinks…

  3. driftlessareareview

    I like it! As a former film student, I can summarize it best by saying it is like Stan Brakhage and David Lynch decided to go on a road trip. Beautiful images, but eerie. The feeling of decay and the “aged” appearance of the film gets under your skin, makes you feel uncomfortable, like those wordless passages of “Blue Velvet” (ants crawling on an ear) and Stan Brakhage’s DIY-style collage editing.

    The only narrative I can see is that summarized by Jethro Tull, “She who made kittens made snakes in the grass.” It doesn’t matter what we silly little humans do to the surrounding environment, Nature will always come back. Or simply snap at us and watch us flail around while she smirks in amusement. At least that’s how I rationalize the disasters in Japan, Haiti, and most recently the DC and Virginia area.

    Time for Zack Snyder to fall on his sword and admit defeat.

  4. Cliff Burns

    Gracias, Karl, and your Stan Brakhage observation is, natch, bang on. We all learn at the feet of Masters and Stan the Man is a big influence on anybody who wants to see the visual world through entirely new perspectives.

    I urge everyone who liked my odd effort to seek out work by Brakhage and, as well, Chris Marker, another Master of cinema who, sadly, is under-appreciated and deserving of wider exposure.

  5. inkspeare

    Wow, loved it. I even saw things that were not there – the evil sun, the skull in the barbwire fence, the two shadows in the wall on one of the rooms, resembling two little kids (stains), the Jesus in the cross, and throughout the whole thing I was thirsty, the feeling was of thirst. The music made it eerie for me, kind of end of the world type of thing. I was feeling desolation and death, until the Bisons brought me back to life. So I guess that is why it is a beautiful desolation (my interpretation). I truly enjoyed it!

  6. Cliff Burns

    There are many odd shapes and shadows to be found in the film. And there was a moment when Sherron and I were viewing the footage and we both detected a sudden, subliminal flicker of light. We reversed the video frame-by-frame until we came across a strange streak of color in the doorway of one of the abandoned buildings. Not a reflection, not a bird…perhaps some kind of electro-magnetic signature, a loop from the past? My son Sam says if we enlarged and enhanced the frame we’d probably discover a ghost mooning us. What a kid…

    The buffalo were going to be at the end almost from conception. The footage tinted, aged…a creature from the past, at one point near extinct…now given a chance to thrive once again.

    Thanks for the note and your impressions. Hope to hear from you again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.