Barbara Hammer (1939-2019)
Sanctus (1990)
Director: Barbara Hammer
Year: 1990
Time: 18 mins
Music: Neil Rolnick

Sadly reduced by hype machines to a pioneer of "lesbian cinema" (whatever that means), Barbara Hammer has a long career in creative and critical filmmaking, constantly trying to find new narrative forms and technical possibilities to offer the world a personal view on such themes as physical disease, media, gender, sexuality, age or health-care. In her 1990 short Sanctus, the main point seems to be the time-honored dictum of the body as a temple, or, as the author put it, of a body in need of skeletal protection from a corrupting and diseasing environment. Hammer used old x-ray footage, rearranged, colored and orchestrated through optical printing, in order to reveal hidden bodily movements and rhythms in its constant juxtaposition. Rolnick's soundtrack is a characteristically hectic electronic piece in which choral (probably religious) music excerpts are mutilated, stretched, rephrased and rebuilt in ways that sometimes allow us a glimpse of the original materials but more often than not chop them beyond recognition. Its highly artificial and surreal timbres should be known to anyone familiar with Neil Rolnick's synth antics, although it could be said that this piece is perhaps more complex and rich than most of his works from this period. Although frequently returning to their sources, both Hammer's images and Rolnick's music seem to make a gradual progression from more or less discrete shapes to progressively more abstract territories in a movement that sometimes could be said to lead us further inside the authors' subjects and themes. In all its beauty, enchantment and delirious dynamics, Sanctus is a truly overwhelming piece. -- Sound of Eye