Collection / Works / In the Dark by Mike Dunford

16mm film, UK, 1974
31 minutes Colour, 4:3, Optical
Available formats: BluRay, HD Digital file

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This film came after Arbitrary Limits, and expanded the aspect of the social context of the film’s production to essentially dominate the latter half of the film, and derail the initial formal plan for filming almost completely. Although this was unlikely to have been the initial purpose, it became the narrative subtext.

The film begins with a description read by the filmmaker, and each of the two co-film-makers, of the script of the film to document the significant details of a basement room in a squat moving around the room in a tracking pan. At intervals a Polaroid would be taken of one of the details, and the filmmaker would describe the process of filming as they carried it out. The room was without any lighting.

In this sense the plan of the film to document a room was impossible to carry out visually as in Arbitrary Limits and was restricted to a sound recording and Polaroid pictures, and the primary visual support of a film experience – the production of a convincing image, disappeared. Instead the film, more of an installation or documentation of an unseen event, became a montage of peripheral details that point to the action of the filming.

With the visual realist documentary construct eliminated, the other elements become the focus of the film, and edited shot repetitions, polaroid pictures, repeated images of the initial descriptive text and room-plan, became the basis for a work of montage referring obliquely to the actual event, but actually the film event itself, as is always and everywhere the case. In this context the decision for each participant to use the camera, and comment on the procedure, widened the original formal plan into anecdotes, arguments, and criticisms of the filmmaker and (his) assumptions from a feminist position. Essentially a discussion about the social procedure of the filming event as something embodying the ideology and social relations of that time.
The original project to document some technical elements of the filmic construct had been widened to include the ideological context that it embodied, and the social and political context it inhabited.

Like Arbitrary Limits the film embraces a kind of deliberate amateurishness and non-professionalism, and also implicitly satirizes the seriousness of the formal project, while also being very serious about its purpose. This element of the English experimental film project was present in many Co-op filmmakers work, giving it a lighthearted feel compared too much work from the United States, and other parts of Europe.