The Hart of London | Chicago Reader

The Hart of London

This rarely screened 1970 film by Jack Chambers is one of the cinema's strangest masterpieces, mixing poetic and documentary footage to ponder the clash between nature and civilization. With its raw nervous energy, its juxtaposition of color with black and white, and its peculiar array of imagery (the birth of a baby, the slaughter of sheep, the filmmaker mowing his lawn, a field being plowed, dense superimpositions of images that sometimes bleach to near white), The Hart of London recalls an earlier oddball masterpiece, Christopher Maclaine's The End (1953). Chambers's film begins with news footage that shows a hart prancing through backyards in London, Ontario, in 1954; its pursuers capture and kill it, and that disturbing scene echoes throughout. In the first half, poetic superimpositions of London create an odd mix of seduction and rebuff, and in the second, Chambers mixes his own footage with news cinematography, suggesting that we've reduced both ourselves and nature to images not unlike store-window displays. Chambers, who was diagnosed with leukemia the same year he began the project, once said that the film was about “generation,” and the cycles of life and death are ever present. 80 min.

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