Black Moon (1975)

One of the most common self-imposed restriction people make on cinema is the desire to appear realistic and coherent. While there is certainly merits in making a film that can draw the audience in, a cinema that gives little resistance to enter the world of the film, cinema can adhere to another logic: the logic of dreams.

Black Moon starts out firmly placed in the first realm, the realm of a cinema of realism. The film follows every movement of Lily (Cathryn Harrison) as she attempts to flee a war between men and women. She starts off driving a car on the highway, ends up driving into the woods, abandoning her car, and then taking off on foot until she ends up on an unusual farm.

The film refuses to explain anything. Why the war is going on, the events in the farmhouse and Lily’s own past and history are a mystery. For certain viewers, this will make Black Moon incoherent nonsense. For others, it opens up the film to be something else, something that frees itself from the shackles of reality.

Its greatest pleasure then becomes the infinite possibilities the film lays before itself. It’s a film in which anything could happen. The sweeping range of bizarre, unusual, and twisted things that happen throughout the course of the film make every moment sizzle with the thought that something quite unique and unusual could happen.

Therefore, Black Moon is a film that oozes with the logic of a dream. Unlike some films that depict dreams in a fantastic style, the filmmaking here adheres to more realistic techniques because it recognizes that to the dreamer, dreams seem as real and logical as reality itself. While the film often borders on nonsense, there is always a strange logic to it.

For instance, Lily keeps insisting that she sees a unicorn. What she witnesses is probably the saddest looking unicorn committed to film, a black donkey with a white horn jutting from its forehead. In the logic of the film, this fits into a world where everything feels run down and grimy. Even the fantastical is dreary. There’s a cohesion to this dreamlike world.

Likewise, the dream seems to be building towards something. Many of the images and ideas suggest a return to primitivism: young children running naked in packs, a man hunting down a bird, and the old lady being sustained by the youth. All these suggest that civilization is returning back to something closer to a tribal or hunter/gatherer community.

In this sense, Black Moon is a film of apocalyptic vision. Lily’s experience in the farm is her witnessing civilization’s backwards regression. It is the only way life can continue, but it still remains a nightmare to her, something that literally has trapped her as she spends most of the film stuck in the same room. Through dream logic, Black Moon conveys this horror without the titillation or gratuity of violence, immersing itself in the horror of ideas instead of images.

© 2015 James Blake Ewing