Philip Glass Shorts

“For film, music, next to primary visual aspects like cinematography and color, is probably the most important element.  Yet to those of us who are in the business of making movies, we act as if music is almost an afterthought.  That, of course, is terrible.  It’s more than a mistake because it means that those who treat music as an afterthought have lost a powerful artistic ally.”   —Philip Glass

Created especially for the Philip on Film retrospective, Shorts is an event that embraced a format that is enjoying an unprecedented surge in popularity by filmmakers and filmgoers young and old, SHORTS is an evening full of wild possibilities, the potential for diversity, collision and discovery.

In addition to the premiere of two live concert screenings of “Evidence” and “Anima Mundi” by Godfrey Reggio, Philip Glass invited Atom Egoyan, Peter Greenaway, Shirin Neshat and Michal Rovner to create silent short films for which he will wrote musical scores to be performed live by the Philip Glass Ensemble.  Philip Glass selected these four international collaborators, widely recognized as pioneers in the worlds of independent film, video, and visual art, in a unique reversal of the typically director-driven process of choosing music for a film.   These first-time collaborators represent Philip Glass’ vision of truly pioneering filmmakers at work today.


When I was working on THE THIN BLUE LINE I started using various Philip Glass cd’s as “scratch” music—various tracks from MISHIMA, IN THE UPPER ROOM, GLASSWORKS…Instantly the movie was transformed by the music, into what I had always dreamed it could be, a brooding, dark meditation on chance and fate. I was worried. I needed someone to write Philip-Glass-like-music…No. I needed Philip Glass. What if he couldn’t write the music…? What if he wouldn’t write the music…? Fortunately, for me and the movie Philip liked the rough-cut, and it is his score for THE THIN BLUE LINE and subsequently for my adaptation of Stephen Hawking’s A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME that is the single most important element in those works. His scores set a tone and a character to create a world. Philip is the ultimate collaborator…God knows, he’s worked successfully with so many different artists. I often gave him a hard time. Write this. Write that. Write the other thing. But in the end, he was instrumental in creating work of which I am very proud…And proud of having the opportunity to work with him. Philip, somewhere along the line, had made that transition from important 20th Century composer, to important composer. Period. And it’s important to remember that he has not just enlarged a music repertoire but helped create an amazing and diverse array of projects: ballet, theater, film and a lot of other stuff. I am honored to have mine among them.

–Errol Morris, Documentary Filmmaker

Philip Glass Shorts

THE MAN IN THE BATH (2001) 10 minutes
Filmed in an 18th Century Plague Hospice in Milan, Italy, “The Man in the Bath” is an exploration of space, time, sequence, continuity, classification and order.  Set in 1939, its central hero is a man imprisoned in a bathroom condemned to endure hot and cold-water tortures.  Mirroring the ordering and re-ordering of the prisoner’s mind, the film was shot on fourteen cameras and edited to accommodate ideas of cutting and pasting, sorting and cataloguing, framing and reframing, a process long held to be a fascination and characteristic of the music of Philip Glass.

PASSAGE (2001) 11 1/2 minutes
Shot in Morocco, the film evokes the journey of life from birth to death and rebirth. One of Neshat’s most universal works, Passage is a story of loss, mourning and renewal.

“From early on as I was conceptualizing Passage, I envisioned the film as a visual poem that could symbolically tell a universal story of human loss, grief, renewal and hope in the face of existential wondering.  Philip Glass’s music accompanies this narrative masterfully to reach the audience on a visceral level and convey the film’s message.  His music bonds with the images so intimately creating an experience that moves beyond cultural specificity to meet at a common ground where human soul and predicament knows no boundaries.  My collaboration with Philip was precisely the discovery of this common ground.” —Shirin Neshat

DIASPORA (2001) 8 minutes
The techniques used in DIASPORA are all optical and physically processed.  There are no digital or computer effects.  This "handmade" characteristic gives the film it particular quality.

“Philip Glass’s composition powerfully conveys the contrasting emotional threads of cohesion, dispersal, and resettlement involved in the process of diaspora. His riveting score beautifully enhances the volatile nature of the image.  The project was an inspiring collaboration and I’m thrilled with the results.” —Atom Egoyan

EVIDENCE  (1995) 8 minutes
This film short by Godfrey Reggio looks into the eyes of children watching television.  Though engaged in a daily routine, watching Disney’s Dumbo, they appear drugged or mentally disabled not unlike the patients in a psychiatric hospital.  EVIDENCE aims to enliven the discussion of the spiritual and social consequences of the medium of television and the effects of a technology that has been accepted without question.

NOTES (2001) 12 minutes
Michal Rovner’s “Notes” explores the notion of music as it relates to the human condition. Shot on video in Transylvania and Russia, human figures in snow become an abstract visual representation of musical notes on the page.

“When Philip Glass said that he was going to look at the film and, inspired by it, would write the music, I decided to play with the idea of writing notes and started with five lines on my video note-book. Instead of giving Philip a final work, I asked him if he would like to watch the work while it was in progress. There began our fruitful dialogue.” —Michal Rovner

ANIMA MUNDI (1992) 27 minutes
ANIMA MUNDI is a poetic combination of music and images designed to celebrate biological diversity.  Referring to an ancient mythological concept of the interrelationships of nature’s forms, ANIMA MUNDI illustrates unity in nature, its wholeness despite its variety.  A collage of footage from the African grasslands, to Amazon jungles, to microscopic colonies, to underwater coral reefs, ANIMA MUNDI creates an affinity between the extremely complex and the extremely simple and aims to link all creatures to the spirit and soul of the world.