Rediscovering the “chronophotography” with Choros
A chorus of women are borne from the movements of a single dancer in this dreamlike pas de trente-deux.
In the tradition of Marey and McLaren, Michael Langan and Terah Maher combine music, dance, and image multiplication to create a film that enhances our perception of motion. “Choros” delivers a visually mesmerizing narrative in three movements, following a dancer’s (Maher) experience of discovery, euphoria, and rebirth through this surreal phenomenon. Featuring music from Steve Reich‘s “Music for 18 Musicians.”
“Choros” is an experimental film steeped in tradition, modernizing a visual echo technique developed for scientific study in the 1880s.
In the late nineteenth century, a photographic technique called “chronophotography“ began to develop, whereby multiple photographs would be taken in rapid succession to study the movement of a given subject. Eadweard Muybridge famously filmed a horse in motion in 1878, providing the world with its first taste of motion pictures when the images were displayed on a spinning zoetrope.
Several years later, the French physicist Etienne-Jules Marey developed a stunning variation of this technique when he captured multiple poses of a subject over time onto a single frame of film, rendering a kind of visual echo. The nature of this process limited the subject matter to that which could be photographed in a black here studio using stark lighting, to prevent overexposure of the background when multiple images are layered over one another.
In 1968, just six years before Steve Reich began composing “Music for 18 Musicians,” Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren adapted Marey’s layering technique to actual motion pictures, in a groundbreaking film entitled “Pas de Deux.” The additive nature of multiple exposures in chemically processed photography, however, likewise limited McLaren to the confines of a black box studio with high-contrast side lighting.
“Choros” revisits these technical innovations and attempts to contribute original innovations of its own. Using recent advancements in digital compositing, the technique developed for “Choros” introduces color, frees the film from the confines of a black studio, and allows the dancer to linger in one position without risk of overexposure, resulting in a variation of this historical technique that allows a degree of subtlety heretofore prohibited by technical limitations.
” Choros”. Directed by Michael Langan & Terah Maher.
2011 / 13 min / HD / Stereo
Video credits: Directed by Michael Langan and Terah Maher; Music by Steve Reich.