“Broken Spectre” film exhibits environmental destruction

On Aug. 25, Lewis & Clark opened “Broken Spectre,” an immersive film created by Richard Mosse documenting the devastation of the Amazon Rainforest. Currently showing at the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, “Broken Spectre” is primarily black and white, comprised of picturesque shots of the Amazon Rainforest itself, as well as heart-wrenching scenes of burning trees and razed land. The film is captivating, stretching across two screens, and switching from a single perspective up to as many as four perspectives at once.

Richard Mosse is an Irish artist currently operating out of New York, best known for his photography and filmography. His work focuses on humanitarian and environmental crises, with recent solo exhibitions showcased at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Barbican Art Gallery in London and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. 

“Broken Spectre” uses a wide array of film and photography techniques, including heat-sensitive analogue film and ultraviolet studies, to create a multitude of visually striking scenes, such as acres of blood-red trees and black scorched earth. In several gorgeous, almost hypnotizing scenes, fluorescent microscopic imagery shows the beautiful complexity of the Amazon and its organisms. 

Perhaps most iconic is the use of airborne footage, sweeping over the Amazon and forcing a viewer to take in the gravity of empty, demolished land, in heavy contrast to the lush rainforest. These shots, despite the lack of narration, perfectly capture the nature of the planned and steadily progressing demolition of the Amazon Rainforest. 

Accompanying the extraordinary visuals of “Broken Spectre,” the sound design is incredible. From the bone-chilling roar of chainsaws to near-violent, thunderous music, the sound of the film immerses viewers. The score is a beautiful and haunting addition to the visual experience. 

The film features multiple perspectives, including the Yanomami and Munduruku Indigenous communities fighting for their land and their survival, illegal miners destroying natural land masses and rivers for barely a scrap of gold and Brazilian cowboys setting fire to the rainforest in order to create empty land for cattle to graze. 

Footage of protests in Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil, contains an especially striking scene of people holding a sign with the word “Genocida” (“Genocidal,” as translated to English) in bright red letters. This sign was likely directed at Jair Bolsonaro, the former president of Brazil (from 2019 to 2022) who is known for rolling back the legal protections of Indigenous groups and facilitating the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. 

In a passionate speech of an Indigenous woman, she expresses her disdain for illegal miners and those who seek to use Amazonian land and calls people to action. As is made exceedingly clear by “Broken Spectre,” the land of the Amazon Rainforest is being destroyed, and alongside it, the homes of many Indigenous communities. Her speech was vehement, powerful and heartbreaking to watch as she pleaded for safety and peace in her community. 

Upon leaving the theater, “Broken Spectre” will stay in the viewer’s mind, and the silence outside the gallery will feel uncanny. After watching over an hour of the deforestation of the Amazon, it feels strange to walk through the LC campus, surrounded by lush trees and flourishing greenery. It can make one feel lucky to be surrounded by such beauty, but also quite aware of the impact we have on the world around us.

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