Herb Shellenberger

Jonas Mekas's Walden (Diaries, Notes and Sketches) (1968)
October 12, 2012
International House Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Part of The Cinema is Jonas Mekas

Walden is an early major work by Jonas Mekas, the first complete diary film ever made. Mekas continually shot his life with the manifesto: “I make home movies—therefore, I live! I live—therefore, I make home movies!” These home movies contain astonishing footage: a visit to Timothy Leary at Millbrook; performances by the Velvet Underground; and appearances by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Stan Brakhage, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Smith, Hans Richter, P. Adams Sitney, Andy Warhol, Nico and many more.

"Since 1950 I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year. On some days I shot ten frames, on others ten seconds, still on others ten minutes. Or I shot nothing. When one writes diaries, it's a a retrospective process: you sit down, you look back at your day, and you write it all down. To keep a film (camera) diary, is to react (with your camera) immediately, now, this instant: either you get it now, or you don't get it at all. To go back and shoot it later, it would mean restaging, be it events or feelings. [...] All footage that you'll see in the Diaries is exactly as it came out from the camera: there was no way of achieving it in the editing room without destroying its form and content.

"Walden contains materials from the years 1965-69, strung together in chronological order. For the soundtrack I used some of the sounds that I collected during the same period: voices, subways, much street noise, bits of Chopin (I am a romantic), and other significant and insignificant sounds." —Jonas Mekas

Walden (Diaries, Notes and Sketches), Jonas Mekas, 1968, US, 16mm, 180'