Starring Barbara Hershey
Running Time: 10 minutes
In Peter Tscherkassky’s experimental shorts “Outer Space” (1999) and “Dream Work” (2002) – whose images are delivered from “The Entity” – the filmmaker’s hands themselves become the entity, prodding, breaking and doubling her image with sadistic detachment.Kier-La Janisse, House of Psychotic Women
Tscherkassky’s shorts are mentioned in (the above) single line in House of Psychotic Women. Janisse likens the filmmaker’s manipulation of footage from The Entity to the entity’s assault of Carla in the film.
If I’m being honest, experimental films are not my jam. I’m definitely more of a straightforward movie watcher. As with Paranormal Activity, however, I watched these shorts keeping Janisse’s analysis and The Entity in mind.
Outer Space is constructed like a classic supernatural film; The Haunting (1963) comes to mind. Tscherkassky’s reimagining is in black and white, with overlayed and doubled transitions. The whole thing also appears to be projected from old, damaged film. As he includes footage from one of Carla’s attacks, the film begins to have a jarring, jangly quality that mirror’s Carla’s fragile, fractured emotional state during those scenes. Watching the middle section of Outer Space is a bit like being in Carla’s brain. The film regains cohesiveness as it focuses on footage from the scene where Carla destroys her room in anger at the entity’s manipulation of her.
Made three years later, Dream Work seems to show Tscherkassky’s growth as a filmmaker. In the beginning, he relies more on overlays than the quickly spliced film in Outer Space, and rather than jumbled audio from the film, we hear ticking clocks that add suspense and tension to the visuals. He uses the scene in which Carla shows her psychiatrist where her attacks took place with portions of the attack scenes layered over it, as if we are seeing Carla relive the incidents as she walks Dr. Silver through her house. As with Outer Space, Dream Work becomes more chaotic in the middle section, merging the overlays with the frenetic splicing we’ve seen previously. Tscherkassky merges a negative image of Carla with the negative image of her house. As we know from the afterword of the original film, the real woman Carla was based on, Doris Bithers, continued to experience hauntings, so ending on Carla merged with her home may be the filmmaker’s way of suggesting that she cannot escape the activity associated with the house itself.
Do you have thoughts on Outer Space and Dream Work or Kier-La Janisse’s analysis in House of Psychotic Women? Let me know in the comments below!
“Outer Space: The Manufactured Film of Peter Tscherkassky” by Rhys Graham, from Sense of Cinema
“Outer Space” from Tscherkassky’s official website
“Dream Work” from Tscherkassky’s official website
“Attacked by Nothing: Barbara Hershey and The Entity in Peter Tscherkassky’s Outer Space and Dream Work” by Tara Judah, from Cléo