45m 1972


A young man, surrounded by an industrial world and its waste, sees the vision of a beautiful goddess, whom he compares to himself and becomes dissatisfied. When he sees her carried away, he follows her, pursuing her across a body of water to a mythic island, where an old woman in red prepares him for his symbolic journey of self-discovery. Led by the vision of the goddess, he walks on, over hills and through woods, encountering tests of many kinds, which are administered by archetypal characters. On his quest, he passes men who succumb to temptations and become stuck in repetitive, frivolous pursuits. Before his journey ends, the man has a sexual initiation, is reborn and performs an intimate ritual, and eventually finds the goddess within himself.

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The opening and closing shots show images of the moon. The only dialogue in the film is the following poem by James Broughton heard at the beginning in voice-over narration: "Somewhere there is a forest, somewhere at the center of the world there is a forest of the dream, a sacred wood, a grove of initiation. Somewhere there is what there has always been, the treasure hard to obtain, the lair of the great goddess, the bed of the ultimate rapture." Producer Robert Greensfelder's onscreen credit is listed as "Production." Kermit Sheets, whose onscreen credit is listed as "Collaboration," was the long-time artistic partner of Broughton and co-directed and co-wrote many of Broughton's other films. Although a 1972 copyright notice listing James Broughton as claimant appears at the end of the film, the work was not registered for copyright until October 18, 1982, under the number PA-158-733.
       Broughton (1913-1999) was a poet, playwright and an important figure in West Coast avant-garde filmmaking, and directed, wrote and occasionally appeared in his own films from the late 1940s through the late 1980s. While taking to heart his own advice to "follow your own weird," he explored, among other themes, sex, love and self-discovery, using whimsical and erotic dream-like imagery, and as proposed by some modern critics, was an heir, in spirit, to the nineteenth-century poet Walt Whitman. According to a June 1981 Los Angeles Times article, Dreamwood was his "longest, most complex and symbolical film" to date.
       The film uses many special effects, such as superimposed images and montages, over a soundtrack by one of the pioneers in the development of electronic music, Morton Subotnick. As noted by the 1981 Los Angeles Times article, many of the characters seem androgynous, and throughout the film mythic and symbolic images appear, as do character archetypes, such as the moon, the dove, human nakedness, religious figures, the old woman, the woodsman, the boatman and various kinds of temptresses. The New York Times reviewer stated that the film "seems to touch every major structure of belief from ancient Greece to modern psychoanalysis." Dreamwood opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City as part of the New American Filmmakers series.