Invoking Magickal Resurrections: The Mystical Films of Jaimz Asmundson

“Invoking Magical Resurrections: The Mystical Films of Jaimz Asmundson.” Unpublished (2011).

Drawing Genesis (2006) is a film made for the WNDX One Take Super 8 Event – an annual event where filmmakers shoot a single reel of Super 8 which then premieres to an audience without the filmmakers seeing their work beforehand. This film is the first time Asmundson visually referenced Kenneth Anger and the first time that Asmundson collaborated with his father, painter C. Graham Asmundson. It makes use of Ektachrome 64T colour reversal film, time-lapse, and lens distortion in order to document the rituals performed by his father while painting. With its lush psychedelic colours, this visceral film looks as though it could have been shot in the 60s. The Asmundsons’ personal exploration and research into the occult and occult rituals makes the film a totally authentic viewing experience – even the costumes look as though they come directly from an occult séance. Like many of Anger’s films, Asmundson’s film is a trance film, references the occult, makes use of rapid montage, and uses phallic symbolism. In addition, the film uses a synthesizer soundtrack that is reminiscent of the Mick Jagger soundtrack for Invocation Of My Demon Brother (Kenneth Anger, 1969).1 Given the number of visual effects, it would have been impossible to determine what many of the shots would look like before processing, introducing elements of chance into the filmmaking process.

The Magus (2010), Jaimz’ second collaboration with his father also references Anger’s aesthetic; however, the film goes well beyond mere imitation. The Magus refers to first trump card in most Tarot decks; however, it also points to Anger’s character in Invocation of My Demon Brother. In addition, the film could easily be interpreted as a metaphor for Anger’s magickal re-birth.2

On October 26, 1967 the Village Voice ran an ad saying “In Memoriam of Kenneth Anger.” A few days later Anger arrived in New York with many cans containing his films.

He showed Jonas Mekas and Leslie Trumbull, the Secretary of the Film-Makers Cooperative, the cans of his unreleased films, some made before Fireworks (Kenneth Anger, 1947) and some, primarily unfinished, made afterwords. As he unreeled the yards of film for burning, Mekas tried to persuade him to allow a copy of everything to be saved for scholars. When his arguments failed, Mekas left, unable to bear the sight of that much destruction. How much and what Anger burned that day I do not know.3

It appears that Anger did not destroy these films for public attention; he destroyed the work as part of a magickal resurrection or as part of what is referred to as “a change of order.”

Asmundson’s film similarly is divided into three acts: birth, death and resurrection. The Magus begins with painter Graham Asmundson going through his daily morning routine – making coffee, smoking, showering, etc. After these routines are completed, Asmundon takes a surreal walk to the studio which consists of walking through the streets of Winnipeg, taking various flights of stairs and walking down tunnels filmed in the catacombs in Paris, and in an old abandoned German War Fortress just outside of Cologne, Germany. There are various numerological interpretations for these events, however, every audience member will feel the tension built while traversing the tunnels. At the end of the tunnels lies the painters destination – every painters wet dream – four well-lit white walls. On these walls Asmundson creates four large scale intricate paintings – one on each wall – filmed in time-lapse over a period of five months. The paintings are based on the four elements, namely, earth, air, fire, and water. The filmmaker never allows the paintings to become static objects. Through editing and compositional choices, these paintings themselves take on a new dynamic life.

Once the paintings are completed, their metaphysical death occurs. In real life, Asmundson would often talk about the ephemeral nature of his paintings; however, the film demonstrates his commitment to this ideology. It is also worth noting a local ‘art enthusiast’ who offered thousands of dollars for his paintings, threatened to burn down the filmmaker’s house over this event.

The Magus is constructed using rigorous research into magick and numerology; however, the film is not only for magicians who have performed the Invocation of the Holy Fire. The film benefits greatly from this research since it has an internal consistency which is immediately apparent to any viewer. The last act of the film – the resurrection – begins with the building of four sculptural pentagrams made with mirrors, laser beams and mathematical precision. Asmundson then summons his paintings back to life through a magickal ritual. When the paintings come back to life, they come with a new life and with a new entity, a horned fire ‘spirit’ – fire dancer Kyle Fehr – who is able to move freely between the paintings. The re-birth itself takes on many different and rich interpretations due to the ambiguous symbols used in the ritual itself. For instance, is the painter endowed with a new magickal power which enables him to create images through the mere waving of his hand? Did this ritual allow the painter to finally remove the physical barrier between his body and his paintings?

The film effectively makes use of multiple formats including super 8, 16mm and HD. These formats are not only used for aesthetic reasons, they also take on an indicative role. Asmundson blends the formats seamlessly, in fact, so seamlessly that if the formats didn’t change you might not even realize that there had been a cut. The sound design and musical composition, a tribal ambient psych-folk score by Jeremy Pillipow, creates an oneiric state in the viewer and it complements the work perfectly. Asmundson use of editing as alchemy creates a stylized, hyper-kinetic, cinematic manifestation of the occult experience.4 The strength of the film does not lie in its glittery production values, but ultimately in the engulfing atmosphere created.

  1. The term trance film was coined by P. Adams Sitney in Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). The films themselves are often oneiric, mythopoeic, ritualistic and tend to deny specific interpretation. []
  2. This is the spelling preferred by occult master Aleister Crowley. []
  3. P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 93. []
  4. Full disclosure, I am generously credited as an editing assistant; however, my contributions only consisted of critical discussions concerning pacing, internal structure and a few aesthetic considerations. []