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Tending Towards the Horizontal
32 minutes 16 mm 1988

The voice-over text, written and performed by France Daigle, creates three images which recur alternately throughout the film: a bird flapping its wings tirelessly; a figure (man, boy?) who sits on a hay bale, watching the city below; and a woman in a library who reads only what others have left behind. The filmed images are predominantly houses: houses seen in passing along the horizontal; houses reflecting sky and trees in their windows; houses partially hidden by trees or the shadows they cast; houses and office towers simultaneously pictured in stages of demolition and construction. The images dissolve in and out of the flickering light and dark (sunlight and shadow and the emulsion of the film itself). The site of the self is home. A house is a construct and, per Heidegger, language is the house of being.

“Suddenly you are here, at home, and the reality is revealed. The reality was always there, you were not there. It is not the truth which has to be sought, it is you who have to be brought home.” (Rajneesh)

“Tending's footage consists of tracking shots of houses and other buildings, a horizontal movement that has considerable symbolic resonance for Sternberg. A train is described in the voice-over as "moving horizontal through the darkness," after which the same voice remarks that "light is new, darkness is old." Several of Sternberg's house images display light as an obscuring element, bleaching out the forms and colours. Sternberg is on the side of darkness, the old original matter of life. Nature, the oldest of old things, is personalized, while the human figures of the voice-over are neutral: "she," and "the person." Somewhere in between are the houses, appearing at times like Heidegger's metaphoric house of being, at others like objects for serialist manipulation, the leavings of someone else's experience. A voice-over narrative describing a woman in a library explains: "She reads only what others have left behind."

Its feminism is subtle—indeed it seems hard to believe that a film dominated by housing facades could be feminist at all. Yet the feminist theme of bodily reality is there all along, so that when an image of the body finally appears, it seems almost a relief. The world, the house, the body—it's difficult in this scheme of things to decide where the boundaries should lie.” (Globe and Mail, Robert Everett-Green)

Tending Towards the Horizontal credits
Producer/Director/Writer: Barbara Sternberg
Length: 32 minutes
Year of Production: 1988
voice-over: France Daigle
Country of Production: Canada
Exhibition format: 16mm
Preview format: vhs

Available from: Canadian Filmmakers' Distribution Centre
telephone: 416-588-0725, e-mail:

Tending Towards the Horizontal Transcript
"Panorama: Four Films by Barbara Sternberg" by Rae Davis, April 8, 1996
Northern Exposures 1995 (Catalogue)
"Living the Everyday as History": article by Barbara Godard



















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