Directed by Bill Morrison • Documentary • 2005 • 9 minutes
In 1899, a photographer at American Mutoscope & Biograph mounted his camera on the front of a trolley traveling over the Brooklyn Bridge. The three 90-foot rolls he created were edited to together to complete the journey from Manhattan to Brooklyn, entitled Across the Brooklyn Bridge. Because the film was shot on the short-lived 68mm gauge format stock, it was not been viewed by modern audiences until 2004, when the British Film Institute restored it to 35mm.
As a commission by the Museum of Modern Art for the re-opening of their facility in a new design by architect Yoshio Taniguch, celebrated American avant-garde filmmaker Bill Morrison took this remarkable footage and recombined it with itself to form a new split-screen extrapolation. Violinist and composer Todd Reynolds created the film's original soundtrack.
Morrison explains, "As one of the earliest travelogues, Across the Brooklyn Bridge was filmed with the intention of giving early film audiences the opportunity to experience a place they could not otherwise visit. For modern audiences it is similarly rarefied view we can no longer experience. Not only has the cityscape changed over the past century, but also, no train crosses the bridge anymore, and no vehicle can travel over on its median as that trolley did. The unique central perspective lends itself to abstraction and time travel: the journey from one side of the East River to the other becoming a unit of both time and space, increasingly compressible and distributable."