Brent Green’s Live-Action Stop-Motion Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then


A work of dense textures and enervating affect, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then employs live-action stop-motion to tell the true story of Leonard Wood, a hardware-store clerk who turned his Kentucky home into a ramshackle “healing machine” when his wife, Mary, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. An emerging Orson Welles of handmade experimental cinema, Brent Green didn’t just direct, write, animate, score, and narrate his first feature, but also reconstructed Leonard’s tricked-out abode plank by plank. Stop-motion suits Leonard and Mary’s stammering rapport, and their eccentricities—Mary harvests wild birds’ eggs and Leonard knocks through walls on a whim—serve Green’s folk-art aesthetic and outsider sensibility. Yet this symbiosis often proves suffocating. Green’s totalized investment leaves little room for audience identification, while his signature style—explored in several acclaimed short films—seems independent rather than expressive of his characters. The frame-by-frame technique doesn’t animate the inanimate—it drains life from the living. For a film concerned with death, this turnabout is at least philosophically, if not dramatically, appropriate, and thanks to several beautifully realized passages—Mary walking beside the house on giant stilts, a corpse-head haloed by electric bulbs—Gravity can be quietly moving. But that’s excepting Green’s quavered voice-over narration, an exercise in unfiltered blank verse that parks this visually accomplished film at amateur night in the spoken-word café.