Wavelength (1967)

“Nothing is real…and nothing to get hung about…”


A camera slowly zooms in on empty room while people come and go, ultimately ending on a photograph of waves.


In this notorious minimalist film, director Michael Snow utilizes jump cuts, flashbacks, repeated shots, different film stock, filters, and other cinematic devices to create a technically innovative yet ultimately tedious piece of underground cinema. While watching what appears to be (but isn’t) a 45-minute single zoom shot, we are subjected to the sound of a single sine-wave, ranging from its lowest note (50 cycles per second) to its annoyingly shrill highest note (12,000 cycles per second). The film ends with a cloying play on words, as the camera focuses on a photograph of ocean waves.

In honor of Peary’s no-holds-barred, highly personal approach to film criticism — and at the true risk of appearing gauche — I’ll admit I wish that Snow had bothered to incorporate a bit more interest into the narrative of this ground-breaking yet “difficult” film. Given the extreme amount of cinematic manipulation he uses, Snow can’t (or shouldn’t) legitimately argue that he was aiming for any kind of narrative purity. I dare you to watch this film — best seen as an experiment in form rather than a cohesive narrative — at home without touching the fast forward button on your remote control; but I won’t blame you if you do.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An original, if boring, piece of avant-garde film making.

Must See?
Yes, once, simply for its historical importance.


(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One Response to “Wavelength (1967)”

  1. First (and last) viewing.

    Not a must – unless, of course, you’ve been yearning for the cinematic equivalent of the Chinese water torture. ~’cause here it is!

    I’m always curious as to who is the target audience for this kind of experimental hogwash. I don’t know that I’d want to be personally acquainted with those who get off on it or see deep meaning in it. (Andy Warhol or David Lynch might call it “brilliant”.)

    ~and I can’t believe I watched the whole frickin’ thing! I must be a rather patient person after all. That said, 43 minutes of this is 40 too many.

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