Through The Weeping Glass

"No child ever imagines the unimaginable. That he will end up as a skeleton."

A romance of two worlds has emerged – the Mutter Museum, a medical museum which showcases medical oddities, and filmmakers, the Quay brothers – who, if you are not familiar with, I urge you to rectify this misfortune straightaway – have produced a new film, arguably a “documentary,” Through The Weeping Glass: On The Consolations Of Life Everlasting.

I had the immense pleasure of attending a screening of the film last night, hosted by David Wilson, the man/genius behind the Museum Of Jurassic Technology and the Quay’s themselves.

All three men discussed how their work influenced one another. The Quay’s were working with Michael Penn at the time on a music video for his song, Long Way Down (Look What The Cat Drug In), when one day Penn took the brothers to the Museum Of Jurassic Technology. As it is for most, it was a life altering visit. Wilson tells the story of how he was leading a double life of sorts – working in the entertainment industry and curating the museum – when he was invited by a friend to watch what was “probably bootleg VHS tapes,” of the Quay’s work. This single, influential event caused Wilson to undergo an epiphany, inspiring him to finally extricate himself from the film industry and devote himself entirely to a work that he was passionately compelled to do. Thank goodness for us he did.

Although American born identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay, “fled” to Europe, citing the ominous commercial beast of Disney as a reason, where they have created all of their work until now. Weeping Glass marks their first film made in the US.

The film, only about thirty minutes, is quite like a private tour of the Mutter, seen through the Quay brother’s unique and distinctive point of view. As they do with their puppetry, the Quay’s ensoul the objects at the Mutter and allow them to tell their story - the skeleton of Harry Eastlack, who broke a bone in childhood, triggering fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva – a disease that basically causes a secondary skeleton to grow in and around the first, the skulls of the Hyrtl Collection including this gentleman, “Giza Hermenyi. Reformist herdsman. At age 70 attempted suicide by cutting his throat. Wound not fatal because of ossified larynx. Lived until 80 without melancholy,” an exquisite “flap book” of human anatomy, and various medical instruments which even caused me to wince. One of them, used to extract gall stones through the penis, another, a 3 in 1 economy tool – a drill like end to enter through the birth canal to crush the skull of an infant/fetus and forceps on the other to extract it in order to save the mother’s life. I was so disturbed I am quite certain I have blocked out the third usage of this horrific tool.

We were also treated to a viewing of Edward Waisnis' companion piece, Behind the Scenes with the Quay Brothers . Their "accidental" manner of filming this piece, how they worked with museum staff, (who play all the "parts" in the film), and some of their beautiful lighting techniques are shown.

Through The Weeping Glass will be available on DVD shortly.

The Mutter Museum:

Museum of Jurassic Technology:

All photos are from Quay Brothers' work.

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