The Angel of History

His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” – Walter Benjamin

Home movie making bridges the gap between the impetus to record spectacle on a grand scale and to record the fragility of everyday domestic survival and change. It shifts in focus both in mechanical and aesthetic terms between the widescreen and the close-up. It brings into question what history really means. As we are propelled forward, as Walter Benjamin suggests, by the storm of progress, how do we experience history? Moving image offers us sequences from time. Frame follows frame as second follows second. But do we witness a growing pile of debris? Is history shaped by parades and pageants, or is it more truly measured by, say, the repeated first snowfalls winter after winter, the return of the flowers year after year?

The Angel of History explores the fragile relationship between personal and cultural history using footage from the Jersey Film Archive.

Director: Sarah Wood. UK, 2008, 30 mins, video

Commissioned as part of Branchage Film Festival:

Performed in Jersey War Tunnels, September 27, 2008 accompanied by a live soundtrack by Zan Lyons.