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An Individual Desires Solution  (1986)

Black and White / Color

16 min


Dedicated to Kevin Wakefield Cristy, November 12, 1957 - October 26, 1985

Digital transfer by Gordon Nelson, The George Eastman Museum, Rochester NY, USA

Considered the first experimental film to come out of the early years of the AIDS crisis


A structural cine poem concerning the mystery of death through the struggle for answers and survival of my boyfriend Kevin, who passed away on my birthday in Sussex, England. Before Kevin died, he asked me to redefine the acronym AIDS as An Individual Desires Solution – hence the title. The titles of text in the first section are transcriptions from the frantic phone calls with Kevin as he describes his life with the disease, searching for treatments, and coping with ignorance, acceptance, and suffering. The sound in the second section is of Kevin’s voice, recorded over long-distance telephone lines and then re-recorded on multiple tracks. This distortion transcends language by focusing on the sound of the struggling voice while also creating a rhythmic and atmospheric counterpoint to the images.

The second section consists of images of Kevin in his apartment and images taken from a train window. These images are in constant motion, mutating and dissolving and always abstracting into light. Structurally bound together and materialist in nature, the images function metaphorically for the absolute terror and pain experienced by Kevin and myself. The journey was indescribable, and all I could do was hold onto Kevin and the camera as he suffered far away from me. All I had were the images to edit through the helplessness.

“Lawrence Brose’s profoundly autobiographical 1986 film An Individual Desires Solution is the earliest AIDS film I’ve encountered.”
Jonathan David Katz, Art AIDS America Chicago exhibition catalog

“This haunting short film uses the titles whose silent-movie roots are further enhanced by the piano soundtrack. Brose’s nickelodeon gestures suggest a yearning for a time before aging, disease and death displaced youth and hope. In this manner, his film’s self-consciousness is more than simply a masturbatory device; it is an evocative metaphor that helps us to unveil what the camera, reacting to the filmmaker’s pain, often obscures.”
 Jan Stuart Film Comment, December 1987

“The film is excruciatingly painful to watch because its form forces us to experience the discomfort of not knowing rational solutions to the irrationality of the disease. People who enjoy the sentimental AIDS death narratives of the Teleculture would not enjoy Brose’s film. And I think that is exactly why they need to see it.”
 Jerry Tartaglia Out Week, October 1988
“…it is a life experience which is so integrated with death that the two are almost inseparable.” 
 Robert Rayher, Experimental Film Coalition newsletter
“Haunting, demanding, and uncompromising. This work is so very hard to watch if we approach film with everyday habits of television and movie viewing. Brose has distorted image and voice to a painful degree. And in doing this he has uniquely captured the terror and the sadness of losing his friend Kevin in 1985. From the perspective of the 90’s, it is hard for us to remember the Abyss of incomprehension that surrounded AIDS in the mid-80’s. Brose’s film is not only a courageous experiment in the expression of emotional extremity. It is one of the most important documents from the early years of the epidemic. Listen compassionately to the distorted voices and the music and the breathing within this film. An Individual Desires Solution is nothing less than a startling Rorschach test of our capacity for tenderness.” 
 Zack Stiglicz, The Worlds of Emotions in the Time of AIDS

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