Synopsis by Brian Whitener
Serene Velocity established Ernie Gehr's reputation as a major American filmmaker and was one of the films that occasioned P. Adams Sitney's famous essay which coined the term "structural film." While Gehr would deny that Sitney's term had any meaning for his work -- as it focused too much attention on the formal aspect of his work, to the detriment of the psychological -- it is a term which has stuck. Serene Velocity is composed entirely of shots of varying focal lengths from a fixed camera position in a college dormitory hallway. The film creates a stunning range of effects by systematically shifting the focal lengths of this fixed zoom lens. Playing on and against the physiological precepts of the persistence of vision and reciprocal tension, Gehr manipulates our optical and nervous systems to produce a film of great psychological depth and one where space itself becomes the film's subject.