Michael Snow's Wavelength (1967), Canada's most famous and widely seen experimental film, is a minimalist masterpiece and an important, influential work in the history of cinema. Forty-five minutes in length, it was shot from a fixed position at one end of an 80-foot loft facing a row of high windows (which provided the light) and, beyond them, the street. The camera was equipped with a zoom lens that allowed Snow to approach an object without losing focus or moving. During the length of the film there are cuts, occasional bright flashes of light, and changes in the colour scheme facilitated by the use of different film stocks and filters.
It begins with a wide shot of two people leaving the largely empty space, which appears to be on the second or third floor of the building. Someone comes in, listens to the Beatles' Strawberry Fields on the radio, then leaves. Later a man enters the room, lies down on the floor, and apparently dies. A woman enters, picks up a telephone, calls someone to report the death, then also leaves. The zoom continues slowly, relentlessly, disregarding these human events, until we finally see what Snow has been approaching - a small postcard of what appear to be ocean waves tacked to the wall between the windows.
At the climax, the electronic soundtrack, which has been building in intensity over the length of the zoom, drops down and builds back up again like a crash of waves on the shore. The film's precision and schematic austerity express the most fundamental tenet of modernist art: form does not shape content; form is content. Wavelength is a historical hallmark of cinematic minimalism at its paradoxically richest, most complex, and engaging.