Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Zorns Lemma (1970)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Zorns Lemma (1970)

In avante-garde US film director Hollis Frampton's experimental, hour-long documentary - one that required and demanded patience:

  • the opening (about two minutes in length) - audio only: female narration against a black screen - composed of words read from The Bay State Primer (a version of The New England Primer, an 18th century Puritan grammar textbook to teach the 24 letters of the Roman alphabet (not the modern English alphabet with 26 letters), with Biblical phrases presented in alphabetical order, i.e., "In Adam's fall We sinned all", "Thy life to mend, This Book attend, The Cat doth play, And after slay, A Dog will bite a thief at night", An Eagle's flight Is out of sight, etc.)
  • the main section of the film (about 47 minutes in length) - video only: repetitive cycling of the 24 letters of the alphabet [Note: the letters J and U were missing from the Roman alphabet] - illustrated by one second shots of the first letter of single-word signs in Manhattan (New York state) (i.e., Abbey, Baby, Cabinet, Daily, etc.), then gradually replaced by labels and images that implied each letter
  • the brief ending or epilogue (about 10 minutes in length) with both audio and video: a human couple (Robert Huot and Marcia Steinbrecher) and a dog distantly walked away across a snowy field, then disappeared into faraway woods as the screen flared white; on the soundtrack, six women's voices read in monotone - to the beat of a metronome - one word apiece (one word per second) from a medieval 13th century text - Bishop Robert Grosseteste's On Light, or the Ingression of Forms: "…the first bodily form I judge to be light..."


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z