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Year: 1965
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 5 min
Director: Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambart
Producer: Norman McLaren
Animation: Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambart
Sound: Ron Alexander
Music: Norman McLaren
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada
An experiment in pure design, Mosaic is one of three variations on a single theme by animators Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart. Taken together, these three films – the others are Lines Vertical (1960) and Lines Horizontal (1960) – represent arguably McLaren’s most complete expression of the universality of abstract forms. They also reflect visually the shape of the classical musical form, in which McLaren became interested after an exposure to Indian music that also influenced A Chairy Tale (1957).

Lines Vertical was made by engraving lines of varying widths directly onto 35mm black leader, then passing the black-and-white version through an optical printer and exposing it through coloured filters onto negative colour stock. Lines Horizontal was made by projecting the finished print of the vertical version through a prism so the image appeared at a ninety degree angle. In both films, the lines move with precision and grace against a background of changing colours and in response to specific musical compositions.

In Mosaic, the two previous films are combined to create an example of cinematographic op art; like most op art, it is strictly geometric and plays on the retina of the eye, making use of rapidly fluctuating colours and their after-image effects. Lines Vertical and Lines Horizontal were printed one atop the other, effectively erasing the lines and retaining only the intersections where the lines cross as they move. Tiny squares divide, quadruple and burst over the screen in increasing numbers, then dwindle and reassemble into new patterns. The shapes are accompanied by the bouncy, percussive "music" made by McLaren’s scratches on the sound track.