The film starts with a warning message, which reads:
WARNING. The producer, distributor, and exhibitors waive all liability for physical or mental injury possibly caused by the motion picture “The Flicker.” Since this film may induce epileptic seizures or produce mild symptoms of shock treatment in certain persons, you are cautioned to remain in the theatre only at your own risk. A physician should be in attendance.
The film then goes on to a frame that says “Tony Conrad Presents,” and then to a frame that says “The Flicker,” at which point it starts. The screen goes blank, then after a short while, the screen flickers with a single black frame. This is repeated again and again until it creates a strobe effect, for which the film is titled. This continues until the film stops abruptly
A film consisting of only alternating black-and-white film images. During the projection, light and dark sequences alternate to changing rhythms and produce stroboscopic and flickering effects; and while viewing these, they cause optic impressions which simulate colors and forms. In the process, the film also stimulates physiological in place of psychological impressions, by not addressing the senses as such, but rather triggering direct neural reactions. Tony Conrad, who has devoted himself to an intensive study of the physiology of the nervous system, created with «The Flicker» an icon of the structural film, which succeeds without a narrative or reproducible imagery. Since the seen is not captured through the eyes, but rather first produced in the brain.
– Heike Helfert