Friday, July 14, 2006

The Movies: How Is The End?


The movies, the motion picture is one of the most important parts of our contemporary visual culture. Of course the entertainment industry -which has an inevitable role in our lives- is directly related to films. They use this 'medium' to create a kind of "fast food" consumption to spice up our boring lives. But thats not what I want to say.

The movie has a kind of aura, the action itself [watching movies] creates a kind of surreal feeling, it is like a modern ritual in our society. These mysteriously moving images give us a sort of hypnotized, trancelike state of mind. That's why it's the strongest weapon of the entertainment industry. These magical moving images, in fact just an illusion but we experience like they are real, can take us away from our reality for a brief moment. We watch them, we consider them as real and we accept this false reality. We know that movies are fiction, I don't mean its subjects or topics. I mean the "physical" medium itself. The films are just static images, a frozen fraction of reality, played after each other frame by frame... It is a quite interesting process that how we achieve these frozen moments as something continiously moving. Think about it.

When the Lumière brothers presented their short film L'Arrivée d'un train en la Gare de la Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at la Ciotat Station) on a large screen on 28 December 1895 in Paris, the audience was frightened by the image of a train coming directly at them. They were terrified and scared that the train would ride on through the room. First time they were watching a "movie" and they couldn't understand that it wasn't real!. Can you imagine their fear?.. Now it seems pretty naive and funny but I think we are, after more than 100 years, still not very different from this audience. Movies are really influential for us and effect our emotions; we got scared from horror movies, we feel tension and fear in thrillers, we laugh at comedies, we get sentimental and emotional in romantic movies... Well, I think you can still laugh at romantic movies as well, at least I do!

Actually cinema and movies are just an offspring of earlier art forms. Painting and of course later photography were the first art forms of representing, recreating or redefining the reality. Of course we can say that photography was the birth of cinema. Capturing the brief second of reality allowed man to register a still image of time. Putting these images after each other and playing back in certain rate was the birth of cinema as we all know it. It took decades and almost a century for cinema to develope its contemporary form, and it is still developing. From photography to movies, from movies to video clips and... to virtual reality maybe?

Of course this historical development and its cultural, social impact is the territory of media theorists. Each of these art forms, photography, movies, video clips has its own certain visual language and narrative character. These are the art forms of 20th and 21st century. According the media theorist Arjen Mulder these art forms could be explained in a way such as sports:

Photography is like simple sport exercises. It is closer to the reality, it doesn't change it in an extreme way. There is a certain transformation but it is not excessive, somehow more analogical and classical. Like those simple sport exercises, it makes you fit but the transformation of your body is not extreme.

Movies are like team sports. It has a certain structure, hieararchy and rules different than photography. But its transformation is more extreme. The movie tries to recreate the reality, but there is a certain intencity and metamorphose, more than photography. Like in the team sports, you still do the exercises but it is different, you manipulate your body more than just doing daily exercises.

And video clips.. They are the last step on evolution of movies as medium. Video clips are like body building. Although video clip is an offspring of film technology, it has totally different visual and narrative character than movies. Video clips transform the reality much more excessive than film does, there is no hierarchy, linearity or narrative elements like in the movies. The transformation is more extreme. We can see an highest form of metamorphose of reality, actually it has no connection with reality at all. Like body building, it is an extreme form of metamorphosis.

Of course it doesn't change the fact that movies are still an entertainment. In ancient times we had theater and now we have movies. In 100 years the film developed its own rules, styles, forms and cliches. These are just visual and thematic elements of the movies. Cinema as an art form created its own archetypes. Although the movie is a new visual art form, it is still very classical and conservative in a way. Most of these archetypes are pretty well known, subconsciously we recognize them all I guess; a bad character, a good character [whom you can relate to yourself], a hero [you want to be] etc.... Of course there are also technical archetypes. The way that sounds, images and special fxs used is very important for emphasizing your emotions or try to build the connection between the viewer and the medium itself. There are certain rules to do that. The movies, thematically and visually, rely on these archetypes and they are hard to break. Actually the first minutes and scenes in the movies are full of these archetypes, so that it gives enough clues to audience about what kind of movie it is. An experienced viewer can recognize them all and often it is not hard to guess the end of the movie (Next time when you watch a movie pay attention for the beginning scenes. The well known archetype for instance is to introduce the hero in the first a few minutes of the film. Even the beginning credits, locations, special fxs, conversations or characters introduced in those minutes almost betray the all movie). That's different than video clips, video clips don't rely on those archetypes. Actually in a video clip there is no beginning or end like in a movie. The transformation is the main element in video clips. Video's have mostly metaphorical characters.

As I said before, movies have a different aura. As a part of entertainment industry its main aim is to fill our free time -it is all about the money as well, I know. To watch a movie is something you do on your spare time. We do that for different reasons of course but watching a movie is a kind of relief from the stress of our mechanical, daily life. We spend our lives like automates; structured, organized, repetitive and very mechanical. Physically and mentally we are always busy, "active". But watching a movie is a passive activity (like watching TV). We consume prepared, constructed, edited, ready images, we don't have to "think" too much, we accept them very easily and also believe that it is real (this power of cinema and films, "camera" let's say, is specifically used and "abused" on tv news of course). Watching a film takes us away from our daily reality to a kind of illusionary, dream state just for a brief time. Just for a couple of hours we unconsciously get away form our frustrations, stress, emotions etc., we replace ourselves and experience a kind of relief.

Well, the movies are for entertainment but still an art form. There are always extraordinary directors who explore the limits of this medium and combine beautifully the art and entertainment factor. To watch those directors movies are "not" a passive activity at all (Andrei Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa, Jean Luc Goddard, Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, David Lynch are just well know names but there are many good directors walk on the same line with them). Watching movies doesn't have to be a passive activity. Just by examining those archetypes you can turn even a stupid hollywood blockbuster film to an interesting, "active" movie experience (that doesn't turn a bad movie to good movie of course. I still believe that The Matrix is a weak movie for instance, although many people would disagree with me! Ok, it's still better than Independence Day).

Anyway.. I think movies and films are just a technological step in our evolution as mankind. I wonder about the possibilities in the future where this technology can take us. Maybe in decades, hybrid developments in Artifical Intelligence, virtual technology and movies can throw us to a totally new era. Can this medium bring us one step closer to singularity? I don't know, maybe Stanley Kubrick knew the answer and tried to explain in his movie 2001: A Space Odyssey!...

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4 Noises:

At Saturday, July 15, 2006 8:20:00 AM, Blogger Insane_Racounter..! said...

Awesome post, something i've been sub-consciously waiting to read.
Definitely the subject that has always caught my attention.. Movies..n their impact on human psyche.
You've brought that out quite well...!
Just a small addition which i think slipped out of your post,
Though Motion pictures were introduced in the 19th century, the concept of moving images that change your consciousness, i believe started of from "dreams". The REM stage of our sleep marked by increased brain activity and change in states of consciousness is in my opinion the inspiration for movies.

Though some movies can cause quite contrary acitivity levels marked by rapid snoring :p, there are movies that provoke you to think faster n in the process elevate your level consciousness.

what say you ?

At Saturday, July 15, 2006 6:33:00 PM, Blogger . nothing . said...

Hmm, interesting thought. I have to search further about this. I don't know if REM stage or dreams were the first actually... I mean, it is true that our dreams contain "moving images" -at least we think so-, but I think even in your daily state of consciousness you can imagine these "moving images".. You can always close your eyes and imagine, fantasize or dream about certain things. I do that a lot if I see a beautiful lady on the street for instance :P. Or more seriously, sometimes I sit and think or imagine that George Bush is not president anymore... It effects my consciousness as well, for some degree of course.

Anyway, but it is an interesting idea that films were ispired by dreams..

But I think, technically, the idea of motion pictures should go beyond the 19th century.

Photography is also an art form which technically invented in the 19th century. But British artist/painter David Hockney tries to prove for years that the technical idea of photography was used by early classical painters, already centuries before the camera was invented. He wrote an huge book about this research and theory, it is quite interesting.

Maybe technical idea of motion pictures is also earlier than we think. But I am neither a media researcher nor theorist, I have to search deeper about this.

Actually I am more interested about the future developments related to motion pictures. I wonder where these technical developments will bring us in 40-50 years time. Although it was already invented and used in 60's, nobody knew about internet a decade ago. And now everybody uses it and its huge. The technical developments effect each other and maybe in the future the motion pictures will take totally another role in our lives, who knows.

At Monday, July 17, 2006 3:27:00 AM, Blogger Metamatician said...

It is risking cliche in this climate of personality cult-worship, but alongside fellini and bergman, I really do think kubrick was trying to bring us something new. 2001 was some unseen before or since. Lolita was compromised but still groundbreaking. The shining was the best horror movie ever made, to the point it's not really even a horrow movie, it's a movie about life.

I won't rehash everything you've already said, just let you know I'm on your wavelength and do live alternative lives in the movie theatre, dreaming of new worlds, or planted on a kurb listening to Stina Nordenstam imagining what this world of metal and tears would be like in another imaginining.

Movies are contrived and pidgeonholed. They are limited and in need of replacement. They are the greatest thing we have outside of music to transport us outside ourselves, as well. Watch Fanny and Alexander in its 5-hour version and disagree. Anyone?

At Monday, July 17, 2006 8:16:00 PM, Blogger . nothing . said...

You are right Metamatician, Kubrick was definitly trying to say something with 2001..

Actually I was/am -still- writing a post a about 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I didn't finish it yet, takes time and I am lazy :) I hope i'll manage after my vacation.

Shame, I still didn't see Fanny and Alexander, I am looking for the original version actually. But I know it's definitly a movie ei blot til lyst (not solely for pleasure).

Bergman knew what he was doing of course. :))


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