It’s the end of another awards season. That time from December until the Academy Awards, when studios roll out the prestige pics they hope will become the next Slumdog Millionaire. It’s a good season for film lovers seeking a palette cleanser from the likes of Transformers 2. And it’s a season that gracefully reminds us why we still love watching movies.
We all agree movies allow us to escape, and there’s value in that, but it’s more than simple escapism. Movies take us to places we’ve never been and inside the skin of people quite different from ourselves. They offer us a window onto the wider world, broadening our perspective and opening our eyes to new wonders.
This window idea figures into the very form of cinema itself. André Bazin, often compared the cinematic shot to a framed window that hints at a vast reality just outside of view. While other theorists saw the framed shot as something that restricts or limits what can be seen, Bazin theorized that the film image, through its suggestion of off-screen space, was about being part of something prolonged indefinitely into the universe. Siegfried Kracauer, another of my favorite film theorists, agreed that the film image was by nature indeterminant, ambiguous and open-ended—a fragment of reality suggesting endlessness.
The idea brings to mind what C.S. Lewis said about art functioning as a window onto worlds unseen. As humans, he writes in An Experiment in Criticism, we “seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself... We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. ... We demand windows”.
This idea, that the everyday, when carefully seen and considered, can provide epiphany, finds its greatest ally in the cinematic form. Bazin believed cinema was objectivity in time, presenting a reality of things onscreen even more real than our experience of them in real life.
Movies are different because they can capture, probe, explore the world in ways no other medium can. We feel the texture of a silk dress in a costume drama like Bright Star. We smell the blood spurting off of a smoking bullet in Inglourious Basterds.
Until tomorrow: Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
Por Dorothy Prats