Unreal Nature

January 8, 2015

House(s) of Cards

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… It’s fun, occasionally, but not as a steady diet.

This is from The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje (2002):

[ … ]

Murch: … Hermann Hesse talked about this — about how a writer is influenced. He said there are various stages of influence. Kind of like chakras. The lowest, least noble method of influence is, say, reading Hemingway and then deciding to write like Hemingway. This is natural, it’s something we all go through, but we have to go beyond this to higher and higher levels until you reach the point where you’re influenced by reading something like the equivalent of the back of cereal boxes.

[ … ]

M: Some filmmakers, when they’re at home, love to have many television monitors going, showing films all the time, so their home is peopled by classic films, part of the atmosphere, to foment the creative activity. To me, that’s an impossible way of living — by my own lights, it’s ultimately destructive of the creative process. Things become too self-referential — look at what’s happened to modern painting or modern music in the twentieth century. All new compositions refer to previous compositions in arcane ways. You build an incredible sand castle, a house of cards with references within references within references. You can see it happening now with films, and I don’t know if it’s such a good thing. It’s fun, occasionally, but not as a steady diet.

Eliot’s The Waste Land is like that. James Joyce is like that. To really get them you have to know all this stuff. Well, those in particular are wonderful works of literature, but ultimately, for the health of the creative process, I wonder if it’s been a good path to follow.

If you go very deep, however, it’s another matter. That’s why the great composers of the nineteenth century kept going back to folk music, to roots and fragments of things that had deep meaning for them and for the society in which they lived. Even if that meaning wasn’t overt, it gave the music a life form. I would much rather find in film the equivalent of that than make superficial reference to films that are only a few years old.

My most recent previous post from Ondaatje’s book is here.

-Julie

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