Unreal Nature

October 28, 2016

Under Their Spell

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:31 am

… the screen opens its white door into a harem of beautiful visions and adolescent dreams …

This is from ‘Movies: The Reel World’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… If the movie merges the mechanical and organic in a world of undulating forms, it also links with the technology of print. The reader in projecting words, as it were, has to follow the black and white sequences of stills that is typography, providing his own sound track. He tries to follow the contours of the author’s mind, at varying speeds and with various illusions of understanding.

[line break added] It would be difficult to exaggerate the bond between print and movie in terms of their power to generate fantasy in the viewer or reader. Cervantes devoted his Don Quixote entirely to this aspect of the printed word and its power to create what James Joyce throughout Finnegans Wake designates as “the ABCED-minded,” which can be taken as “ab-said” or “ab-sent,” or just alphabetically controlled.

The business of the writer or the filmmaker is to transfer the reader or viewer from one world, his own, to another, the world created by typography and film. That is so obvious, and happens so completely, that those undergoing the experience accept it subliminally and without critical awareness. Cervantes lived in a world in which print was as new as movies are in the West, and it seemed obvious to him that print, like the images now on the screen, had usurped the real world. The reader or spectator had become a dreamer under their spell, as René Clair said of film in 1926.

… It was René Clair who pointed out that if two or three people were together on a stage, the dramatist must ceaselessly motivate or explain their being there at all. But the film audience, like the book reader, accepts mere sequence as rational. Whatever the camera turns to, the audience accepts. We are transported to another world. As René Clair observed, the screen opens its white door into a harem of beautiful visions and adolescent dreams, compared to which the loveliest real body seems defective. Yeats saw the movie as a world of Platonic ideas with the film projector playing “a spume upon a ghostly paradigm of things.”

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

-Julie

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