[FILM]
 
[Luben Damianov]
[Veronica Varlow]
 
 

Word vs. Image, or Why Movies are Doomed
By Luben Damianov

The thing that has always bothered me about movies is that they have such a limited lifespan. The medium of film is so temporary, so prone to dating and vulnerable to time passage, so dependent on ever-changing trends in technology and the cultural climate that it renders a movie unwatchable to general audiences in a generation or two. I should note here that I exclude anyone with an otherwise greater than average interest in film from my definition of a general audience.

Movies are very much like tales told by the campfire on a summer night. They belong to the time they are born in. After that they become pale memories.
A great and popular movie is like a cultural explosion, it reaches a multitude of people and then with time slowly turns into something of a museum piece to be studied by scholars and enjoyed by film connoisseurs, but otherwise remaining unavailable to larger audiences of new generations.

Classic movies like "Casablanca", "Citizen Kane" and "Vertigo" may top the best-films-of-all-time lists of most critics, yet the average audience member has little desire to see them. You think the average kid get excited about seeing "The Wizard of Oz"?
Right. Probably not.
In fact, when was the last time you saw a bunch of kids, or adults for that matter, getting excited over a movie that was made before they were born? Right again. That doesn't happen too often, does it. And when it does we are probably talking about a movie like "Star Wars" which has a longer than usual lifespan due to the phenomenon known as franchising, as in multiple sequels, prequels, novelizations, comics, all accompanied by an ongoing massive merchandise campaign, including video games and toys.

Everything in film is about a specific moment in time. The current technology used in the production, the particular storytelling trends, the way people talk in the movie, the socio-political and cultural climate, the sensibilities of the period, the popular tastes and fashions in vogue, the reflected general attitudes in the relationships, and so on.
In a movie everything is set in stone. Or, rather photographed. Freeze-framed. A specific moment gets frozen in time exactly as it occurred, guided by the creative effort of the filmmakers. It's exactly the way you see it. Never to be changed. There is no option for varying and evolving interpretations as there is in literature among different readers.
Compared to literature movies have a far more pressing if not a definite expiration date stamped over them. The ability of words to allow for constant and current interpretation and reinvention is the reason for their endurance and staying power. In literature every word is reborn for each particular reader through his or her imagination. The reader creates a unique mental image filtered through current cultural perspectives.
In film, the image is already there, prefabricated and ready for mass consumption. Ready to be instantly processed. This combined specificity of the medium timeframes everything it captures. This is how a movie gets its expiration date. This is the process that dooms it.
This is not to say that literature doesn't age. Yes, it does. Nobody talks like Shakespeare anymore. Sure, most books also depart into obscurity. But then there are the classics that stay. Here, I am referring to the notion of general lifespan. Let's make it fair. Classic literature versus classic movies? No contest. Literature lives longer. Why? Words have more endurance than images. Words age better. Old movies look... hmm, old. They feel like ancient history. Old words, on the other hand, feel stylized.
Do I sense your crying out for an example? Sure. Take the currently popular children's literature instant-classic series "Harry Potter" and its contemporary movie adaptations. In a hundred years the books will probably still be a popular read among children. The movies? You guessed it. There will probably be newer movie adaptations that will reflect the current cultural climate and sensibilities much better.

There is a definite nostalgic pleasure to watching a classic movie. Film buffs revel in the nostalgia factor, after all, it's what makes a geek a true geek... It's like watching something that once was glorious and is now just a pale memory of it all. A certain melancholic quality can be perceived as in the music of Ennio Morricone. Like an old man reminiscing about his youth. Wow, that Lauren Bacall, she was a hot number. Just look at how gorgeous she is in "The Big Sleep". Nothing wrong with her. At least nothing that Humphrey Bogart can't fix. See what I mean?

Everything in film is about a specific moment in time. The current technology used in the production, the particular storytelling trends, the way people talk in the movie, the socio-political and cultural climate, the sensibilities of the period, the popular tastes and fashions in vogue, the reflected general attitudes in the relationships, and so on.
In a movie everything is set in stone. Or, rather photographed. Freeze-framed. A specific moment gets frozen in time exactly as it occurred, guided by the creative effort of the filmmakers. It's exactly the way you see it. Never to be changed. There is no option for varying and evolving interpretations as there is in literature among different readers.
Compared to literature movies have a far more pressing if not a definite expiration date stamped over them. The ability of words to allow for constant and current interpretation and reinvention is the reason for their endurance and staying power. In literature every word is reborn for each particular reader through his or her imagination. The reader creates a unique mental image filtered through current cultural perspectives.
In film, the image is already there, prefabricated and ready for mass consumption. Ready to be instantly processed. This combined specificity of the medium timeframes everything it captures. This is how a movie gets its expiration date. This is the process that dooms it.
This is not to say that literature doesn't age. Yes, it does. Nobody talks like Shakespeare anymore. Sure, most books also depart into obscurity. But then there are the classics that stay. Here, I am referring to the notion of general lifespan. Let's make it fair. Classic literature versus classic movies? No contest. Literature lives longer. Why? Words have more endurance than images. Words age better. Old movies look... hmm, old. They feel like ancient history. Old words, on the other hand, feel stylized.
Do I sense your crying out for an example? Sure. Take the currently popular children's literature instant-classic series "Harry Potter" and its contemporary movie adaptations. In a hundred years the books will probably still be a popular read among children. The movies? You guessed it. There will probably be newer movie adaptations that will reflect the current cultural climate and sensibilities much better.

There is a definite nostalgic pleasure to watching a classic movie. Film buffs revel in the nostalgia factor, after all, it's what makes a geek a true geek... It's like watching something that once was glorious and is now just a pale memory of it all. A certain melancholic quality can be perceived as in the music of Ennio Morricone. Like an old man reminiscing about his youth. Wow, that Lauren Bacall, she was a hot number. Just look at how gorgeous she is in "The Big Sleep". Nothing wrong with her. At least nothing that Humphrey Bogart can't fix. See what I mean?

| About Us | Submission Guidelines|Archives| Feedback | Sign Up |
© 2005 Copious MagazineMagazine. All rights reserved.