The Power of Images (1)


Is the cinema a medium of “moving pictures”, or “moving images”?

It would be more accurate to say that a series of moving pictures produces the “effect” of the cinema and the effect of movement. This wonderful set of illusions makes it appear as if the screen upon which images emerge is able to depict reality. Yet, screens are media for depiction and unless the image is stilled 'motion' is at the heart of every second. It might clearer to say that the cinema produces projections. I will define my use of this term in another post. In the mid-1990’s, working on the same issues, I said the following:

Meaning flows in the cinema in a discontinuous way. Images are viewed in a context of noise and misinformation. Most films can hardly ever get their message across clearly and quickly. Narratives are characterized by a struggle to achieve order, which if accomplished is quickly broken by disorder. The differences between representation, enunciation and projection are barely graspable, sliding as they do over a number of different levels of comprehension and errors in understanding.  Discontinuity is the base for a lack of homogeneity. What Roland Barthes describes as the multiplicity of possible connotations for an enunciation is evidence of the infinite number of possibilities which any given set of projections generates. Constraints on the production of meaning may not pivot on hypotheses about projection. It is possible for the expression of meaning to be contradictory ad infinitum. It is equally possible for those contradictions to be produced in a context of self-reflexivity. The supposed illusion of the real in the cinema is to paraphrase Godard, the reality of the illusion. Cinematic projections are not the site of an exclusion, not the place where the viewer is kept away, so as to forget self, rather projections are always a site of contradiction and disbelief. The narrative does not conceal its arbitrary “constructs” because the arbitrary is its lure, its attraction. It is precisely because at any given moment a film can shift from the clear to the unclear, from coherence to incoherence that characters for example may die and close their eyes after death, all of this is not only illusion, but performance and play. Rather than being the product of a text designed to dupe, the viewer is part of a process of stress and strain which makes co-present, communication, breakdown, contradiction and exchange. (P. 75 of Cultures of Vision)