In support of our contention that art can increase our awareness of the distinction between illusion and reality, we offer observations from A. O. Scott reviewing some of the films produced in 2013.
Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight, released in 2013, is the third installment in a long, long conversation between Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) who first met on a train outside Vienna 18 years ago.”[i]
“The formal radicalism of ‘Before Midnight’ lies in its devotion to talk—digressive, indulgent, furious, pointless—at the expense of just about everything else. The words are as relentless and remarkable as the silence that shrouds ‘All Is Lost’ [starring Robert Redford and also released in 2013]. The dialogue does not enhance the action; it is the action. It doesn’t reveal the characters; it creates them and creates the illusion that what happens between them is spontaneous, unpredictable and real.”[ii]
Of the many things that cannot be said of the illusion of P-B is that it is spontaneous, unpredictable and real.
Storytelling on film, created in the context of P-B, would have to support the illusion of that paradigm to connect with its target audience, unconscious and sometimes bleary-eyed popcorn munchers. Movie producers are, by definition, engaging in trickery and deception to mesmerize and seduce the audience into accepting the reality of what they see and hear on the screen. They are in some sense agents of the false self in perpetuating an illusion. “The tireless back-and-forth between Celine and Jesse also calls attention to the wonderful artifice [emphasis added] they inhabit.”[iii] The zombies on the screen are indistinguishable from the zombies in the theatre seats because they all inhabit the same story with the same array of zombie identities.
“Once you start to notice it, movieness [P-B] is everywhere. In the black-and-white rural landscapes and patient, elliptical comic movements of Alexander Payne’s ‘Nebraska’; in the black-and-white cityscapes and New Wave rhythms of Noah Baumbach’s ‘Frances Ha’; in the artfully faked home movies that turn Sarah Polley’s ‘Stories We Tell’ from a personal documentary into something much weirder; in the improbable collision of styles (camp, melodrama, realism both magic and kitchen sink) that propels ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler.’”[iv]
Illusion or reality? We won’t find the answer on our screens.
[i] Scott, A. O. “The Big Picture Strikes Back.” The New York Times Magazine. December 1, 2013, page 27.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.