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Human perception is a synthesis of life experiences whereby interpretation is established. You may like or dislike a visual or auditory, (really sensory), experience… but why? What makes it pleasing to you and not others? Or vise-versa? Again, before we are exposed to said stimulus we have already arrived at some conclusions. Here’s an example:
Four people from a different planet arrive on earth. None of them have ever been exposed to apples. One is exposed to a Green Apple, another a Golden Apple, another a Figi Apple, and another, (a control subject), still hasn’t been exposed to apples. The person with the Green Apple tastes it for the first time and says, “Apples are sour.” The person with the Golden Apple says, “Apples are sweet” after tasting it for the first time. And finally the person with the Figi Apple says, “Apples are Sweet and Sour”. Again the final subject has no opinion. At the point in which these people are exposed to an outline of the structure of an apple, the person with the exposed Green Apple would say, “that is an image of something sour.” The person with the Golden Apple, when exposed to the image structure of an apple says, “this is an image of something sweet.” The person with the Figi Apple, when exposed to the image structure of an apple says, “this is an image of something both sweet and sour”. Finally the control would say, “I see this image, and it is what it is, I have no opinion as I don’t know what it is.” Or in other words the person is looking at the image without preconceived ideas.
Another way to put it is: sour (1), sweet (1), both (2) or none (0). (0) seems the point of most objectivity… but how does one get there? I don’t have an answer to this at the moment. But something tells me it has to do with dealing with the structure at it’s very base. If we should have lost all our senses, and come to know the world blindly, how would we appreciate this world differently if we at some point gained our senses again? Going from nothing, to something. Or better stated, going from something, to nothing, then back to something again with renewed perspective. It’s a question I hope to answer some point in my cinematic pursuits.
When I thought about creating a cinematic language, I started with thinking of cinematic variables working within the confines of “brackets” or “a screen”. Little did I know what I was investing myself, and teaching myself how to do, was the addition (for shot-to-shot, [name montage type], editing) and multiplication of sequences (or themes) in a mathematical matrix/”cinematic matrix”. What I’m discovering is that in the process of writing a cinematic language, I am borrowing elements from symbolic logic, algebra, and I’m sure a few other elements as I go along this path and course of action. I’m in the process of coming up with algebraic “terms” for techniques or “forms” and logical terminology for the distribution of “content”. I believe I’m on the right course, and I hope to proceed.
In order to discuss this clearly, I need to break down what “Hitchcockian Suspense” entails:
“Hitchcockian Suspense” works in this fashion, or at least the principal of it works this way.
Hitchcock would say, “Take a scenario, one of two people sitting around talking about baseball, when suddenly, a bomb goes off and kills the two people at the table. Only a few seconds of shock… but take the same scenario and let the audience KNOW there’s a bomb, and suddenly the conversation takes on a whole new meaning, that of ‘stop talking about baseball and get the heck out of there’, it makes the audience work.”
Now, how to you take this further. I view the scenario as one with variables one with a primary action, and one with a counter action. The primary is, “two guys talking about baseball”, but the counter is, “the bomb”… but what happens when you add a larger number of counter actions? The suspense becomes even greater. Multiple knots which need to be tied in order for the primary action to resolve itself.
So how would this look? Say you have a primary action, (people talking about baseball). You add a secondary “counter-action”, one of a bomb ticking down… then add another “counter-action” say of a person aware of the bomb and is running to said location to disarm it… add another “counter-action” that of someone who set up the bomb and is aware of this person’s attempt to thwart his plot… the scenario then becomes much grander, much more suspenseful. Now the audience wonders not only, “Stop talking about baseball”, but, “Will this person attempting to disarm the bomb make it in time? What happens if he/she meets up with the bomber? And if the bomber stalls him/her… what of the bomb and the two people talking about baseball?” This is how added “counter-actions” to the “primary action” add to a sense of heightened “suspenseful” emotions. More thrills. Although, I will say, at some point this idea would have a breaking point I imagine, and too many “counter-actions” would end up satirical… but that’s for another, future, investigation into this topic.
Before we begin, what is “The Mind’s Eye” referring to? Why sheer human imagination of course, the images we see in our mind everyday but exist on some other realm of reality.
Now what’s the problem?
The Problem is if we perceive an image, we take this as “objective truth”, I’ll come back to this. If we perceive something say, “auditory”, that lies in the realm of the “subjective”.
Allow me to illustrate: You’re alone in your house, it’s night time, when suddenly, from another room, you hear a loud bang. We’ve all been here, and we all have the same reactions, almost fight or flight. Could someone be trying to break in? If your superstitious, was it a ghost? You’re mind makes up all sorts of “possible” “what-ifs” to the reality based on this auditory stimulus… and this… is “The Mind’s Eye” in action.
Now, let me put you in the room where the “loud bang” took place. Say your in a kitchen, and you have a cereal box on the table, you witness this time, the same event, only this time you see what caused the event… your cat got on the table and knocked the cereal box onto the ground. The fight or flight is most certainly lessoned because you “objectively perceived” what happened.
Stan Brakhage I think got the question right about “The Mind’s Eye”, but the answer wrong. From my observation there is only oh-so-much you can accomplish with visual-variables, visual abstractions, to move “The Mind’s Eye” in one direction or another. He neglected the very thing that could make it work which is the auditory variable in cinema.
Now what’s the Solution?
I’ve come back to the wonders of this equation. So, here we are, at the two essential bases of cinema: Visual and Audio Stimulus. But what to do? You DISPLACE the Variables:
To put it clearer: You see a visual stimulus play out which the audio track either follows, (or doesn’t), on it’s own separate terms. Since the variables are separated, you lose faith in your observation, because the auditory is telling you different… and vise-versa. This is where “The Mind’s Eye” comes into play.