Beyond and through what exactly? • As a preﬁx trans-‐ means beyond but also through. But beyond what exactly? I argue for a cinema that is beyond mere entertainment and commercialism. Not that these are bad things, they are just not enough given cinema’s potenOal to help us change through transcendence as individuals and as a community. However, to transcend means to include and go beyond, so in principle entertainment and commercialism are not incompaOble with transcinema. • Also, I see a human being as an animal symbolicum who is trying to understand herself, to borrow Ernst Cassirer’s term. In search for meaning we create or come across symbols. In our case, the symbols are conveyed through moving images. • I argue as well that transcinemaOc eﬀects can be achieved through the exploraOon of—parOcularly avant-‐garde and experimental—cinema’s transpersonal dimensions.
Is cinema dead? • “I think that the cinema died on the 31st of September 1983. There is a reason for that, because on 31st of September 1983 the remote control, the zapper was introduced into the living rooms of the world. Cinema is a passive medium. I never quite understood really how it works. […] So, you are si]ng in the dark, man is not a nocturnal animal […] looking in one direcOon, si]ng sOll? And you commit yourself to the ﬂat screen on which there are colored shadows. What an extraordinary descripOon of an obsession. Unfortunately, I think, if the cinema died in 31st of September 1983 I think it was a sOll birth, because I dont think any of you in this room have seen any cinema yet. All you have seen is 105 years of illustrated text and that is not the same thing” (Greenaway, 2001). • Greenaway was commenOng on cinema generally, but ﬁlm stock, in parOcular, as cinema’s main format for the last century is being replaced by a digital alternaOve. Since the 90s, the advent of digital ﬁlmmaking has been empowering to many ﬁlmmakers, amateurs and professionals alike, due to the relaOvely low costs of digital ﬁlm equipments and their ease of use, as well as the fairly recent development of Web 2.0, which has rendered the Internet a democraOc and interacOve plaform for sharing ideas virtually and quickly. Obviously, cinema has some catching up to do.
AlternaOves to a dead cinema? • One of Greenaway’s recent projects is called LUPERPEDIA and it is described as “the Live Cinema Event of the Tulse Luper Suitcases Project, an encyclopedic mulO-‐media show deliberately made for the InformaOon Age” (European Graduate School, 2011). It can perhaps be experienced as merely a sophisOcated avant-‐garde VJ show with which Greenaway has successfully toured the world, or we can think of it as stretching the limits of cinema or even going beyond them. • If cinema is indeed dead, one is lek with the spiritual quesOon: is there an akerlife? And if so, what is it like? Perhaps, the death of cinema is the rebirth of cinema as transcinema: resuscitaOng its therapeuOc/healing purpose in terms of dramaOc structure through a revival of the Aristotelian noOon of catharsis. Why cinema you might ask? I argue that cinema is unique albeit its roots are in theatre. Perhaps, LUPERPEDIA as a project is one example that gives us a glimpse into the future of cinema.
Three aspects of TRANSCINEMA I. Its transforma)ve potenOal or forgonen purpose, II. Its transdisciplinarity or why it is unique, III. And its future vis-‐à-‐vis transhumanism.
I. TRANSFORMATION • The core ethic of mainstream cinema today seems to be inspired by the pleasure principle of proﬁt, which is a deviaOon from the ancient purpose of drama, that is, catharsis. • Certainly, many people go to the movies to get distracted from their daily worries and that may be a legiOmate form of escapism, but going to the cinema because it is pleasurable should be half of the story. The other half is that cinema can help us transform suﬀering, whether as audience members or as ﬁlmmakers. The metaphor of the cinema screen as a mirror is ﬁ]ng here because cinema at its worst can be an exercise in narcissism wherein what is reﬂected can make us delusional. At its best, cinema can reﬂect truths, whether beauOful, ugly or anything in between, which ideally can cause us to self-‐reﬂect, and perhaps inspire us to manage and change some of our dysfuncOonal parts or subpersonaliOes as we idenOfy with the protagonist in her struggle.
Cinema as a cultural and/or personal mirror as well as cultural therapeuOcs • “Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poeOc images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image” (Campbell, 1991). • Romanyshyn (2008), building on Van den Berg’s work, writes: “we are not surprised that Van den Berg even coins a new word for neuroses, calling them ‘socioses’ (1971, p. 341). […] It acknowledges that the social-‐cultural world is the ﬁeld of human psychological life. There is a not a social world apart from the psychological world, acOng upon it from the outside. Rather the psychological world is the social world, and the social world is the visible expression of the psychological world, the place where psychological life is made concrete and incarnate. It follows, then, that any psychotherapy of neuroses will be a therapy of the social world, or as we have said a cultural therapeuOcs.” Ci<zen Kane (Welles, 1941).
TRANSCINEMA is like the red pill • In The Matrix (1999), which explores many philosophical and spiritual themes, before Neo wakes up from the matrix he looks at a mirror and touches it to realize that it has a ﬂuid structure, this series of surreal shots, one can argue, marks a major plot point or transiOon in the ﬁlm that compellingly seems symbolic of the diﬀerence between maya (Sanskrit for illusion) and brahma (Sanskrit for the ulOmate ground of all being) to use Hindu terminology. Neo experiences an awakening both literally and symbolically as he shiks from the virtual world to the real world. Enlightenment is oken conceptualized as a posiOve experience, but it is neither posiOve nor negaOve. In other words, it is beyond posiOve and negaOve. Neo wakes up to the painful truth (aka reality)—the red pill—that looks worse than the illusory world of the matrix—the blue pill; that is his experience of awakening. Transcinema is like the red pill, but ulOmately the choice is ours because as ﬁlm viewers we ought to be acOve parOcipants, and that is our responsibility. The Matrix (Wachowski, & Wachowski, 1999).
The cinema screen as a portal: the power of metaphor Rob Ager (2008) writes about the mysterious monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was hailed as “the greatest sci-‐ﬁ ﬁlm of all Ome” by the Online Film CriOcs Society (2002), as a metaphor: “For Bowman, the realizaOon of the cinema screen paradigm creates a doorway through which he can symbolically leave his own universe. Reborn in the enclosed renaissance room, which has no doorway, the camera assumes his point of view and moves directly into the upright monolith. In this shot the monolith acts as a doorway straight back to Bowman’s own cinemaOc universe”. To take this further, we can think of the cinema screen as a portal, which can transport us, as viewers, to diﬀerent worlds, wherein we can experience all sorts of emoOons and ideas. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968).
Catharsis; it all came from Aristotle • Humphry House (1966) in wriOng about Aristotle’s Poe<cs explains that it is not important whether catharsis is a metaphor from religion or medicine, in either case it is a technical term which results in “an emoOonal balance and equilibrium: and it may well be called a state of emoOonal health.” The therapeuOc purpose of tragedy, hence, was explored since the 18th Century B.C. if not before. House adds that “Aristotle’s educaOve and ‘curaOve’ theory [i.e., the purging of emoOons through pity and fear] has a very important element of permanent truth in it” and this is contrasted by the eﬀect of “inferior art,” namely “senOmentality,” which is prominent in many Hollywood movies. • But what does catharsis exactly mean? According to Joe Sachs (2005): “Catharsis in Greek can mean puriﬁcaOon. While purging something means ge]ng rid of it, purifying something means ge]ng rid of the worse or baser parts of it.” This means that pity and fear, or suﬀering in general, may be useful to us because as symptoms they are there for a reason but the key thing is to be mindful of our suﬀering and not to idenOfy with it to be able to transform it, or to put a posiOve spin on the previous analysis, “for many alchemists the puriﬁcaOon of metals in alchemical transmutaOon was matched by a puriﬁcaOon of the soul [or mind], a kind of self-‐transmutaOon in the HermeOc Great Work” (Morrisson, 2007). Therefore, watching or making transcinema should feel like an alchemical process.
“The Secret Name of Cinema is TransformaOon” (Broughton, 1978) • Kaplan (2005) thinks that “the surrealisOc and expressionisOc styles appear to have a greater capacity for the expression of transpersonal concepts and experiences because of the symbolic, intuiOve, visceral, and araOonal nature of these styles.” What may be added to that statement is that surreal ﬁlms have had an aﬃnity with psychoanalysis historically for surrealism’s goal is “to develop the human personality by bringing repressed desires into consciousness” by integraOng “the irraOonal with the raOonal” through translaOng unconscious content (e.g., dreams, memories, visions) to conscious cinemaOc images (Duplessis, 1962); however, transcinema is not just surreal, it more broadly tends to be avant-‐garde or experimental. • Examples of transcinema include some of the works of the following transcineasts: Maya Deren (e.g., Meshes of the AJernoon), Federico Fellini (e.g., 8 ½), Andrei Tarkovsky (e.g., Stalker), Stanley Kunbrick (e.g., 2001: A Space Odyssey), Alejandro Jodorowsky (e.g., The Holy Mountain), and David Lynch (e.g., Eraserhead). Meshes of the AJernoon (Deren, & Hammid, 1943).
Cinema therapy? • Cinema therapists (see Solomon, 2001; Wolz, 2005; Niemiec and Wedding, 2008) use ﬁlms as a psychospiritual tool in their pracOce. These psychologists tend to prescribe the appropriate ﬁlms (i.e., ﬁlms exploring concerns—usually experienced by the protagonist—that resonate with the client’s concerns) to their clients. As the client idenOﬁes with the ﬁlm’s protagonist, she may be able to work through some of her issues slowly but surely.
The Psychomagic of cinema • Andrzej Szczeklik (2005) may have an answer as to why we talk about the magic of cinema: “Medicine and art are descended from the same roots. They both originated in magic—a pracOce based on the omnipotence of the word.” Chilean ﬁlmmaker and father of the midnight movie, Alejandro Jodorowsky, who came up with his own psychospiritual system known as Psychomagic takes the noOon of catharsis further by saying: “The world is ill. We need to make therapy pictures. If art is not a medicine for the society, it is a poison” (ABKCO Films, 2007). The Holy Mountain (Jodorowsky, 1973).
Psychomagical cinema • Confessional cinema, which is explored at length by ﬁlmmaker/ﬁlm professor Caveh Zahedi, could be regarded as a Psychomagical ﬁlm genre because it tends to rely on the ﬁlmmaker sharing his/her vulnerabiliOes during the process as they are trying to change a negaOve aspect about themselves—see I Am A Sex Addict (Zahedi, 2005). • We live in revoluOonary Omes because the technologies of the day have the potenOal to bring all of us Internet users together. We can use all of these technologies that we have available to us at the present moment to help us heal and grow as individuals and as communiOes, as we express ourselves creaOvely and communicate our uniqueness arOsOcally. • Our video diaries or ﬁlm essays can be regarded as our anempt to understand the human condiOon a linle bit bener through creaOve self-‐reﬂecOon, or they can be regarded as expressions of a therapeuOc process. I Am A Sex Addict (Zahedi, 2005)
A more complete spirituality: The dark night of the soul • It may be surprising to you to consider a dark ﬁlm that impeccably captures depression as transcinemaOc, but Lynch himself wrote: “Eraserhead is my most spiritual movie. No one understands when I say that, but it is” (2006). A spirituality that only focuses on the bright side of things is a superﬁcial one; a more holisOc approach to spirituality, beyond false dichotomies, is one that acknowledges both the darkness and the lightness of the human condiOon a la the yin-‐yang. It is not within the scope of this paper to explore this issue at length, but suﬃce it to say that there is value in the experience of ‘the dark night of the soul’ because it is through contrast that we can come to understand and maybe appreciate what is present and what is lacking. Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977).
II. Transdisciplinarity • Cinema as ‘the seventh art’: Canudo extends G.W.F. Hegel’s aestheOcs, wherein the laner conceptualized “the ﬁve arts [architecture, sculpture, painOng, music, and poetry] that he thinks are made necessary by the very concept of art itself” (Houlgate, 2010), the former added dance as the sixth art—iniOally it was cinema—and cinema as the seventh art, which according to Canudo transcended the Rhythmic arts of Space (aka the PlasOc Arts) and Time—i.e., music, poetry, and dance—combined (Abel, 1993). Perhaps transcinema, as a spaceOme sculpture in movement*, can interdimensionally transporst us viewers from the second dimension (i.e., a ﬂat screen) to the third dimension (i.e., a transcinemaOc experience). • Canudo implicitly hints to the transpersonal nature of cinema in 1923 when he writes: Ac<on in—only in—the cinema should be nothing more than a corporeal detail, a material consequence, a visual expression of a collec<ve psychology. The theatre, on the other hand, can only focus on the individual and will always remain more oriented toward the speciﬁcally psychological. Cinema will thereby prove to be the supreme ar<s<c means of representa<on and expression of milieus and people. It will cease being ‘individual,’ copying the theatre, which in turn copies life (Abel, 1993). A Trip to the Moon (Méliès, 1902). *cinema comes from the French word cinématographe, which comes from the Greek word kinēmameaning movement.
The ‘synchronizaOon of the senses’ • That is, “the integraOon of word, image and sound, and the accumulaOon of successive images and sounds [that serve] to construct percepOon, meaning, and emoOon (p. 69)” (quoted in Kaplan, 2005). A ﬁne example of that to menOon but one would be ‘The Blue Danube’ sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which “[a]t ﬁrst glance […] may seem long and unnecessary but it is a crucial scene to understanding Kubrick’s vision of the future. The use of music and movement is designed to give the impression of the machines waltzing, which is the ulOmate expression of the state of grace that humanity-‐built technology has now achieves” (Caldwell, 2011). That sequence conveys a lot of visual informaOon that forces us to react emoOonally and to construct meaning as we are interpreOng the images and the sounds being juxtaposed, and all of that happens without the use of any dialogue and it is this translinguisOc potenOal of transcinema that can render it indeed a universal language. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
The translinguisOc potenOal of TRANSCINEMA: a universal language? Another excellent example of a translinguisOc ﬁlm would be the prototypical experimental documentary ﬁlm Koyaanisqatsi (1982) which showcases some of the eﬀects that human beings have had on nature over Ome and some of the eﬀects of technology on us, and this is shown to us by resorOng only to edited moving images and a minimalist soundtrack. Of course, some techniques (e.g., slow moOon and Ome-‐lapse cinematography) were used as part of the ﬁlm’s vocabulary but there was no use of dialogue proper. Koyaanisqatsi (Reggio, 1982).
III. Transhumanism Ray Kurzweil (2005, p.9): “The Singularity will represent the culminaOon of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulOng in a world that is sOll human but that transcends our biological roots. There will be no disOncOon, post-‐Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality.” Even though Kurzweil (p. 145) thinks, “nonbiological mediums will be able to emulate the richness, subtlety, and depth of human thinking,” they, according to him, “will not automaOcally produce human levels of capability (e.g., musical and arOsOc apOtude, creaOvity, etc.). In other words, in the future envisioned by Kurzweil, transcineasts will sOll have a role to play as “panernists” who arrange let’s say shots in just the right way that they transcend their materiality and randomness to become art—symbolic, meaningful, etc. This is the so-‐called magic of cinema: the transcendence of (i.e., including and going beyond) all levels of reality—natural and man-‐made.
Cinema as an art is not separate from technology, and so as technology changes… cinema as an art form changes, too. And this is something worth thinking about in the context of the noOon of technological singularity & accelera<ng change
An exemplar of a Singularitarian transcineast would be Greenaway especially with his experimental project LUPERPEDIA, which claims to be “a highly innovaOve audio-‐visual experiment intended to challenge the borders of ﬁlm language and oﬀer the audience a totally new [trans]cinemaOc experience” (European Graduate School, 2011). Will we, as ﬁlm viewers, interact with the ﬁlms we are watching in the future a la Web 2.0 so as to change the course of the plot? Will we download digital ﬁlms in the future directly to our minds via brain implants? These provocaOve quesOons are open for scholars to think about parOcularly in the context of emerging new media technologies and the overall fast rate of technological acceleraOon. LUPERPEDIA (Greenaway, n.d.)
TRANSCINEMA and consciousness • Robert Wise has observed perhaps the most powerful eﬀect that transcinema can have on us at the level of the collecOve consciousness when he “noted the possible connecOon between the evoluOon of consciousness and the evoluOon of the cinema [thanks to neuroplasOcity]. […] Wise explained that when he ﬁrst started in the ﬁlm industry the moOon picture audiences required very clear linear story structures, and that gradually through his career the audiences seemed to develop the ability to more readily and quickly project meaning across disconOnuous and non-‐linear cinema structure” (quoted in Kaplan, 2005). • Examples of nonlinear ﬁlms include: The Killing (1956), Pulp Fic<on (1994), The Thin Red Line (1998), Magnolia (1999), Mulholland Dr. (2001), Memento (2000), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), and Babel (2006). This shows that ﬁlms are ge]ng more and more complex—structurally at least. fFlmmakers’ techniques and arOsOc sensibiliOes are ge]ng more sophisOcated (especially with the evoluOon of ﬁlm technologies) and ﬁlm viewers’ appreciaOon for complexity is growing. The Killing (Kubrick, 1956)
We long for transpersonal themes even from mainstream movies! As of 06 April 2013, The Shawshank Redemp<on (1994) tops the list of top 250 movies based on 946,828 votes as voted by IMDB users who gave the ﬁlm the highest raOng: 9.2/10 (“Top 250 movies as voted by our users”). The ﬁlm’s central theme is hope—one of two words used by the Barack Obama presidenOal campaign in 2009 that seems to have resonated with many people back then. The Internet Movie Database is a popular website and it can be regarded as an online democraOc plaform wherein Internet users who are ﬁlm lovers can vote for their favorite ﬁlms. The spectrum of voters includes lay people, experts, and everyone in between, whether male or female, old or young, or American and non-‐American. On Box Oﬃce Mojo, Avatar (2009) tops the list of all-‐Ome worldwide grosses making more than two billion dollars (“All Time Box Oﬃce”). The central visual moOf in that ﬁlm is the KabalisOc tree of life, which is a symbol for interconnectedness. The Internet anyone? Is it a coincidence that the highest-‐grossing ﬁlm of all-‐Ome across the world is a spiritual sci-‐ﬁ ﬁlm that sort of preaches peace? Brussat and Brussat (2012) in their analysis of the ﬁlm write: “Cameron gives the People an Earth-‐based cosmology that is totally in sync with contemporary spirituality movements: reverence for Gaia (earth) as a living being and the Oneness movement that celebraOng the interconnecOon of all being”. Tree of souls from Avatar (Cameron, 2009).
Shawshank Redemp<on (Darabont, 1994) is #1 on IMDB!
Avatar (Cameron, 2009) is the highest grossing ﬁlm of all Ome worldwide
CriOcs sOll love The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939)
How eﬀecOve is TRANSCINEMA? • The purpose of cinema cannot simply be mere entertainment; otherwise, “the most selected ‘alternaOve’ faith on the Census […] in England and Wales” wouldn’t be Jediism, which is a result of the inﬂuence of Star Wars on the collecOve consciousness (Taylor, 2012). Why would The Wizard of Oz, a ﬁlm made in 1939, get a 100/100 raOng by criOcs on MetacriOc (“Movie Releases by Score”) and sOll be considered relevant by criOcs and relatable by viewers today? Perhaps because there are spiritual lessons we can sOll learn from it seventy-‐four years later? Such as: “There’s no place like home. The kingdom of heaven is not a place; but a condiOon” or that “Truth is found in your own back yard,” and others (Johnson, n.d.). UlOmately, “the very nature of any creaOve medium can be viewed as being transpersonal. The cinemaOc medium, as well as all the arts, is ulOmately the ideas, thoughts, and feelings of a ‘‘personal’’ mind (or minds) being extended outward to other minds”, as stated by Kaplan (2005), and the key thing is to be mindful of the process of making ﬁlms or watching them so as to be able to use the experience as an educaOonal and transformaOve tool for personal and transpersonal (or collecOve) growth and development. Cinema is unique, and its future may lie in transcinema, but at the moment we must focus on its transformaOve purpose parOcularly aker realizing that there is a clear longing for spiritual themes by a large number of people. Jediism in the UK