1
Ways of Being
The Spectator and the Spectacle
By
Peter O’Brien
A Film and Screen Studies Dissertation
For the School of ...
2
Abstract
An introductory speculation, Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle is a
consideration of the epistemol...
3
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle is the culmination of a lifelong personal
passion, a seven month research...
4
“Pete, you have a fantastic dissertation which deserves the highest possible grade. Really, it
is brilliantly written wh...
5
FL6001:40 FILM & SCREEN STUDIES: DISSERTATION 2012-13
RECORD OF SECOND MARKING
1st
marker Suman Ghosh
2nd
marker Terence...
6
FL6001:40 FILM & SCREEN STUDIES: DISSERTATION 2012-13
Student name: Peter O’Brien
Assessment criteria and assessment of ...
7
This is clearly an ambitious project. It makes a passionate case for the
revival of grand theory in studies of Spectator...
8
For Douglas Trumbull.
The dreamer who cared enough to keep going.
9
Contents
List of Illustrations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Forewor...
10
Appendix A
The Perceiving Participator and the Spectacle Experiencing
Situation
An Example of a Reclassification for th...
11
Appendix G
A Lousy Experience
The Multiplex Complaint that went Viral. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...
12
List of Illustrations
Introduction
Figure 1: An Illustration of Plato’s simile of the cave. . . . . . . . . . . . . . ....
13
Chapter Two
Figure 9: An Illustration of 24 frames a second. A screen capture from
a demonstration of Showscan Digital ...
14
Figure 18: The number of IMAX venues worldwide between 2008 and 2012. . . . . . . . 78
Figure 19: ‘Take in a Movie or g...
15
Figure 29: A photograph demonstration of the in-ride experience of
Back to the Future: The Ride. . . . . . . . . . . . ...
16
Figure 38: Bruce Wayne - risen from darkness. A screen capture from
The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...
17
Figure 44: A layout demonstration of the workings of a Cinerama theatre. . . . . . . . . 121
Figure 45: Linus Rawlings ...
18
Figure 53: An advertisement poster for Odeon’s isense. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
Figure 54: A photograph ...
19
Figure 62: Netflix account homepage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
Figure 63: Google Glas...
20
Foreword
“I just feel like I haven’t said everything I want to say on Film Studies,” these were the
words I lamented to...
21
Studies/film theory field. As my grades had always been top-notch, I certainly feel that I had
taken steps in the right...
22
one else had undertaken and through the seven month process of that climb I went on to
discover a fundamentally ancient...
23
which the whole auditorium gasped in sock when the first true IMAX image was projected
on to the screen – that gasp epi...
24
out of the pit - is what informs the paper with an extra level of hypertextuality and further
enforces the argumentatio...
25
section will not be applicable to this draft; in fact, the word count that is presented on the
front page is the unifie...
26
theoretical dissertation, EYES, as my creative enterprise project, fulfils the criteria of my
practical dissertation.
B...
27
People like me have something inside… something to do with film. This is a hugely personal
dissertation and that is the...
28
While I sit here writing this, I feel absolutely confident about the progressive endeavour this
dissertation has set me...
29
Acknowledgements
Fundamentally, the research project that finds its culmination in this dissertation is my
attempt to r...
30
My guiding tutor, Dr Suman Ghosh, for sitting through many of my incoherent ramblings
and who had the patience to endur...
31
Notes on the Text
I feel that some clarification is required. The sheer amount of data that I unearthed as a
result of ...
32
Chapter Two and Conclusion. Originally the primary content also had a third chapter, but
that has been removed to satis...
33
these two differences, the digital and hard copies are identical in their content and their
presentation.
Also, I have ...
34
indications at various points throughout the main body to reference them, this is by no
means essential. The logic of t...
35
Declaration
I hereby declare that this dissertation is my own original work and that it has not been
submitted for asse...
36
Introduction
The Cave-Like Comfort Zone
A Pressing Need to Reconfigure the Spectator and the Spectacle
The study of the...
37
Conceived two-and-half-thousand years ago, Plato’s allegory of the cave is one of the first
recorded instances of theor...
38
Figure 1. Plato’s simile of the cave.
When considering the relationship between the spectator and spectacle, this is th...
39
other unrelated mental data drawn from an individual life experience which they
cognitively apply to the film experienc...
40
“The idea of the body as sensory envelope, as perceptual membrane and material-
mental interface, in relation to the ci...
41
35mm analogue filmmaking, the means by which films have been produced and exhibited
since their infancy, is being assig...
42
The aesthetic experience of the medium is something that has suffered from a great deal of
ignorance by film-goers, fil...
43
Figure 2. The Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in France has some of the earliest recordings of cave
paintings, over 30,000 year...
44
However, innovation forced us to leave the cave behind and adopt new canvasses for our
artistic expressions; in turn, t...
45
constitutes a material-mental organism in its own right, a new and vibrant
articulation of matter, energy and informati...
46
Chapter One
Looking Beyond the Gaze
The Spectator’s Relationship with the Spectacle
The position of the gaze in relatio...
47
Theories of the gaze and the spectator’s relationship to the spectacle were developed for
an academic grounding in the ...
48
In addition to Berger’s groundbreaking thinking, film theorists employed concepts from
semiotics, literature studies, n...
49
“Lacan argues that infants acquire their first sense of self-identity (the formulation
of an ego) through the experienc...
50
(the chained prisoner in the cave). The gaze (the arrangement of visual material as an
ideological construct on the cav...
51
Figure 6. Feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey famously and controversially postulated that
classical Hollywood cinema ...
52
encourage them to seek out, and in part what the artist’s shaping of cinematic form
encourages them to see. If the view...
53
is not even an accurate term for it: film sensing or film experiencing would be better
descriptions of the process by w...
54
Figure 7. Dolby Atmos, the next generation of surround sound will allow you to hear the
whole picture (Bowling, 2012).
...
55
the physical presence of sound allows the spectator to be: “bodily enmeshed acoustically,
spatially and affectively in ...
56
The implications of the heart brain should be apparent, as only considering the neural
activity of the cranial brain ho...
57
The stomach brain is comprised of five hundred million nerve cells and one hundred million
neurons (equivalent to a cat...
58
‘magnetic’ attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect
social relationships. It was also ...
59
whatsoever in the modern digital era. You try editing a digital movie with some
form of physical blade and see how far ...
60
sufficient range of conceptual frameworks by which to understand it” (Frampton,
2006:1-2).
The terminology of film is p...
61
psychoanalytical reading” (Frampton, 2006:107-8). However, philosophy offers a means
through which both of their lines ...
62
Therefore, if both films and their spectators can think, not only has film theory come a long
way from its disembodied,...
63
Chapter Two
Hypercinema
The Implications of the Spectacle as a Hyper-Immersive Commodity
If there is one leading figure...
64
illusion of motion. Therefore, increasing the frame rate means you increase the amount of
still images in every second ...
65
Figure 10. An effort to educate a confused and paying public, this is the higher frame rate
FAQ sheet issued to all ven...
66
While the negative attitude does have some ground, as with citing the artificial elements
the higher frame rate reveals...
67
Therefore, in light of this thinking, higher frames rates can be seen as just another
filmmaking tool to which filmmake...
68
"Every shot is rethinking cinema… rethinking narrative – how to tell a story with a
picture. Now, I'm not saying we hav...
69
of Doctor Who (Dir. Nick Hurran, 2013) will demonstrate (Plunkett, 2013). Ultimately, this is
only adding to a much lar...
70
“it’s now possible with this new high frame rate, larger screens, higher reflective
screens and 3D. There are so many t...
71
“I’ve come to the conclusion that if your objective as a studio producer is to make a
blockbuster spectacle that’s goin...
72
Figure 13. The highly immersive quality of Cinerama caused a sensation when it was first
released.
However, unlike Fox ...
73
Figure 14. Larger formats call for bigger cinema screens.
IMAX captures onto horizontally aligned 70mm film and, as suc...
74
Figure 15. “In an IMAX you feel everything more: you feel the picture, you feel the sound”
(Anon, 2010).
Like Cinerama ...
75
majority of IMAX’s initial output was documentaries. However, in the last ten years, a
radical shift has occurred, than...
76
In addition to upscaling films into IMAX resolution, filmmakers have also started to shoot
segments of their films in t...
77
Figure 17. With 72 minutes of IMAX footage, The Dark Knight Rises is currently the longest
IMAX feature film; the film ...
78
considerably longer than its multiplex engagement! IMAX releases also receive additional
promotional materials targeted...
79
Like The Dark Knight Rises before it, the online IMAX box office crashed when the tickets for
Star Trek Into Darkness w...
80
Figure 19. Do the immersive aspects of IMAX qualify it as hypercinema?
81
However, IMAX’s financial success is not just produced by its ability to offer the best image
quality on truly monument...
82
Figure 20. An IMAX performance of The Dark Knight Rises, notice the level of illumination
being reflected onto the audi...
83
to bring the audience not only closer to the screen, but better-positioned in relation
to it” (IMAX, 2013a).
Figure 21....
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)
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Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)

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Intended to be a 10,000 word BA (Hons) dissertation, it ended up being a 30,000 word Masters level thesis!

The paper is a consideration of the epistemological, ontological and metaphysical downfalls of film theory’s understandings of the spectator and the spectacle; with particular emphasis directed towards the neurobiological implications of the spectator’s body.

The thesis argues that these shortcomings are representative of wider ranging issues of complacency engulfing the film industry and film exhibition as a whole. Furthermore, the fundamental disruptions of the digital upgrade of cinema, and the expanding means through which film content can be experienced, are explored in relation to the pressing need for film theory to reassess itself.

Drawing on a plethora of empirical and non-empirical research, the dissertation is a highly progressive expression of how film experience has always been about transcendence and, as a result of its digital re-birth and diversifications, it is now becoming even more so.

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Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle (An Award-Winning First Class Film and Screen Studies Dissertation)

  1. 1. 1 Ways of Being The Spectator and the Spectacle By Peter O’Brien A Film and Screen Studies Dissertation For the School of Humanities and Cultural Industries 2012-13 Word count: 33,439
  2. 2. 2 Abstract An introductory speculation, Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle is a consideration of the epistemological, ontological and metaphysical downfalls of film theory’s understandings of the spectator and the spectacle; with particular emphasis directed towards the neurobiological implications of the spectator’s body. The thesis will argue that these shortcomings are representative of wider ranging issues of complacency engulfing the film industry and film exhibition as a whole. Furthermore, the fundamental disruptions of the digital upgrade of cinema, and the expanding means through which film content can be experienced, will be explored in relation to the pressing need for film theory to reassess itself. Drawing on a plethora of empirical and non-empirical research, this dissertation is a highly progressive expression of how film experience has always been about transcendence and, as a result of its digital re-birth and diversifications, it is now becoming even more so.
  3. 3. 3 Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle is the culmination of a lifelong personal passion, a seven month research project and a last minute change of mind. The paper has been praised for its originality, progressive thinking and received the highest mark ever assigned to an undergraduate Film and Screen Studies dissertation at Bath Spa University; in addition to being bestowed with the Media Futures Research Centre Award for Excellence in Film and Screen Studies research.
  4. 4. 4 “Pete, you have a fantastic dissertation which deserves the highest possible grade. Really, it is brilliantly written which displays your thorough research and passion for the topic and, most importantly, it is original and not something that people have written about tens of thousands of times. You've done something new and fantastic.” (Matt Coot, Proof-reader, 03/06/2013).
  5. 5. 5 FL6001:40 FILM & SCREEN STUDIES: DISSERTATION 2012-13 RECORD OF SECOND MARKING 1st marker Suman Ghosh 2nd marker Terence Rodgers Name of student Peter O’Brien 1st marker’s mark 75 2nd marker’s mark 85 AGREED MARK 85% 2nd marker’s brief comment This is an outstanding undergraduate dissertation: brave, and superbly executed. Its grasp of theory is superb and Peter deploys it in a brilliant fashion. This is certainly one of the best FL dissertations I have read for many a year and this is reflected in my proposed mark Joint comment, if applicable Agreed Signed: Terence Rodgers Date of Moderation Meeting: 17 June 2013
  6. 6. 6 FL6001:40 FILM & SCREEN STUDIES: DISSERTATION 2012-13 Student name: Peter O’Brien Assessment criteria and assessment of achievement / performance: Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor Introduction / statement of aims Knowledge and understanding of topic area Analysis and application of concepts (making an argument) Written presentation Referencing & Bibliography Other feedback / advice on how to improve: This is a well researched, conceptually sound and cogently argued dissertation which is striking in its originality of argumentation and in its nuanced reading of a wide range of film and critical material. It draws on a plethora of examples from traditions of visual culture from prehistoric cave art to contemporary film, the IMAX experience and future practices of audio-visual consumption in order to examine traditional and contemporary theories of spectatorship and the spectator’s relation with the spectacle. The introduction clearly sets out the structure and methodology of the dissertation and provides a useful overview of the technological shifts which have resulted in a reconfiguration of the relationship between the viewer and the viewed.
  7. 7. 7 This is clearly an ambitious project. It makes a passionate case for the revival of grand theory in studies of Spectatorship in particular and Film Studies in general and sustains this case through argumentation of an exceedingly high order. It acknowledges the need to expand the scope of such studies beyond film, in its reference to a wide range of media texts as much as to critical literature, all of which are directed towards an understanding of spectatorship from points of view as diverse as the sensory, experiential, philosophical, spiritual, metaphysical and neurological. The two chapter structure with ten appendices is unconventional for a dissertation, but an interesting and evidently viable one, and is executed with workmanlike assurance. Marking tutor: Suman Ghosh Agreed Mark: 85 Date: 11.06.2013
  8. 8. 8 For Douglas Trumbull. The dreamer who cared enough to keep going.
  9. 9. 9 Contents List of Illustrations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Foreword. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Acknowledgements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Notes on the Text. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Declaration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Introduction The Cave-Like Comfort Zone A Pressing Need to Reconfigure the Spectator and the Spectacle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Chapter One Looking Beyond the Gaze The Spectator’s Relationship with the Spectacle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Chapter Two Hypercinema The Implications of the Spectacle as a Hyper-Immersive Commodity. . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Conclusion Deshi Basara A Pressing Need to Understand the Hidden Language of the Spectator and the Spectacle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
  10. 10. 10 Appendix A The Perceiving Participator and the Spectacle Experiencing Situation An Example of a Reclassification for the Spectator and the Spectacle. . . . . . . . . . . 110 Appendix B Fat and Sugar The Variable of Cinema Snacking. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 Appendix C The Terror of the Microphone The Introduction of Sound and the Resulting Disruptions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 Appendix D Large Formats of the Past The Logistical Downfalls of Fox Grandeur and Cinerama. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 Appendix E Resolutions Image Resolutions, Higher Frame Rates and the Standardisation of Film Exhibition. . . 123 Appendix F The Multiplex is in Trouble The Aesthetic Downfalls of Low Standards and LieMAXes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
  11. 11. 11 Appendix G A Lousy Experience The Multiplex Complaint that went Viral. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137 Appendix H Highlighting IMAX Comparisons of Conventional and IMAX Film Posters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 Appendix I The Multiplex is in Your Pocket The Implications of the Interfacing Relationship of the Spectator and the Spectacle. . 145 Appendix J The Overview Effect Hypercinema’s Profound Implications for Humanity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 Discography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 Filmography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 Illustration Sources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
  12. 12. 12 List of Illustrations Introduction Figure 1: An Illustration of Plato’s simile of the cave. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Figure 2: A poster for Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Dir. Werner Herzog, 2011). . . . . . . . 42 Figure 3: The eight-legged bison. A screen capture from Cave of Forgotten Dreams. . . . 43 Chapter One Figure 4: Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) looks through his peep hole. A screen capture from Psycho. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Figure 5: John Berger demonstrates perspective. A screen capture from Ways of Seeing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Figure 6: Jefferies (James Stewart) gazes at Lisa (Grace Kelly). A publicity photograph for Rear Window. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Figure 7: Dolby Atmos auditorium layout schematic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Figure 8: ‘The Brain in your gut’ diagram. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
  13. 13. 13 Chapter Two Figure 9: An Illustration of 24 frames a second. A screen capture from a demonstration of Showscan Digital (2010). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Figure 10: The Higher frame rate FAQ sheet for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. . . . 65 Figure 11: An Illustration demonstrating the 3D stereoscopic effect, featuring Creature from the Black Lagoon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 Figure 12: Douglas Trumbull directing an experimental test shoot. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Figure 13: An Illustration demonstrating the enormity of Cinerama, from an edition of Life Magazine, 1952. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Figure 14: Film format and screen size comparisons. A diagram demonstrating the differences between 70mm IMAX, conventional 70mm and 35mm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Figure 15: IMAX is believing. A photograph of audience members in front of the IMAX screen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Figure 16: The number of films released in IMAX venues between 2009 and 2012. . . . . 75 Figure 17: The IMAX poster for The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
  14. 14. 14 Figure 18: The number of IMAX venues worldwide between 2008 and 2012. . . . . . . . 78 Figure 19: ‘Take in a Movie or get taken into one’. ‘IMAX is believing’ advertisement poster. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Figure 20: A photograph of an IMAX performance of The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . 82 Figure 21: A photograph of the auditorium of the BFI IMAX venue. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Figure 22: A diagram demonstrating the peripheral vision’s role in the perception of motion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 Figure 23: A diagram demonstrating the different peripheral occupation range of IMAX and conventional cinema screens. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 Figure 24: A diagram demonstrating the human eye’s rods and cones receptors and their role in the perception of peripheral vision. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Figure 25: Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) jump for their lives. A screen capture from the 9 minute IMAX preview of Star Trek Into Darkness. . . . 86 Figure 26: A photograph of a Showscan installation venue. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Figure 27: A photography of the production of New Magic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 Figure 28: A poster for Brainstorm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
  15. 15. 15 Figure 29: A photograph demonstration of the in-ride experience of Back to the Future: The Ride. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 Figure 30: Nancy (Rachel Blanchard) allures Jez (Robert Webb). A screen capture from an episode of Peep Show. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 Conclusion Figure 31: ‘See a movie or be part of one’. ‘IMAX is believing’ advertisement poster. . . 97 Figure 32: A hand print cave painting from the El Castillo cave in Spain. . . . . . . . . . . 98 Figure 33: Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) prepares for his ascent from the pit. A screen capture from The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Figure 34: A poster for Berberian Sound Studio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Figure 35: Bruce Wayne climbs up the cavern. A screen capture from The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Figure 36: A poster for Silent Running. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 Figure 37: Bruce Wayne contemplates his leap. A publicity photograph for The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
  16. 16. 16 Figure 38: Bruce Wayne - risen from darkness. A screen capture from The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Appendix B Figure 39: A photograph of the food and drink counter of a Vue cinema. . . . . . . . . . 113 Appendix C Figure 40: ‘The Microphone – the Terror of the Studios’, the cover of Photoplay, December 1929. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 Appendix D Figure 41: A screenshot of ‘The Future of Film’ article from Photoplay, December 1929. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 Figure 42: A 70mm advertisement for The Master. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Figure 43: A point of view roller coaster sequence from This is Cinerama. A smile box re-creation of what the 3-strip Cinerama version of This is Cinerama would have looked like in a Cinerama venue. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
  17. 17. 17 Figure 44: A layout demonstration of the workings of a Cinerama theatre. . . . . . . . . 121 Figure 45: Linus Rawlings (James Stewart) greets the Native Americans. A smile box re-creation of what the 3-strip Cinerama version of How The West Was Won would have looked like in a Cinerama venue. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 Appendix E Figure 46: A diagram illustrating the parameters of different image resolutions. . . . . 124 Figure 47: A photograph of an 8K television display. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Appendix F Figure 48: A photograph of The Little Theatre Cinema, Bath, UK. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 Figure 49: A photograph of the city centre Cineworld, Glasgow, UK. . . . . . . . . . . . 128 Figure 50: A poster for Quartet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 Figure 51: A photograph of the Cineworld in Crawley, West Sussex, UK. . . . . . . . . . 132 Figure 52: A resolution comparison of LieMAX and IMAX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
  18. 18. 18 Figure 53: An advertisement poster for Odeon’s isense. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 Figure 54: A photograph of a 4DX cinema entrance hall. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 Appendix H Figure 55: A conventional poster for The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 Figure 56: The IMAX poster for The Dark Knight Rises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 Figure 57: A conventional poster for Skyfall. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 Figure 58: The IMAX poster for Skyfall. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 Figure 59: A conventional poster for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. . . . . . . . . 143 Figure 60: One of four IMAX character posters for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144 Appendix I Figure 61: “What a difference 8 years makes: St. Peter's Square in 2005 and yesterday”. A photograph comparison created by NBC News. . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
  19. 19. 19 Figure 62: Netflix account homepage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146 Figure 63: Google Glass. A publicity photograph. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145 Figure 64: Google Glass technical schematic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 Figure 65: Glass Glass - a user’s point of view. A screen capture from How it Feels [through Glass]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 Appendix J Figure 66: ‘The Blue Marble’. A photograph that is currently the highest resolution image of the Earth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
  20. 20. 20 Foreword “I just feel like I haven’t said everything I want to say on Film Studies,” these were the words I lamented to Dr Terence Rodgers, the head of the Department of Film and Media, as I was sat in his office on the 19th September 2012. Less than a week before the Film and Screen Studies dissertation module was due to begin, I was presenting my case for why I should be allowed to change to the module. Some would argue that I was very lucky with my undergraduate degree, BA (Hons) Creative Writing with Film and Screen Studies, as it is a joint degree, the final year dissertation was not compulsory for me. However, throughout the summer break I had been debating whether I should stick with the scriptwriting module I had signed up for, or if I should change to the dissertation module for one final hurrah with Film Studies. Ultimately, people like me have something inside… something to do with film and fundamentally deep down inside of me there was something concerned with the subject of Film Studies waiting to finally be expressed. Up until that point I had been enrolled in Film Studies for five years (two for A-level and three for Undergraduate). Beyond that, I had been studying films for much longer; I had been fascinated by their status as a spectacle and my role as a spectator since I was about six years old. It is fair to say that I subconsciously understood film grammar and the conventions of cinema long before Ian Fleming properly taught me to read at the age of fourteen. Films spoke to me in a way that no other form of education came close to; films provided me with a context though which I was able to understand the world. Therefore, the chance to study films on an academic basis was instantly appealing when the opportunity arose. However, throughout my time studying films academically, I felt that I had rarely stepped beyond what were the safe-zone conventions of the academic Film
  21. 21. 21 Studies/film theory field. As my grades had always been top-notch, I certainly feel that I had taken steps in the right direction with all of my previous Film Studies endeavours, but there was a complacent part of me that was always afraid to keep pushing things in a specific direction or to take things down a wholly new progressive route. This dissertation is actually the first time that I have looked at a contemporary topic in the film and media field; in the past, whether it was the national identity of Charlie Chaplin, a legacy of Universal Horror or the humanity of Kurosawa, all of my Film Studies endeavours had always examined subjects that were of the past. I had always followed that pattern because it was a safe pattern; there are too many unknowns in the contemporary, because it is always changing. To this end, I always felt that I had copped out with Film Studies. Therefore, I saw a dissertation as my last chance to set things right and to say something absolutely relevant to what was happening right here, right now. A dissertation was my chance to do something different, to say something really uniquely personal on film that would deal with where I was as a person in the here and now (or whatever the here and now was for me a year ago). Even if I did not consciously know what that really unique personal thing was, deep down I just wanted to write the film dissertation to end all film dissertations! Subconsciously and intuitively, I had already decided on the subject of my dissertation two months previously, on the 20th July 2012 to be exact. This dissertation’s subject found a very formidable physical manifestation when I attended The Dark Knight Rises at the BFI IMAX. This was my first time in an IMAX theatre and The Dark Knight Rises was the first true IMAX film that I had the pleasure of experiencing in IMAX. Above and beyond viewing, the experience revealed to me a whole other potential for experiencing films – a type of experience that made films intimately and intensely more enjoyable. In the creation of my filmic experience with The Dark Knight Rises, via the IMAX format, I saw into the pit of myself and realised that there was a great climb to be undertaken. It was a climb that no
  22. 22. 22 one else had undertaken and through the seven month process of that climb I went on to discover a fundamentally ancient yearning of humanity, that still manifests itself in the spectator and spectacle of today. Ultimately, I wrote this dissertation because I wanted to discover why it was I had always enjoyed films so much and, in turn, I was able to use that knowledge to reveal something far grander about our human nature, our grasp of reality and our ways of being. Basically, on a conscious level, I quite unknowingly (I did not have a clue) stumbled into a largely untapped area where all of my previously acquired and seemingly unrelated academic and non-academic knowledge all convoluted together to give me an intuitive grasp on what you now have before you. A monumental event! I have made many return visits to the BFI IMAX since The Dark Knight Rises. One of my most recent visits in June was for The Dark Knight Trilogy all-nighter, in
  23. 23. 23 which the whole auditorium gasped in sock when the first true IMAX image was projected on to the screen – that gasp epitomises exactly what this dissertation is about! However, all of this consciously eluded me as I was sat across from Terry trying to explain what I would look at in my dissertation. The best I could come up with (because it was a huge franchise that would surely have something a dissertation could be based around) was the James Bond franchise. Fortunately, I did not need to try so hard and Terry let me change to the dissertation with surprising ease. If I had known the full implications of the exhausting seven month process that I was in store for, I probably would have thought twice about my decision to change to the module! On top of my other final year commitments, writing this paper was an absolute death-trip. However, that is not to say that I did not enjoy it and that I am not grateful for the opportunity to be able to write it. If anything, the grinding process of writing it - of climbing
  24. 24. 24 out of the pit - is what informs the paper with an extra level of hypertextuality and further enforces the argumentation of the paper’s subject. Seven gruelling months and several extensions later, when I finally submitted the resulting paper for examination on the 6th June 2013, I had no Idea it would go on to receive the highest mark ever awarded to a Film and Screen Studies dissertation at Bath Spa University and be bestowed with the Media Futures Research Award! I also did not anticipate how much attention the paper would go on to receive, or that I would continue to conduct research after I had let the paper go, or that I would be asked back to give a talk to the following year’s dissertation students, or that I would be invited by the Media Futures Research Centre to give talks on whatever I wanted to talk about, or that it would provide initiative to undertake postgraduate study, or that I would be sitting here producing a refined draft. The changes I have implemented in this refined draft are minimal and I would like to make it clear that the content of the research and argumentation have not been altered or added to in any way. Rather, the changes I have implanted are the polishing of sentences to make things a bit clearer, some further proofing and the adding of initial page material. The most prominent of this new initial page material is the marking feedback sheets I received from the first and second markers. As I included the Notes of the Text section in the submission draft to detail the formatting differences between the digital and paper volumes I submitted, much of what is in the Notes on the Text section will not be fully accurate with this new draft. Furthermore, I have not adjusted the Notes on the Text section for this refined draft because I wanted to retain a record of what the submission draft was like and how it evolved from the initial drafts. Likewise, the word counts in the Notes on the Text
  25. 25. 25 section will not be applicable to this draft; in fact, the word count that is presented on the front page is the unified word count for the entirety of this refined volume. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Media Futures Research Centre at Bath Spa University for bestowing this paper with the Media Futures Research Centre Award for Excellence in Film and Screen Studies research. The honour of being awarded this was the final incentive for me to make something out of the research I continued to do after I submitted the paper - this is how Ways 2 Interface or www.ways2interface.com has come about. I always referred to this paper as an introductory speculation and, accordingly, that makes sense as it now serves as the introduction to Ways 2 Interface. This paper touches on some very broad and highly untapped subjects and, as such, there is much I was not able to say in the paper (even with the addition of the Appendices). Therefore, Ways 2 Interface now provides me with an opportunity through which I can explore these other areas. Additionally, as Ways 2 Interface is being hosted online it provides me with an opportunity to use multimedia and eLearning in a way that I was not able to do in this paper, something that I consciously bemoaned while writing it! Ways 2 Interface also provides the potential to get others involved and this is something that I am keen to do, considering this paper deals with several severely under-researched areas. Therefore, please do get in contact if this paper’s focus is something that interests you! Furthermore, my final year creative enterprise project: EYES, an experimental web series concept proposal package, see www.eyesofastoryteller.blogspot.co.uk, is in many ways the companion to this paper and overall research project. As this paper fulfils the criteria of my
  26. 26. 26 theoretical dissertation, EYES, as my creative enterprise project, fulfils the criteria of my practical dissertation. Both Ways of Being and the EYES project were produced over the same time period and very much rifted off of each other; as such, EYES is very much the practical expression of many of things I explore in this paper and equally went on to inform many of the things I discuss in this project. There is a strong force of reflexivity that exists between both projects and that has a lot to say about my own personal temperament and what it is I am exploring.
  27. 27. 27 People like me have something inside… something to do with film. This is a hugely personal dissertation and that is the point - “sometimes a man rises from the darkness” (The Dark Knight Rises, 2012) - that is exactly the point. When I am talking about films, I am talking about humanity’s need for narratives and immersion in fantasy; its need for reflexivity and rationality; its need to expand, to explore and to extrapolate. These are fundamentally ancient yearnings and, when properly understood, they will reveal fundamental insights about reality, human nature and our continually changing ways of being therein. Understanding the spectator, the spectacle and their ways of interfacing is how we decode these fundamental insights.
  28. 28. 28 While I sit here writing this, I feel absolutely confident about the progressive endeavour this dissertation has set me on and, crucially, I now understand why I have always enjoyed films so much! However, do I now feel as though I have said everything I want to say on Film Studies and the subject of film? Hell no, not by a long shot! I am just getting started… Peter O’Brien, 17/09/2013, Bristol, UK
  29. 29. 29 Acknowledgements Fundamentally, the research project that finds its culmination in this dissertation is my attempt to rationalise why I have always enjoyed films so much. Additionally, I wanted to know why I enjoyed the experience of a film in IMAX more than the experience of the same film in a conventional cinema. While these yearnings formed the subconscious incentive for the project, the initial conscious embodiment of it was a vague notion of wanting to ‘look at the gaze’ and explore ‘how we feel films’. When I said these two statements back in October 2012, not only did I have essentially zero prior knowledge of the gaze as it exists in film theory, but I knew little more about the study of film spectatorship in general. Appropriately for this paper’s content, I had a very strong feeling for the direction of the project and a belief that I had something deeply significant to say on its subject, even if I could not adequately put that something into words. Considering there is not yet a single unifying presence writing on the areas I deal with in the paper, this was probably just as well. Accordingly, the majority of the project’s research has involved the connecting of a very disparate range of dots; as well as an equal amount of deduction, imagination and original thinking over the past seven months. The whole endeavour has been a hugely enriching experience in which my intellectual capabilities have greatly risen to a formidable level and through the process of which I have acquired a completely new way of enjoying films. In this dissertation, I believe that I have orchestrated a highly complex explanation for the project’s original incentives; that covers much more than what I set out to do, with still more potential on the horizon. However, this project was not a sole venture and, as such, I would like to thank:
  30. 30. 30 My guiding tutor, Dr Suman Ghosh, for sitting through many of my incoherent ramblings and who had the patience to endure my nonlinear writing style for an exceedingly long time. Most of all, though, I would like to thank him for his sense of humour, words of wisdom and belief in my capabilities. Dr Terrance Rodgers for letting me change to the dissertation module a week before it initiated, for allowing me to submit an increased word count and for authorising a deadline extension so that I could rework the paper to satisfy the new word count. Stephen Manley for pointing me in the direction of the seminal Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses. Bath Spa University as a whole for its support and encouragement. Nic Driscoll (my sister), Tim Bradshaw and Matt Coot for their proofreading services. My friends and family for their continual assistance, support and understanding. Simon Callow’s highly articulate and overly indulgent prose style in his masterfully written biography Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu. Now that I have completed this dissertation, I look forward to continuing it! The Dark Knight Rises at the BFI IMAX on the 20th July 2012, the subconscious progenitor for this project as a possible dissertation subject. The event was a hugely enjoyable and life changing filmic experience; the full implications of which this dissertation should go some way in expressing.
  31. 31. 31 Notes on the Text I feel that some clarification is required. The sheer amount of data that I unearthed as a result of my research led to me writing a first draft that was nearly 20,000 words long, double the acceptable amount for a submission! As such, this was followed by a second draft in which I aimed to decrease the word count, but only managed to get it down to around 17,000 words. These excessive word counts were not an agenda on my part, as I had always fully intended to submit an 11,000 word paper, with some potential appendix items. However, the breadth of my research, my passion for the subject and the fact that I had written each section of the first draft largely in isolation caused the overall word count to sky rocket. Ultimately, my dissertation developed to the point where it seemed the integrity of the argument was reliant on all the contents of its text. It would have been a deplorable mess, if I had just simply disbanded half of its contents and been done with it! Therefore, a word count expansion to 15,000 words was authorised, as was a deadline extension in which I could re-work the excessive contents of the first and second drafts into appendix materials. As I had put a great deal of planning into building a strong, logical and multi-layered structural spine for the dissertation, the re-working of its content was not just a case of extracting huge chunks of material; rather, it involved extracting chunks of material and then reconfiguring the main body to compensate for their omissions, often this had a ripple effect that required the re-working of multiple points from multiple sections. The new word count of 15,015 stated on the front cover, excluding titles and subtitles, refers to the primary content of the main body of this volume: Introduction, Chapter One,
  32. 32. 32 Chapter Two and Conclusion. Originally the primary content also had a third chapter, but that has been removed to satisfy the new word count, it now exists as Appendices F and I. Likewise, Appendices A and B originally formed material of Chapter One; whereas Appendices C, D and E were originally components of Chapter Two. Minus titles and subtitles, the Appendices have a word count of 6,053. The unified word count for the entire dissertation volume is 30,778. In regards to formatting, the presentation of this volume adheres to the required guidelines. However, there are two instances when text alignment has not been justified: the quoted text in Appendix G and in the reference details sections. The result of justifying these pieces of text led to a very unpleasant aesthetic result that, due to the amount of white space generated in the text, actually made the text harder to read! Unfortunately, my edition of Microsoft Word does not allow me to edit text alignment beyond justifying it or aligning it left, right or centre. Therefore, these sections of text remain aligned left. There is a difference of page numbering that exists between the two hard copies and the digital submission. As with the text alignment, my edition of Microsoft Word does not allow me to utilise multiple types of page numbering in the same document. As the hard copies were created from three different documents, I was able to present the initial pages without numbering, the front matter pages with lower case Roman numerals and the bulk of the volume (the primary content, appendices and reference sections) with regular Arabic numbering. However, as the digital copy is contained within one document it utilises only the Arabic page numbering on all of its pages. Therefore, the sequential numbering of its pages is different to that of the hard copies and its contents pages has been adjusted according. Additionally, the digital version of the Declaration is a photograph of the hard copy counterpart, as this enabled me to include my signature in the digital copy. Aside from
  33. 33. 33 these two differences, the digital and hard copies are identical in their content and their presentation. Also, I have endeavoured to format the images and the text into an aesthetically pleasing whole as best as I can, but there are some instances where substantial areas of white space just could not be avoided. Aside from the Harvard referencing guidelines already requiring a major overhaul in regards to the range of reference sources that now exist, as there is no dictated way to present image sources, I have endeavoured to present the required information based on what the guidelines already state for other types of content. However, the image sources have not been presented in alphabetical order; rather, they are presented in the same order that they appear in the List of Illustrations and their linear order throughout the main body. This has been done as it is more logical and makes the referencing of the image sources a much easier process. The creation of this final submission draft has required a great deal of my time and effort, almost equivalent to formulating the original structure and writing the first draft! However, I am grateful for the extended opportunity that has enabled me to complete the dissertation I always wanted to submit. Initially the contents of Appendices F and I (originally Chapter Three) formed integral components of my original argument and I was very hesitant to disband them from the primary content. However, through the process of re-affirming the contents of the Introduction, Chapter One and Chapter Two as expressing what has always been the essential focus for this thesis, I can now say that while the contents of Appendices F and I are relevant to the overall subject, they are not integral to the essential focus of it. Additionally, with the appendices as a whole, while there are
  34. 34. 34 indications at various points throughout the main body to reference them, this is by no means essential. The logic of the appendices inclusion is discernible by reading them in a linear fashion after finishing the conclusion. In regards to the Conclusion, as it always existed in a very fluid, proto-form throughout the first and second drafts, I do not believe my original aim for its direction has been compromised; rather, the re-affirming of the Introduction, Chapter One and Chapter Two has produced a conclusion that presents a formidably strengthened culmination of my original intentions! Therefore, after a great deal of intricate re-formulations, I can satisfactorily say that the 15,015 word primary content of this volume absolutely expresses what I originally set out to define. Finally, as much as this piece of work does adhere to the lethargic conventions of academic writing, I have endeavoured to make it progressively engaging, entertaining and above all enlightening. I hope you enjoy reading it.
  35. 35. 35 Declaration I hereby declare that this dissertation is my own original work and that it has not been submitted for assessment at any other institution. Where other sources of information have been used they have been acknowledged. Signed: PETER O’BRIEN 06/06/2013 Bath, UK
  36. 36. 36 Introduction The Cave-Like Comfort Zone A Pressing Need to Reconfigure the Spectator and the Spectacle The study of the relationship between the spectator (film viewer) and the spectacle (film text/event) is film theory’s primary concern. Film consumption and film presence are integral components of contemporary culture; the fact that the academic discipline of Film Studies developed out of Cultural Studies and has become an equally diverse field, with ever more emerging avenues of thought, is testament to this: “In order to understand today’s world, we need cinema. Literally, it is only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not able to confront in our real reality. If you are looking for what is in reality, more real than reality itself, look into the cinematic fiction” (Žižek, 2006). While Žižek is speaking from a psychoanalytically and ideologically motived point of view, the study of the cinematic medium can offer us additional ontological and epistemological insights into reality and our very nature of being in that reality. However, before we can adequately attain this knowledge, first, we need to thoroughly understand the cinematic medium itself; we need to understand how the spectator views, absorbs, receives, engages, experiences, constructs, desires, negotiates, manipulates, participates, fantasises, debates, infers, identifies, critiques, addresses, senses, recreates and integrates with the cinematic fiction. The problematic nature of terminology and diversity in film theorisation goes to the very heart of this thesis’ focus. This dissertation will be concerned with reconfiguring film theory’s understanding of the spectator and the spectacle for application in a new, diversified and deeply integrated age of cinema.
  37. 37. 37 Conceived two-and-half-thousand years ago, Plato’s allegory of the cave is one of the first recorded instances of theoretical thought being applied to a spectator-and-spectacle -like situation. Naively, it has often been compared to the archetypal cinema viewing situation: “Imagine an underground chamber like a cave, with a long entrance open to the daylight and as wide as the cave. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. Some way off, behind and higher up, a fire is burning, and between the fire and the prisoners and above them runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like the screen art puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above which they show their puppets… Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind the curtain-wall, projecting above it and including figures of men and animals made of wood and stone and all sorts of other materials, and that some of these men, as you would expect, are talking and some not.” (2003:241). While it is tremendously clumsy to apply Plato’s cave as a direct representation of the film viewing situation, the cave can tell us a great deal about film theory’s treatment of it. Plato’s cave conceives of an ideal spectator – a prisoner bound in the cave from childhood to observe the shadows on the cave wall. Therefore, Plato’s prisoner/spectator is just an absorber of what is presented before him. The prisoner/spectator has no other existence and knows of no other ideology, aside from the one he experiences in the cave – the cave is the prisoner/spectator’s reality.
  38. 38. 38 Figure 1. Plato’s simile of the cave. When considering the relationship between the spectator and spectacle, this is the problem with much of the thinking in film theory – every argument conceives of an ideal spectator (Elsaesser et al., 2010:4). As with the heavily criticised film theories of the 1970s where the spectator is a slave to the dominant ideology of society, Plato’s spectator is devoid of a life outside the cave/theory in which the spectator’s body is relegated to a position where it is essentially non-existent (not to mention a lack of cognitive consideration). However, beyond the thinking of the 1970s, while all film theories are not guilty of employing the cave’s spectator-wholly-as-dominant-ideological-absorber pre-set, the theories are at fault by only ever considering ideal spectators – spectators made to fit the theory. As such, ideal spectators are problematic as they are not thoroughly representative of actual audience members (Williams, 1994:3). To say nothing of the corporeal influence, every audience member willingly enters a film viewing situation with a plethora of preconceptions and
  39. 39. 39 other unrelated mental data drawn from an individual life experience which they cognitively apply to the film experience – every audience member experiences a film differently and produces their own filmic experience. Any cave-like theory that presupposes an ideal spectator, while always well intentioned: “No amount of empirical research into the sociology of actual audiences will displace the desire to speculate about the effects of visual culture, and especially moving images, on hypothetical viewing subjects” (Williams, 1994:4), ultimately, is going to end up being ignorant of the larger and unified contextual, cognitive and corporeal relationship that is actually at work: “The cinema and cinematic experience remain phenomenolgically and philosophically undertheorized, in my view, so long as the events on-screen and the spectator are each considered individually, as isolated entities separate from one another. One needs to enlarge the frame of description and know how to draw – behind the back of the spectator, so to speak – a second screen on which the osmotic exchange between the so-called spectator and the events on the primary screen becomes visible. (Voss, 2011:139). Therefore, the phenomenological and wider philosophical aspects of film theory and how they can provide a thorough understanding of the spectator-spectacle relationship form one half of this dissertation. While re-asserting the roles vision and cognition fulfil in relation to their respective film theories, Chapter One: Looking Beyond the Gaze will use empirical data in the emerging fields of neurocardiography and neurogastroenterology to demonstrate why the body of the audience member is a required phenomenological and empirical variable in film theory’s conception of the spectator-spectacle relationship:
  40. 40. 40 “The idea of the body as sensory envelope, as perceptual membrane and material- mental interface, in relation to the cinematic image and to audio-visual perception, is thus more than a heuristic device and an aesthetic metaphor: it is the ontological, epistemological and phenomenological ‘ground’ for the respective theories of film and cinema today”(Elsaesser et al., 2010:11). Following on from this, in order to be specific about what is actually happening in the film viewing situation, Chapter One will also assert a need to reclassify the spectator and spectacle elements of the film viewing situation, in an effort to demonstrate the philosophical need to change the ways in which that relationship is discussed. However, when dealing with the problem of terminology, film theory is only half at fault, the film industry is equally to blame! Currently, the film industry is experiencing a technological shift in the manufacturing and exhibition of its products; which, in turn, has led to a plethora of new technical terms and differing processes of producing, exhibiting and streaming film content. Equivalent only to the introduction of sound in the 1920s, the 2000s saw the rise of digital filmmaking and the 2010s will see digital filmmaking become the dominant practice of the industry: “Did you read the obituary for film? No, me neither, but the movies you see at your local cinema, whether they’re blockbusters or smaller works, have probably been made without the use of that plastic material that comes in reels. The stuff that captured light and movement for filmmakers from the Lumières to David Lynch” (Sweet, 2013).
  41. 41. 41 35mm analogue filmmaking, the means by which films have been produced and exhibited since their infancy, is being assigned to the museum. Fujifilm recently announced that it has ceased production of celluloid film (Fujifilm, 2013); which comes as no surprise considering analogue motion picture cameras have also ceased production (Seitz, 2011). Certainly, when you take celluloid film out of the equation, what right do digitally produced films still hold to be called films? Chapter Two: Hypercinema will present the pioneering innovations of entrepreneurial filmmaker Douglas Trumbull and, looking at the current growth of IMAX, the chapter will examine a growing investment in establishing something approaching a hyper-immersive cinematic exhibition commodity: “Theaters, movies, movie-going and other core components of what we once called “cinema” persist, and may endure. But they’re not quite what they were in the analog cinema era. They’re something new, or something else” (Seitz, 2011). The aesthetic reconsiderations hypercinema is encouraging towards how films themselves are exhibited, how this form of exhibition is experienced by the spectator as a hyper-real impression and even how it may alter climatic language will be explored. Furthermore, this will provide additional evidence as to why the reconfiguration of the spectator and spectacle in relation to film theory’s venture to gain an understanding of the ontological, epistemological and metaphysical aspects of cinema is an essential endeavour: “The film spectator constitutes, as a resonating body in need of further determination, the illusion-forming medium of cinema. Reflection on the formation of illusion by means of and in the cinema thus leads to a new, expanded concept of cinema itself that includes the spectator’s body – a concept of cinema that emphasizes the relevance of intertwined sensations, and the interpretation of these sensations, for the aesthetic experience of the medium.” (Voss, 2011:139).
  42. 42. 42 The aesthetic experience of the medium is something that has suffered from a great deal of ignorance by film-goers, filmmakers and film theorists alike. In the first forty years of its existence the film industry was a hive of innovation; it underwent many changes as new techniques and technologies were introduced to better handle the medium. Since the stabilisation of sound and, aside from the introduction of colour, widescreen and television, from the 1930s to the 2000s, the industry has found itself in a largely undisturbed aesthetically and financially secure comfort zone. This was a result of the dominant ideology of the film industry - to generate profits (Figgis in Sweet, 2013). Accordingly, this complacent and cave-like attitude has migrated into the majority of the audience and a large part of the theoretical thinking of Film Studies. Film-goers, filmmakers and film theorists were happy to submit themselves to the shackles of this cave-like scenario precisely because it provided a comfort zone that seemed to be aesthetically perfected and mutually beneficial for all involved parties.
  43. 43. 43 Figure 2. The Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in France has some of the earliest recordings of cave paintings, over 30,000 years old! Indeed, there is something deeply poetic about a conception of the cinema residing in a cave-like scenario, as the cave wall is where we can find the first recorded instances of humanity showcasing their artistic expressions. The cave painting is a proto-expression of what is a fundamentally ancient language – the cave holds an integral link to our very nature of being. Figure 3. “we should note the artist painted this bison with eight legs suggesting movement, almost a form of proto-cinema” (Herzog, 2010).
  44. 44. 44 However, innovation forced us to leave the cave behind and adopt new canvasses for our artistic expressions; in turn, these new canvasses have expanded our ways of thinking. As such, digital innovation is doing the same with the cave-like comfort zone of cinema; it has disrupted the tranquillity of cinema and is forcing us to take notice of its imperfections. Accordingly, a great deal of foreboding surrounds the digitalisation of cinema (Dean in Sweet, 2013). Equally, there is also a great deal of optimism (Figgis in Sweet, 2013), as digitalisation came about precisely to ensure the longevity of the cinematic medium. We live in the age of the upgrade and now cinema too possesses that ability; therefore, it will continue to be in state of developmental flux for the foreseeable future. It seems cinema has returned to its roots of innovation and coupled with the diverse means through which film content can now be accessed, understanding its ways of being is paramount. Ultimately, the topic to be discussed is vast and this dissertation cannot hope to cover the full diversity of that discussion; at best, this dissertation is an introductory speculation. However, it will provide a broad overview and bring particular attention to elements that are key in relation to how the experience of films can reveal insights into our ways of being in the world. For too long now a cave-like comfort zone has engulfed the film industry and film theory based on a complacent assumption that filmmaking, film exhibition and film theory had reached their optimum form. However, the ripples created by digitalisation are revealing otherwise and the pressing need for a major reconfiguration has become apparent: “Today, many see the moving image as our most precious (and endangered) historical heritage, a unique ‘archive’ of life and of things over the past 120 years. Some have argued that cinema is the key and template for our cultural understanding of the new (digital) media; and, for yet others, the cinema
  45. 45. 45 constitutes a material-mental organism in its own right, a new and vibrant articulation of matter, energy and information, and thus a ‘thing’ that ‘thinks’, which philosophy can help us understand. This is why it makes sense to speak of both the cinema’s ‘epistemologies’ (ways of knowing, as well as ways of questioning how the cinema knows what it claims to know) and ‘ontologies’ (ways of being, as well as ways of classifying what is and exists) as the proper domain of film theory.” (Elsaesser et al., 2010:185-6). In short, it is time to leave the cave behind.
  46. 46. 46 Chapter One Looking Beyond the Gaze The Spectator’s Relationship with the Spectacle The position of the gaze in relation to the spectator and spectacle has been a problematic subject of film theory for some time now. The very definition of the gaze invites misconception from its outset. If you were to ask a layman to define the gaze as it exists in the film viewing situation, then they would probably reply that it is the spectator passively looking on as the film unfolds before them. While this statement is correct, according to the most basic understanding of the definition of the gaze: “look steadily and intently, especially in admiration, surprise, or thought” (Oxford, 2013), it is ignorant of the larger academic understanding of the gaze as a theoretical construct. These academic explorations of the gaze as a construct have been central to film theory’s understanding of the spectator and spectacle relationship. However, the gaze is only one component of what needs to be a larger body of knowledge. Figure 4. Is the film viewer a voyeur?
  47. 47. 47 Theories of the gaze and the spectator’s relationship to the spectacle were developed for an academic grounding in the 1970s. The conception of the gaze in film theory signifies a significant shift when the thinking of many film theorists aligned to establish and contest theories that attempted to decode the spectator’s relationship with the film text. However, the thinking behind these ideas are largely drawn from thinkers outside of Film Studies: “John Berger’s Ways of Seeing could stand as the earliest and most accessible single statement of a whole generation’s turn toward a commentary on a hypothetical spectator’s relation to the visual image” (Williams, 1994:1). Figure 5. “Perspective centres everything on the eye of the beholder” (Berger in Dibb, 1972).
  48. 48. 48 In addition to Berger’s groundbreaking thinking, film theorists employed concepts from semiotics, literature studies, narratology, psychoanalysis and ideology to elaborate on the essential point of Berger’s Ways of Seeing: “that there is a ‘way of seeing,’ structured into visual representations and the way those presentations address spectators” (Williams, 1994:1). Key to this process of elaboration was Louis Althusser’s assertions on the nature of ideology: “the theory of ideology he proposed seemed to offer film theorists the basis for a detailed explanation of the influence of movies upon the imagination. In particular, film theorists argued that the kind of deception that cinematic illusion wrought upon the film spectator was a precise instantiation of the kind of deception wrought by ideology upon the individual” (Allen, 1998:7). Not only did the adoption of Althusser’s ideological theory serve to elevate the importance of Film Studies as an academic means by which the status quo could be deconstructed: “Since cinematic illusion seemed to demonstrate his theory so well, the analysis of cinematic illusion promised to play a central role in bringing to fruition the Marxist project of explaining and criticizing the function of ideology in society” (Allen, 1998:7), it also enabled film theorists to begin to grasp the information processing that occurs from film text to film spectator: “they wanted to understand how the filmmaker’s (and by extension the culture’s) view of the world became confused with, or displaced by, the spectator’s view; that is, they asked, how does ‘their view’ become ‘your view’ without provoking any protests?” (Saper, 1991:33). Central to understanding this peaceful information/ideological transference was Lacanian psychoanalysis:
  49. 49. 49 “Lacan argues that infants acquire their first sense of self-identity (the formulation of an ego) through the experience of looking in a mirror and relating to their bodies. For Lacan, this experience metaphorically captures a stage in the child’s development when the child anticipates a mastery of the body that she/he lacks in reality” (McGowan, 2007:1). Therefore, the basic premise of classical film theory is that the cinema affords the passive spectator only an illusionary sense of mastery over the ideology conveyed in the film text: “the spectator inhabits the position of the child looking in the mirror. Like this child, the spectator derives a sense of mastery based on the position that the spectator occupies relative to the events on the screen” (McGowan, 2007:6). By combining the thinking of Althusser and Lacan, a theoretical construct of a cinematic apparatus was established and seemed to account for how the ideological transference between spectacle and spectator took place: “the alignment of projector, spectator and screen, constituted… ‘a basic cinematic apparatus’ which in and by itself already predicated and circumscribed the effects it could have on the spectator… the ‘centering’ as well as ‘pinning down’ or ‘capturing’ of a single individual as the locus of consciousness and coherence, giving the impression of mastery when such mastery was the mere effect of the respective machineries – optical, ideological, narrative, specular (Elsaesser et al., 2010:68). In the apparatus’ conception of the film viewing situation, the film text and the physical cinema location form one systematic apparatus (the fire, the road, the puppeteers, the cave wall and the cave itself) and the spectator is the subject component of that apparatus
  50. 50. 50 (the chained prisoner in the cave). The gaze (the arrangement of visual material as an ideological construct on the cave wall) is what supplies the spectator with a sense of mastery over the filmic experience: “in the most seemingly natural or beautiful of visual images, there is an invisible ideology that affords the gaze that surveys it both mastery and equilibrium” (Williams, 1994:1). Phallocentric and monolithic leanings sum up much of the thinking in regards to the gaze: “that is, the cinema works to acculturate individuals to the structures of fantasy, desire, dream, and pleasure that are fully of a piece with dominant ideology” (Mayne, 1998:18). Therefore, the gaze, as it exists in film theory, is less about the physical, voyeuristic action of the spectator sensing the film text through their eyes and more about a specific ideological construct which the spectator becomes subject to while performing that ocular process: “The process of seeing paintings, or seeing anything else, is less spontaneous and natural than we tend to believe. A large part of seeing depends on habit and convention” (Berger, 1972). The gaze is a pre-packaged ideology that the spectator adopts: “Every image embodies a way of seeing.” (Berger, 1972:2).
  51. 51. 51 Figure 6. Feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey famously and controversially postulated that classical Hollywood cinema possessed a dominant male gaze. Rear Window (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1954) is a film about the shortcomings of voyeurism. While every cinematic image does embody a way of seeing, as determined by the audio and visual construction of the film text by the director, this pre-packaged mindset is always open to further re-interpretations and, ultimately, is altered by the active cognitive participation of the spectator, as the cognitive film theory of the 1980s and onwards demonstrates: “Viewers cannot absorb cinematic images any more than they can absorb reality. Instead they undertake a perceptual dialogue, seeing in part what their schemas
  52. 52. 52 encourage them to seek out, and in part what the artist’s shaping of cinematic form encourages them to see. If the viewers were studying a painting, their schemas would accommodate to the work over a period of time (and the longer the time, the more thorough the understanding, as any educator will attest)” (Nadaner, 1984:126). Cognitive theory is a reaction to the shortcomings of the earlier film theory and disregards its attitude of free association; it favours empirical explanations over the ideological interpretations of the 1970s’ cave-like thinking (Bordwell, 2009). Therefore, cognitive theory is able to factor in a spectator that is more than a passive, disembodied voyeur; rather, cognitive theory conceives of: “the spectator as an active participant in understanding the text” (Allen, 1997:4) and, as such, has a conception of a spectator much closer to an actual audience member: “In explaining viewers’ responses, [cognitive theory] looks first to features of the human mind. This doesn’t mean that researchers study minds cut off from society; rather, the emphasis is on the mental activities tied to all sorts of experience, including social action and interaction” (Bordwell, 2009). Therefore, in order to gain a thorough understanding of the spectator’s relationship with the spectacle we need to look beyond the gaze – we need to look beyond looking: “One of the major fallacies of contemporary film theory has been to imply that spectatorship in the cinema is inherently voyeuristic. This emphasis on the cinema’s voyeuristic character results from an overvaluation of the role that vision plays in determining the emotional responses of the spectator” (Allen, 1995:133). The experiencing of a film is achieved by more than just an ocular process - film viewership has never just been about viewing; in fact, film viewing
  53. 53. 53 is not even an accurate term for it: film sensing or film experiencing would be better descriptions of the process by which a spectator absorbs a film text and then collaborates in the creation of the transcendental filmic experience: “We watch films with our eyes and ears, but we experience films with our minds and bodies. Films do things to us, but we also do things with them. A film pulls a surprise; we jump. It sets up scenes; we follow them. It plants hints; we remember them. It prompts us to feel emotions” (Bordwell, 2012). Certainly, beyond the ocular, the aural elements of a film play a huge role in the creation of a film experience; even more so with the monumental presence afforded by surround sound: “sound ‘embodies’ the image – seeing is always directional, because we see only in one direction, whereas hearing is always a three-dimensional, spatial perception, i.e. it creates an acoustic space, because we hear in all directions” (Elsaesser et al., 2010:129-30).
  54. 54. 54 Figure 7. Dolby Atmos, the next generation of surround sound will allow you to hear the whole picture (Bowling, 2012). Sound has always been an integral component of the film experience; not even silent films were silent, all silent era cinemas had some form of in-house foley and musical accompaniment (Brownlow et al., 1980). The role of sound in film cannot be understated as
  55. 55. 55 the physical presence of sound allows the spectator to be: “bodily enmeshed acoustically, spatially and affectively in the filmic texture” (Elsaesser et al., 2010:131-32). However, the human body as a complex organic whole comprises a major variable that has been missing from all film theories’ understandings of the spectator and spectacle relationship: “the inclusion of the body in film theory is a way of overcoming the deadlocks of the representational model and of calling for a more diverse set of approaches to conceptualise the cinematic experience” (Elsaesser et al., 2010:131). Perhaps the reason previous film theories have been unable to adequately factor actual audience members into their paradigms is precisely because they have deprived their ideal spectators of a physical presence and a body that can influence the filmic experience! Cognitive theory only incorporates the body as far as being an experience simulator driven by perceptual data sourced via the eyes and ears. However, what if the body was actively influencing the filmic experience as a perceptual membrane on a basis equivalent to the eyes and ears? What if the body was just as cognitively involved in the filmic experience as the brain proper: “Dr. J. Andrew Armour, introduced the concept of a functional ‘heart brain’ in 1991. His work revealed that the heart has a complex intrinsic nervous system that is sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a "little brain" in its own right. The heart's brain is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells like those found in the brain proper. Its elaborate circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain – to learn, remember, and even feel and sense” (Madurasinghe, 2008).
  56. 56. 56 The implications of the heart brain should be apparent, as only considering the neural activity of the cranial brain holds many, if you like, narrow-minded parallels with the 1970s treatment of the spectator as being only discernible with the gaze! The heart brain’s presence is even more important when it is realised that, while it does act independently in regulating itself, it also influences and sometimes overrides the cognitive processes of the cranial brain (Salem, 2007:4). However, the body’s role in our cognitive processes does not end with the influence of the heart brain, human beings also possess a stomach brain (Watzke, 2010)! Figure 8. The source of butterflies in the stomach (Mosley, 2012).
  57. 57. 57 The stomach brain is comprised of five hundred million nerve cells and one hundred million neurons (equivalent to a cat’s brain) and it plays a significant role in emotional regulation: “The gut is connected to our emotional limbic system and the two speak to each other and make decisions” (Watzke, 2010). The signals the stomach brain sends to the cranial and heart brains: “directly affect feelings of sadness or stress, even influence memory, learning, and decision-making” (Hurley, 2011). The cranial brain, the heart brain and the stomach brain all work in conjunction as one complex interconnected neural network, inherently influenced by the larger nervous and sensory systems of the human body: “Throughout the 1990s, the view that the brain and body work in conjunction in order for perceptions, thoughts, and emotions to emerge gained momentum and is now widely accepted” (McCraty, 2003:3), the terms ‘gut feeling’, ‘follow your heart’ and many alike all seem to have a logical scientific basis. While the fields of neurocardiography (study of the heart brain) and neurogastroenterology (study of the stomach brain) are still very much in their infancy, the findings already compiled are highly suggestive of a deeper and vastly more complex role for human cognition. Therefore, beyond being an experience simulator, it can be speculated that the entirety of the human neurobiological system acts as a perceptual influencer in the film experiencing situation. We do not just watch films, we feel, simulate and become aspects of them. Further research even suggests that we may not only neurobiologically experience and simulate data from a film individually, but are influenced by our fellow spectators as they neurobiologically experience and simulate data from a film: “There is now evidence that a subtle yet influential electromagnetic [field, as generated by the heart] or ‘energetic’ communication system operates just below our conscious awareness. Energetic interactions possibly contribute to the
  58. 58. 58 ‘magnetic’ attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect social relationships. It was also found that one person’s brain wave can synchronize to another person’s heart” (Salem, 2007:2). This research has a lot to say for intuition and could account for something film critic Mark Kermode has commented on: “it’s like there’s a temperature change in the room and I know there’s not physically a temperature change, but you can tell how a film is playing and it’s not because I can hear people sighing. No, it’s nothing that obvious. You can be in a room with a bunch of critics and you can tell how a film is playing.” (2013). However, there are doubtless many other potential ways the body can play an active role in the film experiencing situation; one such under studied area is the body’s consumption of food (see Appendix B). However, this is precisely why further research and consideration needs to be directed towards the body to ascertain just how involved it actually is in the creation of the filmic experience. Ultimately, integrating the body into film theory will enable the discipline to access a wider field of knowledge and, accordingly, will generate a number of new problems! Indeed, as has already been highlighted in this chapter’s diverse use of terminology in regards to the various attributes of cinema, e.g. ‘spectator’, ‘viewer’, ‘audience member’, film theory, as an epistemological and what is fast becoming an ontological and metaphysical pursuit, needs to be exacting in the terminology it uses to discuss its fields of study. As ever, Mark Kermode elaborates: “What’s interesting about this habitual slicing vernacular, with its constant references to scissors, knives, cuts, trims and so on, is that it makes no sense
  59. 59. 59 whatsoever in the modern digital era. You try editing a digital movie with some form of physical blade and see how far you get. The very idea of anyone merrily setting about a movie with a pair of scissors is rooted in the age-old physicality of celluloid, and harks back to a time when ‘film’ was a physical entity rather than a conceptual conundrum. Nowadays, movies aren’t ‘cut’; they are modified, reformatted and adjusted to fit your screen. If you’ve been to the cinema in the past few months, chances are that what you were watching wasn’t even a ‘film’ at all. More likely it was a stream of electronic information, uploaded on to a server and then beamed on to the screen by a digital projector without ever having passed through the translucent celluloid that once gave the medium of ‘film’ its very name” (Kermode, 2011:301-2). Philosophy, then, is another required variable in film theory that can and has been providing clarification. Essentially, philosophy has always formed the essential purpose of film theory (Mullarkey, 2009:6-7), but only in the last ten years has it gradually found its way to the surface as a prominent force and as a means of rationalisation (Elsaesser et al., 2010:185-6); thanks in no small part to the digitalisation of cinema and the diversification of film exhibition: “Cinema is a world of its own – whether a grey soundless shadowy world or a fluidy manipulatable one. This film-world is a flat, ordered, compressed world; a world that is subtly, almost invisibly organised. A world that is a cousin of reality. And the multiplicity of moving-image media in the twenty-first century means that this film- world has become the second world we live in. A second world that feeds and shapes our perception and understanding of reality. So it seems especially important that we get to grips with the moving image, that we came up with a
  60. 60. 60 sufficient range of conceptual frameworks by which to understand it” (Frampton, 2006:1-2). The terminology of film is problematic as there are many redundancies and contradictions inherent in the definitions of the words that make up the film vernacular. With terms like ‘spectator’, ‘viewer’, ‘audience member’ there is too much emphasis on passivity and the concept of gazing. On the other hand, with terms like ‘spectacle’, ‘film’, ‘cinema’, ‘film viewing situation’, ‘film experiencing situation’ there are a great deal of redundancies and ambiguities. Beyond celluloid film being discontinued, does ‘film’ refer to just theatrically produced entities or does it also refer to entities produced for television and the internet? Likewise, what is ‘cinema’ referring to: the physical cinema location, an artistic temperament or the industry as a whole? Certainly, when dealing with audio-visual content ‘spectacle’ seems suited to cover both theatrically and non-theatrically released content, as all audio-visual content is designed to create a spectacle. Without even moving onto the passivity inherent in ‘spectator’, ‘spectacle’ alone does not adequately begin to cover the means by which a spectator is able to engage with it (see Appendix A). As a growing ontological, epistemological and metaphysical discipline, film theory’s only hope of clarity in adequately understanding the spectator and spectacle relationship is through philosophy. In addition to this, philosophy’s deployment of rationality and empiricism also enables it to work with differing film theories. This chapter has presented overviews of psychoanalytical and cognitive film theory – two theories that represent a major polarisation in Film Studies and, as such, are highly critical of each other: “Psychoanalytical readings are especially targeted for being ambiguous, equivocal and limited to emotive, irrational aspects of films (sexuality, fantasy, surrealism). For the cognitivists, if a scene can be explained cognitively, then there is no need for a
  61. 61. 61 psychoanalytical reading” (Frampton, 2006:107-8). However, philosophy offers a means through which both of their lines of thought and other contradictory/isolationist theories can be combined: “I will propose that film be seen instead as an immanent set of processes, specifically as a series of relational processes and hybrid contexts comprising the artists’ and audience’s psychologies, the cinematic ‘raw data’, the physical media of the film, the varied forms of its exhibition, as well as all the theories relating themselves to these dimensions. This is a stratified approach to film as textual and material artefact, visual cognition and ontological world-view. As such, each partial view will also be partially accepted and incorporated into the meaning of film (without exhausting it, however), but each one’s own partiality for its own view – in other words, each theory’s attempt to totalize and reduce film entirety to itself as its illustration – will be deemed illegitimate” (Mullarkey, 2009:10). In particular, Frampton’s contribution to the philosophical debate is significant as he proposes a manifesto for a new way of understanding films. Frampton incorporates a multitude of thinking from many theoretical approaches and, as seems to be a growing trend in film philosophy, reconfigures the film as an entity that can think: “The ‘filmind’ is filmosophy’s concept of film-being, the theoretical originator of the images and sounds we experience, and ‘film-thinking’ is its theory of film form, whereby an action of form is seen as the dramatic thinking of the filmind… Filmosophy proposes that seeing film form as thoughtful, as the dramatic decision of the film, helps us understand the many ways film can mean and affect” (Frampton, 2006:6).
  62. 62. 62 Therefore, if both films and their spectators can think, not only has film theory come a long way from its disembodied, ideologically based thinking of the 1970s, but it is now in a position where its status as an essential academic discipline has been established. Increasingly so in our multimedia dominated age, through its explorations of ontology, epistemology and metaphysics, as represented in the spectator’s relationship with the spectacle, Film Studies as a whole now serves the purpose of being able to reveal fundamental truths about reality and human nature. Likewise, by realising that the filmic experience is in many ways just another way of neurobiologically experiencing and cognitively understanding the world, film theory will be better equipped in its endeavour to understand the spectacle’s appeal to the spectator. Looking is only one part of the filmic experience; to understand it fully we need to explore its larger ways of being. Embarking on this endeavour means not only that we are leaving the cave behind, but that we are better prepared to consider the potentially game-changing paradigm of the hypercinema.
  63. 63. 63 Chapter Two Hypercinema The Implications of the Spectacle as a Hyper-Immersive Commodity If there is one leading figure that epitomises the desire to move away from the cave-like comfort zone, then that person is Douglas Trumbull. Renowned for his special effects wizardry and various entrepreneurial efforts, in 2011 Trumbull announced his active process of producing a 3D science fiction film to be filmed at 120 frames per second (fps). This is hugely significant as the 24fps frame rate has been one of the fundamental components of the film industry since the introduction of sound in the 1920s: “the standard speed was increased to 24fps to accommodate sound… Over the years, we’ve come to associate 24fps with the cinema experience. The look of Hollywood feature films is integrally tied to that frame rate” (Ascher et al., 2007:98). Figure 9. Usually one second of film is comprised of twenty four separate still images; when presented together in a one second sequence, the succession of still images creates the
  64. 64. 64 illusion of motion. Therefore, increasing the frame rate means you increase the amount of still images in every second of film. Furthermore, if the frame rate is increased it will convey an impression of motion closer to how our eyes and brains sense the real world: “Most researchers agree we perceive 40 conscious moments per second… In other words: our eyes see more than that [66] but we’re only aware of 40. So if a frame rate hits or exceeds 40 fps, it looks to us like reality. Whereas if it’s significantly below that, like 24 fps or even 30 fps, there’s a separation, there’s a difference — and we know immediately that what we’re watching is not real” (Kerwin in O’Connell, 2012). As a result the Hollywood/traditional filmic look is lost, as the recent case of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dir. Peter Jackson, USA, 2012) has demonstrated in its 48fps version: “There are scenes when it causes the images to be crisper and brighter but, especially in instances of high CGI content, it creates a non-cinematic picture. That may be the primary reason why isolated moments feel like video game outtakes.” (Berardinelli, 2012). However, increasing the flow of motion closer to how our brains process visual information is not the only factor at fault. Doubling the amount of visual information in every second of film allows twice as much detail to be captured and this can bring attention to artificial elements, such as studio lighting and make-up (Kosner, 2013) - elements that have been refined over the last eighty years precisely to make up for the visual inadequacies of 24fps: “The text-book reason filmmakers add makeup to actors and then light them brightly is that film is not as sensitive as the human eye” (Knoll in Kosner, 2013).
  65. 65. 65 Figure 10. An effort to educate a confused and paying public, this is the higher frame rate FAQ sheet issued to all venues exhibiting the HRF version. The Hobbit’s higher frame rate marks the first time a different frame rate has been commercially exhibited worldwide and the critical reception has been largely negative.
  66. 66. 66 While the negative attitude does have some ground, as with citing the artificial elements the higher frame rate reveals, it also epitomises the cave-like comfort zone of the cinematic conventions of the past eighty years - the attitude of not wanting to move away from what many see as an aesthetically pleasing paradigm: “Twenty-four or 30 frames per second is an inherent part of the cinematic experience. It’s the way we accept cinema. It’s the way we suspend our disbelief” (Kerwin in O’Connell, 2012). However, Trumbull has argued that due to the industry going digital the introduction of new technologies and filmmaking techniques is inevitable (Trumbull in Gilchrist, 2012). As such, filmmakers are not only going to have to rethink how they make films, but the audience is going to have to re-learn how they experience those films: “My guess is that people are going to go through the same experience that he [Peter Jackson] and I have been through, which is that once you sit in an editing room or screening room and start looking at stuff at 48fps, you get to really like it. And then when you go back and look at 24fps you say, “Oh my God, how did we stand that for so long?” It’s a really interesting phenomenon. You kind of have to go there and be in it for a while. And so I think the audience is going to have that same experience” (Trumbull in Steigbigel, 2012). This ‘interesting phenomenon’ holds many parallels with the introduction of sound into the film industry (see Appendix C). As with the addition of make-up and lighting to make up for the visual inadequacies of 24fps, sound technology was very quickly adapted into a process that not only allowed the filmmakers to work efficiently with it, but enabled them to discover a whole new way of telling stories. The filmmakers found a way to use sound as another storytelling tool to add an additional aesthetic dimension to their films (Elaesser et al., 2010:129-31; Scorsese in Stock, 2011).
  67. 67. 67 Therefore, in light of this thinking, higher frames rates can be seen as just another filmmaking tool to which filmmakers and audiences will become accustomed. Also, thanks to the diverse options afforded by digital filmmaking, there is a choice as to which frame rate filmmakers want to utilise (Showscan Digital, 2010); in the same way that: “you don’t have to use 3D and you don’t have to use colour…” (Scorsese in Stock, 2011). Regardless of the negative critical reaction to The Hobbit’s higher frame rate, there continues to be strong enthusiasm for higher frame rates from filmmakers and spectators alike. James Cameron is going to capture and exhibit his Avatar sequels in 60fps, Andy Serkis will be doing likewise at 48fps for his adaptation of Animal Farm (2014) and there are now online communities, such as hfrmovies.com devoted to: “news, info, downloads & discussions” (hfrmovies.com, 2013) on the subject. However, probably the biggest incentive pushing for the use of higher frame rates is their ability to eliminate the motion blurring of 3D. Stereoscopic 3D is another component of contemporary cinematic exhibition that shares many parallels and problems with higher frame rates, and the introduction of sound. The introduction of 3D has proven to be much more turbulent than sound. 3D first appeared commercially in the 1950s and very quickly fell out of circulation due to technical neglect (Burns in Skal, 2000), and it has reappeared and just as quickly disappeared in brief revivals since then. However, now in the 2010s, it looks set to stay having grasped a foothold where it is both technologically sustainable thanks to the digital transition and financially rewarding thanks to the fact that most blockbusters are either filmed digitally in 3D or post- converted into it (Sharp, 2012). As with sound and colour before it, there is now a growing trend among filmmakers to use 3D as a storytelling tool, as films such as Avatar (Dir. James Cameron, 2009), Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Dir. Werner Herzog, 2010), Hugo (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 2011), Prometheus (Dir. Ridley Scott, 2012) and Life of Pi (Dir. Ang Lee, 2012) have demonstrated:
  68. 68. 68 "Every shot is rethinking cinema… rethinking narrative – how to tell a story with a picture. Now, I'm not saying we have to keep throwing javelins at the camera, I'm not saying we use it as a gimmick, but it's liberating… But it has a beauty to it also. People look like… like moving statues. They move like sculpture, as if sculpture is moving in a way. Like dancers…" (Scorsese in Kermode, 2010). Figure 11. The introduction of 3D in the 1950s was envisioned to pry audiences away from their televisions and bring them back to the cinema. However, while 3D is still generating profits since its widespread re-introduction in 2009, 3D is quickly losing its unique cinema attraction value (Sharp, 2012). As with widescreen, high definition resolution and surround sound, you can now experience 3D in your living room thanks to 3D televisions and 3D Blu-rays; in addition to this, 3D will soon form a part of television production and broadcasting, as the BBC’s upcoming 50th anniversary episode
  69. 69. 69 of Doctor Who (Dir. Nick Hurran, 2013) will demonstrate (Plunkett, 2013). Ultimately, this is only adding to a much larger problem for cinema exhibition: “I think the movie industry really needs a shot of excitement now because people are streaming their movies, downloading their movies and the phrase I use now: ‘the multiplex is in your pocket’ – convenience, low cost, ease of use, any time you want, anything you want and so the rationale for the multiplex theatre cinema which was all about that is now changing… movie-going attendance is at a 16 year low right now and probably getting worse” (Trumbull, 2012c). This has been an increasing problem for cinema exhibition since the widespread introduction of television in the 1950s and earlier with the popularity of radio in the 1920s. How do the film exhibitors keep the audience coming to the cinema, when the audience can just as easily sit at home or delve into their pockets and have a ‘similar’ experience? This is where Trumbull steps in as the industry’s champion: “For movies to survive as a business, we have to make it better” (Trumbull in Giardina, 2012); he has been advocating a new type of cinema for some time now, a type of cinema that will break away from the cave-like complacency of the last eighty years and bring the audience back to a revitalised auditorium: “I’d like to break ground on what I think will be a really powerful new kind of cinema experience that you cannot get on your tablet, computer, or your cellphone, or even in a regular theatre” (Trumbull, 2012g). Trumbull’s 3D 120fps science fiction project is his demonstration of this powerful new of kind of cinema, a kind of cinema in which 3D and higher frame rates are only two components:
  70. 70. 70 “it’s now possible with this new high frame rate, larger screens, higher reflective screens and 3D. There are so many things now available to make a new kind of movie experience which is going to be more like a window on to reality – like a holodeck or something to break the theatre” (Trumbull, 2012c). Figure 12. Douglas Trumbull has been innovating and advocating a new type of cinema for over thirty years. Thus far, Trumbull has described himself as a lone wolf in this area (Trumbull in Variety, 2012), but the fact of the matter is a widespread technological transformation of cinematic exhibition is already taking place and it is not too far from what Trumbull is proposing. The technology to make it a reality already exists, all Trumbull is suggesting is unifying all of these disparate technologies into a form of cinema that is aesthetically pleasing and that will provide a truly monumental and profit producing cinematic experience:
  71. 71. 71 “I’ve come to the conclusion that if your objective as a studio producer is to make a blockbuster spectacle that’s going to take you to Pandora or another dimension or another world or [to see] vicious monsters that come out of the screen and eat the audience, we need a more powerful medium” (Trumbull in Gilchrist, 2012). A more powerful medium that any piece of consumer hardware outside of the auditorium will have a hard time matching: “I’m trying to bring to cinema this spectacular illusion of immersiveness. The spectacle of 2001 [: A Space Odyssey (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1968)] and better than that” (Trumbull, 2012c). Until a better name comes along, Trumbull has christened this new type of cinema ‘hypercinema’ (Trumbull in Variety, 2012). The practice of what Trumbull envisions is very different, but in essence what he is describing is the digital version of large format cinema. Up until recent years, large format cinema has existed only as the occasional novelty and has always been overshadowed by conventional film exhibition (see Appendix D). The promise of a large/enhanced format cinema was first established concurrent to the introduction of sound: “There is colour to give [movies] vividness and life. There is widescreen projection just out of the laboratory to bring you the spectacles of nature and art in their true majesty. There is the promise too of three dimensions to give lifelike perspective.” (Will Hays in Merton, 2011). Aside from the widescreen, surround sound and 3D technologies that have ended up becoming a part of conventional cinema exhibition, there have been two prominent forms of large format cinema that have not: Fox Grandeur, a 70mm widescreen process, and Cinerama, a highly praised widescreen process projected onto a 146° panoramic screen that closely mimics human peripheral sight enabling a highly immersive experience (see Appendix D).
  72. 72. 72 Figure 13. The highly immersive quality of Cinerama caused a sensation when it was first released. However, unlike Fox Grandeur and Cinerama, a large format process that has persisted financially since its infancy in the 1960s is IMAX. Image Maximum, a.k.a. IMAX, currently boasts the highest resolution imagery of any image capturing and exhibiting process; the IMAX celluloid image is equivalent to 18K digital resolution (see Appendix E), around eighteen times the resolution of current high definition displays and superior to what the human eye is actually capable of perceiving: “IMAX doubted if the viewer can see 18K projected, estimating that 12K might be a more accurate guess” (Wilson, 2009)!
  73. 73. 73 Figure 14. Larger formats call for bigger cinema screens. IMAX captures onto horizontally aligned 70mm film and, as such, is able to hold a great deal more detail than standard vertically aligned 70mm film: “IMAX 70mm standard is three times bigger than normal 70mm and nine times bigger than 35mm [conventional analogue format].” (Wilson, 2009).
  74. 74. 74 Figure 15. “In an IMAX you feel everything more: you feel the picture, you feel the sound” (Anon, 2010). Like Cinerama (see Appendix D), due to its various logistical problems, IMAX was not a process that was quickly embraced by the mainstream film industry and, as such, the
  75. 75. 75 majority of IMAX’s initial output was documentaries. However, in the last ten years, a radical shift has occurred, thanks in no small part to Trumbull’s influence: “I was one of the team who took IMAX public. We took IMAX from a sleepy little museum company into the mainstream of movie business in a pretty short period of time” (Trumbull, 2012c). This transition began with the introduction of the IMAX Digital Re-mastering process (IMAX DMR): a top secret algorithm that allows 35mm, conventional 70mm and digitally captured films to be upscaled into IMAX resolution. Essentially, the DMR process copies and pastes the pixels that are already in every single frame to increase the overall image resolution; as such, the DMR films do not have the same image vibrancy and detail diversity as a true 70mm IMAX image. Regardless of this separation, the number of feature films being released in IMAX venues has been on an upward curve as a result of the DMR process: “often resulting in revenue multiples up to 8X the same film in a conventional 35mm theatre” (Trumbull, 2010). Figure 16. The large format that keeps expanding.
  76. 76. 76 In addition to upscaling films into IMAX resolution, filmmakers have also started to shoot segments of their films in true 70mm IMAX. Christopher Nolan started this tradition when he captured 38 minutes of The Dark Knight (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2008) in true 70mm IMAX (with the remainder of the film’s 35mm footage being upscaled); with The Dark Knight, Nolan proved that it could successfully be done and could reap huge financial rewards. Since then, other films have followed: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Dir. Micheal Bay, USA, 2009) features 9 minutes of IMAX, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Dir. Brad Bird, 2011) features 30 minutes and The Dark Knight Rises (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2012) features 72 minutes. Upcoming true 70mm IMAX releases are: Star Trek Into Darkness (Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2013), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, USA, 2013), Transformers 4 (Dir. Michael Bay, 2014) and Interstellar (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2014).
  77. 77. 77 Figure 17. With 72 minutes of IMAX footage, The Dark Knight Rises is currently the longest IMAX feature film; the film played for over three months at the BFI IMAX, this was
  78. 78. 78 considerably longer than its multiplex engagement! IMAX releases also receive additional promotional materials targeted at highlighting the film’s unique IMAX engagement. These additional promotional materials often express a heightened and more prestigious experience opposed to their multiplex counterparts, as the poster above demonstrates (for more IMAX and multiplex comparisons, see Appendix H). On the whole, though, there is a strong aversion to filming in true IMAX as the system only allows you to capture for 3 minutes, it takes 20 minutes to reload the camera, the cameras are very cumbersome and sound has to be recorded separately, due to the unwanted noise created by the workings of the IMAX camera (Sciretta, 2008). This also accounts for why there has not yet been a complete feature film captured in the process. However, logistical problems aside, this sudden in-rush of true IMAX and IMAX upscaled films accounts for the worldwide growth of IMAX’s brand, popularity and financial profits. Figure 18. IMAX appears to be experiencing something of a renaissance.
  79. 79. 79 Like The Dark Knight Rises before it, the online IMAX box office crashed when the tickets for Star Trek Into Darkness went on sale (Enk, 2013); there appears to be a definite demand for IMAX films, especially 70mm IMAX films and large format IMAX-like cinema experiences. In an age where high resolution images are easily accessed on a variety of displays, IMAX offers a level of image detail that just cannot be achieved on consumer devices or in multiplex theatres: “given that IMAX is non-conventional and extremely immersive [I think] you're going to have a hard time creating the same immersive experience in a home” (Bonnick in Lowe, 2013). As such, IMAX currently holds a unique profit producing novelty factor and it is a profit producing novelty factor the film industry very much wants to be a part of: “Exhibitors and critics even suggest IMAX leads the industry rebound in theatrical revenue largely because it creates an experience that cannot be duplicated at home. The money tells the story. In its June 2012 quarterly report, IMAX announced 22.7 percent revenue growth over the preceding year. Moreover, profits climbed 80 percent, reaching $15 million… IMAX tickets typically cost 30% more than standard admission, roughly $15 or more in America’s more expensive markets. Moreover, ticket sales for IMAX films tend to drop less week-to-week compared to standard theatrical releases. According to a report by the U.K. firm Dodona Research, revenue from large-format surcharges, including IMAX, will inject an additional $850 million to total ticket sales by 2016” (Vanderhoef, 2013).
  80. 80. 80 Figure 19. Do the immersive aspects of IMAX qualify it as hypercinema?
  81. 81. 81 However, IMAX’s financial success is not just produced by its ability to offer the best image quality on truly monumental screens: “usually in the range of 70 feet by 50 feet” (Solis, 2012). Beyond this, IMAX has a continuing investment in maintaining high exhibition standards, something that the majority of multiplexes are currently falling short on: “Right now, in the movie industry, we are at an all-time low in technical quality of theatres. Not all theatres, some theatres are very good. But we’re taking 3D movies; we put a filter in front of the projector to get 3D – it cuts the light in half! You put your 3D glasses on – cuts the light in half again! So you’ve got a quarter of the light. The average being measured out in theatres now is two and half footlamberts of brightness – which is unbelievably dim. That’s average, that means there are some theatres which are one footlamberts.” (Trumbull, 2012a). IMAX compensates for the 3D filter light loss by appropriately increasing the brightness of the image during the IMAX post-production process. Furthermore, all IMAX releases are incredibly vivid in terms of their brightness thanks to the highly reflective screens, 15,000 watt projector bulbs and increased shutter opening times that all 70mm IMAX venues utilise.
  82. 82. 82 Figure 20. An IMAX performance of The Dark Knight Rises, notice the level of illumination being reflected onto the audience. In addition to the high image clarity, all IMAX releases have uncompressed sound that output through IMAX’s patented surround sound system, which they claim is superior to Dolby Atmos (Lowe, 2013). Each film has its soundtrack calibrated by the technical staff of each IMAX venue to ensure that the film’s soundtrack is exploited to the full potential the structural dimensions each IMAX venue can afford it. IMAX auditoriums have specially housed cameras next to the projector to monitor the image on the screen during a performance and this allows the projectionist to make any required adjustments (Marshall, 2013). However, probably the most significant difference is the standard geometry of an IMAX auditorium: “Most movie auditoriums are long and narrow, to get the most people in, with the screen way off at the far end. The distinctive shape of an IMAX theatre is designed
  83. 83. 83 to bring the audience not only closer to the screen, but better-positioned in relation to it” (IMAX, 2013a). Figure 21. The auditorium of the BFI IMAX, London. The venue houses the largest screen in the UK and is able to seat 500 patrons. The stadium seating of the IMAX auditorium and the fact that the screen itself is curved ensures that every seat offers an almost equal viewing experience: “The result is an image that’s wider and higher than your field of view; a picture that’s immersive because you’re not aware of where it ends. And that, in turn, is what gives you the feeling you’re part of the action, out among the stars, not just peeking into a scene” (IMAX, 2013a).

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