Chapter 34: Big Thoughts
So what are you seeing? You're seeing exactly what the director wants you to see, and in the order he wants you to see it. The camera is technically lying. Whatever truth there may be in a movie goes beyond the individual camera shots, to the sequence of shots that convey the story. If there is a truth in a movie, it is how the director manipulates the technical elements of filmmaking to tell an acceptable story. So the magic of movies is just as much in the ordinary shots as it is in the spectacular digital effects we see so much of these days.
Those "The Making Of..." features on DVDs are carefully designed to make you appreciate some of the magic of filmmaking. The fragmentary tidbits are mainly designed to lock us in as rabid ticket buyers. But they do provide an inspiring glimpse, and if you're perceptive, and you have the lust to be a filmmaker, all the tools you need are now available, even to people of modest means. And with YouTube, you have a chance to display your talent or lack of it. "Everyone can be a filmmaker." I suppose that some will. If you are a potential da Vinci, and you want to be an artist, then here is the art form of our times!
Cinema has all the elements to make it the greatest art form of all time, and it was basically developed during just the last century. Cinema, whether on film, projected onto a movie screen or seen on a TV or a cell-phone, combines nearly all known previous art forms into one: Story-telling, drama, acting, mime, comedy, fantasy, painting, sculpture, music, song, dance, graphic arts, design, fashion, sculpture, architecture art of every kind and description, can be combined into this one medium...
Did I say "the last century?" What if I told you that what we are doing had its clear roots over 35,000 years ago?
Whether we call it film, movies, cinema, video, or whatever, it is my feeling that root idea for a dramatic sound and light presentation in a darkened room goes all the way back to our human beginnings; that it actually fulfills humankind's earliest artistic and storytelling cravings.
My late friend Alexander Marshack, who once was a photographer for the LIFE picture magazine, and then an early TV director, later became a foremost expert on the beginnings of human art and graphic communication, writing, that is... He traced art and writing back at least 35,000 years. His story was told in National Geographic magazine.
What interested me greatly about Marshack's work was what he has discovered and postulated about the cave paintings of Europe. First of all he reminds us of the weird feeling we have when inside a cave... If you've ever been inside a large cave, you'll know this feeling. And if you've ever been deep inside a cave and turned off your light, you will know what dark is! It is a total blackness and quiet we can experience in no other way, especially with the deathly feeling of being under tons of rock.
OK. Now Alex Marshack pointed out that all those beautiful paintings we know of have been made maybe a half-mile deep inside the caves. Why did those early artists do that when it must have been enormously difficult for them? It proves that even so-called primitive, hunter-gatherer societies felt it important enough to feed artists, who drew and painted in what was naturally pitch darkness! It certainly proves that they were able to produce light. Hollowed stones have been found inside the caves, which were probably oil lamps. They also had to be able to bring in drawing and painting utensils, to make scaffolding, and to mix colors on the spot.
Flattened areas of stone have been found with enough residues to indicate they were used as palettes. But it can be assumed that they did not drag all those animals in there to use as models! Yet these paintings are marvelous examples of drawing skill by any standard. These were trained artists! What is especially fascinating to an animator is seeing that many of the drawings were attempts to convey an image of motion!
But this was a time of primitive and exceedingly difficult life, when just staying alive and hunting for food was the predominate need. But yet they felt it necessary to support "professional" artists! From this we have to assume that these so-called cave men had a more advanced social organization than we might have thought, and that they were able to bring in a surplus of food, and that not every man or woman had to spend full time scrabbling for existence that the society 35,000 years ago could support and train artists!!! Again why? All of these deductions by Alexander Marshack got me to thinking that these people had a culture and a lore they wished to preserve, to pass on a need to tell stories!