Cinematic Convalescence

Which one of us, on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, one of those afternoons when one feels like doing nothing, bored even with not wanting to do anything, has not had the desire to watch some old film, no matter which, either at some nearby movie house, if it is in town and there are a few dollars to waste, or on video or DVD at home – or (last resort) just turning on the television where in the end there is no film but some very mediocre series, or indeed anything? Just to be lost in the flow of images.

Why don’t we turn it off and pick up a book – a book, say, in which we could find a really good story, strong and well written? Why, on such a Sunday afternoon, do those moving images win out over written words in beautiful books?

The answer is that we need only look. And even if what we are looking at is completely inane but the filmmaker has somehow been able to exploit the video-cinematographic possibilities, the cinematic will attract our attention to the passing images, no matter what they are, and we will prefer to see them unfold before our eyes. We become immersed in the time of their flowing forth; we forget all about ourselves watching, perhaps “losing ourselves” (losing track of time), but however we define it, we will be sufficiently captured, not to say captivated, to stay with it to the very end.

During the passing ninety minutes or so …of this pastime, the time of our consciousness will be totally passive within the thrall of those “moving” images that are linked together by noises, sounds, words, voices. Ninety… minutes of our life will have passed by outside our “real” life, but within a life or the lives of people and events, real or fictive, to which we will have conjoined our time, adopting their events as though they were happening to us as they happened to them.

If by some lucky chance the film is a good one, we who are watching it in complete lethargy, the core validation of the animated sound-image by which we can leave everything behind and still be completely uninvolved – not even (as with a book) following written sentences and turning pages, careful not to lose the gist of the story; indeed, if the film is good, we come out of it less lazy, even re-invigorated, full of emotion and the desire to do something, or else infused with a new outlook on things: the cinematographic machine, taking charge of our boredom, will have transformed it into new energy, transubstantiated it, made something out of nothing – the nothing of that terrible, nearly fatal feeling of a Sunday afternoon of nothingness. The cinema will have brought back the expectation of something, something that must come, that will come, and that will come to us from our own life: from this seemingly non-fictional life that we re-discover when, leaving the darkening room, we hide ourselves in the fading light of day.

Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise.