THE MOVING IMAGE

If a photograph occupies two-dimensional space, a movie is the still image’s three-dimensional counterpart. The allure of a captured moment is stretched to a series of images—a narrative that develops through the added dimension of time. "Photography is truth. Cinema is truth twenty-four times per second" (Jean-Luc Goddard). By this measure, film sequences should easily defeat still images in the business of storytelling, yet it is plain they don’t consistently succeed. The extra dimension is not just a landscape to explore, but one within which to get lost.

If we add time as a valid dimension to our two-dimensional frame, we still have only three dimensions to the real world's four. If we now move that frame through space, we come closer to the 'moving perspective in a changing world' mentioned in the introduction. In the two-dimensional image below, we perceive depth. If we run time, the perception is not necessarily amplified—only when the frame moves, does depth leap into reality. First scan the image for depth clues, then double-click it.

 

Taiga forest from Earth (Alastair Fothergill & Mark Linfield 2007)

 

We have great reasons for wishing to move the camera. The freedom to range in this extra dimension is exhilarating. We may wish to follow the action, to establish a narrative element, or even just look at something different. The narrative possibilities for the camera exploring the ‘seamless storytelling continuum’ appear endless, yet watching one hour of MTV shows that this is not the cause for celebration it might appear to be. In The Library of Babel (a short story by Luis Borges), exists every possible book: every book that was ever written, every book that is ever to be written, every book that it is possible—ever—to write. This doesn’t mean that you can drop in and read the wisdom of eternity. This means that you can spend your entire life looking for just one book containing something other than pages of nonsense.

When the camera takes the narrative stance, and moves through the world it is capturing, it navigates a similar hyperspace of possibilities. We use every element possible to direct the audience's attention to where we want it, but each added element has the power not only to present, but to distract and confuse. Adding extra dimensions to storytelling increases, by orders of magnitude, the chance to go astray, breaking the narrative thread that viably connects one point to another.

 

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