Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
Rogers, Ivor A.
Notes and discussion: [extrapolative cinema], pp. -291 PDF (6.1 MB)
While Chris Marker's La Jete'e was a trivial exploration into the philosophy of time, Last Year at Marienbad was a full scale effort. If understood as a true SF film, Marker's Bergsonesque study of time and remembrance, opens the way for consideration of Marienbad as a film that is an authentic extrapolative exploration of time. It is no secret that both the writer-collaborator, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and the director, Alain Resnais, are interested in exploring the concepts of time and reality as the basis for artistic insight. I think that it was wrong for critics of this film to assert that the elimination of linear development and the stress on a sense of timelessness were techniques used to assert an artistic style: in fact, these creators are concerned with an investigation of the phenomenon of time itself. This becomes apparent if one reads the novels of Robbe-Grillet, and some perceptive critics have noted Resnais' persistent preoccupation with time from Nuit et Brouillard to Muriel ou le temps d'un retour. Marienbad, Muriel, and 290 Antonioni's study of reality, The Blow-Up, are creative works of genius in their own right, but if they are also considered as investigations into time-space, they achieve another dimension of significant sensibility. There is one other genre I would like to discuss, and that is the group of films which attempt to make a philosophical comment on the nature of man and which utilize the SF framework to isolate the characters from the realistic world. The SF premise of such films while not integral to the structure of the story still serves a vital artistic function. Just as the phrase "Once upon a time . . ." plays a very valid role in a narrative, so too, the casting of a film into the SF mold can serve as a most useful plotting device. The sense of isolation developed in the novel (and in the film version by Peter Brook) of The Lord of the Flies is due largely to the SF, atomic war framework of the story. It is possible that a group of boys could have been shipwrecked on a remote island in a realistic version of the story without damaging the suspension of disbelief, but the impact of the pessimistic ending would have been considerably weakened. The bestiality and conflict of the young boys echoes their elders' fatal involvement in an atomic war, and the only intrusions into their primitive world are reminders of this tragic occurrence (the dead pilot and the rescuers from a warship). Golding is able to utilize similar techniques of isolation from reality in Pincher Martin and Free Fall and an isolation in time in The Inheritors, but the only successful dramatization of his work (if we except his comedy, The Brass Butterfly) is in the SF framework of the film version of Lord of the Flies. Stanley Kubrick has twice used the SF framework for his films: once for the bitterly satirical, politically oriented Dr. Strangelove, and most recently for the incomparably superior 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps the only fantastic element of 2001 is the reception given the film by the critics. Bitterly attacked by most of the critics in the SF press and fan publications and greeted by the majority of the film critics with massive incomprehension, the film is not a zap-zap action-suspense story as evidently expected by the SF fans or a comment on God (as most film critics - confronted by a non-Freudian universe - seem to have expected on the basis of their own subconscious urgings). It is simply a story of Man, epic in its simplicity, and breath-takingly cinematic in its recounting. We have, in the reaction of both specialized groups a feast and famine problem. The SF fans, long accustomed to brilliantly orchestrated set pieces of scientific extrapolation by such authors as Hal Clement and Robert Heinlein (whose fictive universes are so minutely detailed that a cosmic engineer would have little trouble in constructing a world to their specifications) were taken aback by seeing a film in which the speculation was philosophical rather than technological. The film critics, with Pavlovian responses reinforced by countless monster and radio-active destruction films, turned to rend another "space-ship picture."