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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
(1969)

Rogers, Ivor A.
Notes and discussion: [extrapolative cinema],   pp. [286]-291 PDF (6.1 MB)


Page 290

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."


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