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)
much more effort in the area and more recognition by critics of the importance of the genre. Several critics have commented that the rash of monster-destruction movies of the 1950's was a direct result of the anxiety created by living in an atomically armed society in which instant nuclear devastation was a constant threat. There is another pervasive anxiety in our scientific-technological civilization: the anxiety which results from the speed at which our society changes. Literary critics have noted that the development of the concept of the imaginary voyages to the moon and the planets was largely an out- growth of the astronomical discoveries of the Seventeenth Century. In a real sense these fictive works enabled readers to allay growing fears of the future by presenting them in an imaginative form. By depicting what the future may bring, the reader/viewer can perhaps face the future and its uncertainties with a degree of equanimity. J. M. (apparently Joseph Morgenstern) in the Newsweek review of Charly made the following rather astounding statement: "It is science fiction, or the art of the impossible, with all of its coarse ineptitude supposedly exonerated by the possibility that today's fiction will be tomorrow's science." Whether J. M. means that science fiction is inept or the film is inept, he is still missing the point in implying that the only value of SF is predictive. Science fiction is also enjoyed because it can provide a good adventure story (Forbidden Planet), because it can suggest a new sexual fillip (Barbarella), or because it can create a sense of wonder (Destination Moon). The history of extrapolative fiction would indicate that an author usually writes a wholly predictive tale (from The Battle of Dorking to 1984) in order to help thwart the actual occurrence of the events he describes. If we frankly accept the idea that rocket ships and the other paraphernalia of the space epic are standard genre devices, as the butler and the locked room are genre devices of the mystery story, and if we recognize the sociological implications of SF upon an audience, we will be better able to evaluate SF films on a rational basis. To claim that a film is worthless because it is SF is an ad hominem argument at best; to downgrade a film because it allegedly does poorly what it never claimed to do is senseless. Perhaps the most exciting type of extrapolative film may not even be true SF at all. It does not utilize the devices and speculations of technology, but has its point of origin in the philosophy of science, mathematical speculation, and basic (as opposed to practical) science. The concept of time has since Einstein been a favorite subject of the mathematician and scientific philosopher, and some creative artists have found dramatic elements in this very abstract field of study. J. B. Priestley utilized the theories of the 20th century mathematician J. W. Dunne in a series of plays which proved to be immensely popular successes. It is just as well that the majority of these plays were never filmed since they would have created chaos in the world of the film critic. It is a peculiarity of the mathematician that he may create a mathematical universe which has no congruence to the real world, and yet, because his construct has internal validity, be highly esteemed by his collegues. (If you can understand minus numbers, this is apparent to you; if you were unable to grasp this concept, you probably had bad grades in high school algebra.) Most film critics, with both feet mired in the bog of reality, can turn quite hostile in their reviews when confronted with a filmic universe that is non-Euclidean or based on any order of imaginative reality. This may explain the mixed reaction given to Chris Marker's film, La Jetehe. If the film is to be faulted, it is because of oversimplification. It is a minor recherche du temps perdu with the added elements of catastrophic atomic disaster, a form of time travel, and a future civilization (attempting to avert the final destruction of mankind). It is also a love story of the bitter-ending-in-futility school with a wry ironic twist at the end. It has a fair amount of honesty in treatment, and, at its best, reminds one of the early novels of Judith Merril. H e S S. u. 28 e . S~ S S