mass intimacy

Morvern Callar, (2002) dir. Lynne Ramsay

Got it? Good. Now for a little thought exercise:

Below is an excerpt from a conversation between writer, Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), and legendary film editor and sound designer, Walter Murch, from the book, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the art of editing film (2002).

As you read, think about all the ways that loving cities is so close to loving films, and why films can be great archives of the experience of living in cites.

Walter Murch: In film, there’s a dance between the words and images and the sounds. As rich as films appear, they are limited to two of the five senses–hearing and sight–and they are limited in time–the film lasts only as long as it takes to project it. It’s not like a book. If you don’t understand a paragraph in a book, you can read it again at your own pace. With a film, you have to consume it at one go, at a set speed.

But if a film can provoke an audience’s participation–if the film gives a certain amount of information but requires the audience to complete the ideas, then it engages each member of the audience as a creative participant in the work…

Even though it’s a mass medium, it’s those individual reactions that make each person feel the film is speaking to him or her. The fantastic thing about the process is that they actually see their own version on the screen. They would swear that they saw it, but in fact it wasn’t there…

How does this happen? It can only be because the film is ambiguous in the

right places and draws something out of you that comes from your own experience. And then you see it on screen and think: Only I know that, so the film must be made for me.

It’s a kind of mass intimacy. A paradoxical state, because you’re in a group and benefitting in some way from the group experience–yet if the film is any good, you also feel that it’s speaking directly to you. Even though it’s touching all these other people people as well. The ambiguity comes from the fact that it’s flowing through, like a river. You don’t have a chance to say–

MO: Wait a minute–

WM: As you do with a book.

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