By Vince Ragay
Writing is the factory of most visual exhibitions. Even animation starts out with a story written on paper or displayed on the monitor. Architecture begins with the design rendered on paper. And some sculptures have to appear as two-dimensional drawings first before achieving solidity.
By virtue of their nature, however, movies can only be displayed on a flat screen. Except for holographic films, this is the case. The only other way movies attain three dimensional reality is through the ephemeral process of people getting totally engrossed with the story or vicariously living in the characters of the visual drama. The film then serves as nothing but a framework through which human emotions and perceptions create a new reality made more acute through expert use of color, music, sound, movement and realistic plot. In this case, the movie comes alive. The process of escape becomes complete. And that is when the movie enters the mind. The movie exists in the mind. Not on paper. Not onscreen.
Some movies live long in our minds for they impact us with their relevance in our lives. As comedies appeal to those who look for comic relief, they bring on smiles or laughter in the most unusual moments.Things that occur in real life are commonly compared or even substituted by what we have seen in the movies. Hence, we often hear people say, “Para kang si James Bond sa suot mo, pare!” Or, “Kasing ganda mo si Kristine Hermosa!” Or, “Ikaw ba yung gorilla na kasama sa Tarzan?” We can see the power that imagery holds over our lives.
Can you imagine what life would be without movies or TV? If there were only books, newspapers, magazines, comics, radio and the drama theater, we would not be capable of imagining accurately how it is to ski on top of Mt. Everest, or fly over clouds in a balloon, or walk on Mars? All our perception of the universe would be as static as still photographs or as limited in depth and panorama as the stage play.
But who knows? Perhaps, the mind can adapt under such limitations. How do you think Jules Verne was able to conjure those images of a sea creature 20,000 leagues under the sea and impart the same vista using words only? How did H. G. Wells conceive of a man traveling through time with nothing else but a theoretical supposition and enthrall us? As the cliche goes, “It’s all in the mind.” So are movies.
What we see on the screen then is ultimately a tool of the mind. What we can perceive, we can conceive. What we can conceive, we can achieve. Modern technology simply helps the mind easily visualize things that otherwise the mind can also crudely imagine with eyes closed. A Spielberg may do it better than most of us but what does he know about our own fantasies? We all make very personal movies in our minds, don’t we? We pay him so much money when we can get the same enjoyment by ourselves at any time. Perhaps we have come to that unfortunate point when the mind has become nothing but a depository of fake realities, which movies are, which our unproduced screenplays are. In effect, we often lose touch of what is real and what is not. We allow images to dictate how we think, how we perceive life, how we sense reality. Like people dressing, speaking and behaving like their idols. They lose their identity and become copycats of unreality. They become the movies they see. They become the characters they perceive only with their minds.
The danger then lies in the writers intentionally twisting reality, history, emotions or even perceptions simply to arouse interest or to make profit out of people’s gullibility. If the end goal is not to build up or enhance the realities wherein people are now situated, then we shortchange people and diminish the vital purpose of filmmaking.
We do not deny the value of fantasy movies and Brechtian warps in storytelling. (We all grew up with fairy tales.) Such techniques or genres form part of the illusory attraction of movies. But too much escapism or distortion of images may result into escape from genuine responsibilities and the fatal distortion of values.
One need not go far to notice that so many of our kids are spending more and more time away from books and real play. Instead of spending quality time with friends and relatives and in truly meaningful recreation, they devote their precious time playing computer games. These games, if you haven’t realized it yet, are mini-movies that allow them to control the story. In their game worlds, reality is what they make it to be. They can choose the skin color, height, uniform, looks, etc. of a whole team of basketball players and even name them Michael Jordan, Boy Talbog or Gloria Garci. What more, these kids can now create and control cities, armies and kingdoms and chart their destinies. In short, we have given these kids the power that used to belong only to movie producers and, ultimately, to God. Remember the people of Babel and how they were trying to be like God? A farfetched conclusion? Think again.
Instead of letting our children read meaty books where values are what they ought to be, we are giving them a choice whether to spare an enemy soldier or kill him. In most cases actually the only choice is to kill him. It only differs on what weapon to use to kill him, a submachine gun or a missile. Is it all a game of fun or a way of forming how children think and behave?
Try sitting down beside these kids in arcades and you will know how their morals have gone kaput. When no one is watching, a kid will shift to a window with pornographic pictures or shows. A boy will even play with Barbie dolls online. And worst of all, most of these boys can really curse, your ears will burn from the putrid acid. (Close your eyes and you will almost feel like you are inside a poker room full of drunken men.) Such violence and agitation festers among these kids (their eyes tell you) that you have to be there to know and feel it. What are we doing about it? Nothing.
And yet, many of these kids will be the ones who will be making movies, animation features and even more games glorifying gore and fanciful escapism (if they aren’t already). While they starve themselves of the beauty and the glory of reality around them now, imagine what kinds of stories and films they will produce someday. Or the more frightening questions: What kinds of persons will they turn out to be? What kinds of families will they be raising later on? What kind of country will they be running when their time comes? What happens to people who think they have the power to control others and yet have not developed the values that are requisites to controlling that power itself? (Watch Schindler’s List again and be afraid of the grim consequences.)
And by the way, MTV with its sub-cultural format does basically the same kind of mind and character twisting. Again in the form of mini-movies clothed in songs or shows depicting social aberrations. You would think that watching most of these primetime (or anytime) shows with naked bodies in lascivious poses or outlandish landscapes that appear to arise only from lunatic minds would enrage many of our elders. (There has to be limits to what sensible creativity is. Life and meaning abound in the presence of order not disorder.) But they have taken the home captive with their serpentine appeal.
We can pretend by thinking positively that all things will turn out just right. But the fact that these games are also invading the TV and movie screens should make us shudder. That filmmakers are cashing in on the phenomenal success of video games should give us fair warning as to the ultimate fruits of this. Wasn’t Laura Croft just a video figure before she became Angelina Jolie’s screen persona? So what’s so wrong with that? Wonder Woman came out eons ago and was as innocent and appealing as Supergirl, although sexier.
The problem is this: by the time I was watching super-heroes I was already a full-grown teenager with enough grasp of what is right and what is wrong. And yet, today we feed 5 or 6 year-old kids with things they have no complete comprehension about. Even 10-year-olds playing violent games can derive enough mind and character bending we know not of because we have never bothered to investigate. Just the fact that many of these kids spend more time in arcades (or at home) than in the library or in the playground is enough reason to ban all these kids from the arcades during school days altogether.
We have totally reversed the process. Whereas the movies (which are at least closely regulated by MTRCB and where children can be accompanied by adults) were the only sources of fantastic and violent imagery before, video games which can be had by anyone at pirated prices yet) have taken that main role. Movies are nothing but boring substitutes for these kids’ diminishing interest. Many of them only go to movies to please their parents. Besides, Angelina Jolie as Laura Croft is a paltry spin-off of the original, designed mainly to capture the adult market and only to keep the interest of the kids. The money is in the online gaming market, not in the movies. Such movies bring only residual profit for the game makers.
The movies in our mind? They are sedate compared to the ones in our children’s minds. Give them time and they will shock you no end. You’d be better off not being around by then.