‘I read a book
And it’s your face
Fake? It’s your face now…’
Simply Red ‘Fake’
The faces we see at the screen today seem to be the faces of the modern society. But are they? Indeed, what is cinema today? Images of power? Source of entertainment? Opportunity to escape the reality? Perhaps a bit of all of these. The reflections over the significance of cinema took me back to … the cave. Back in 380 BC in the times when cinema did not exist and could hardly be imagined, Plato has very precisely described somewhat that can be now considered as a metaphor of modern cinema going experience. The allegory of cave talked about the prisoners watching the shadows of puppets casted on the walls of the cave believing that these shadows are the reality. If they are released they will most probably be confused with the reality and as much as they stay imprisoned in the cave, they stay ignorant regarding the real state of being. Having been raised in the cave, they would hardly want to escape the prison. Why are we the ‘prisoners’ of modern cinematography? And what is the reality we are missing?
We now take another ride in the time machine which takes us to the 18th century. It is the Age of Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant says there are two worlds: the nominal one – the real external world that is around us and the phenomenal one – the world we experience, we feel and taste every day, drawing vivid pictures in our consciousness. The world we think is real is not in fact – it is created in our imagination and lived through individual experience. Same epoch, same Age of Reason – Jonathan Swift reverses this picture: using his sharp satire he describes a surreal world of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Country of the Houyhnhnms (and others) to show the real world with its political, social and economic problems.
Next stop – mid of the 20th century. The famous French philosopher Jean Baudrillard says we live in the world of simulation. Little has changed. Simulation of reality does not necessarily mean fictional and surreal images shown on the screen, it is all around us – in the newspapers, popular books, in the streets. The images around us are representations and interpretations of reality that are just like Instagram filters – they change our perception of the real thing. Centuries have passed but the concept is still the same: the dualism of modern world is represented in the nominal and phenomenal worlds which coexist in the same dimension. However, Baudrillard says that it is no longer possible to separate the truth from simulation. To make a decision whether he is right or wrong – take a look at your social network profile and ask yourself a question: Is it me or someone else?
It is interesting how many generations around the world have grown watching television and going to the movies and building their perception of the world influenced by what they saw on the screen. You may deny it, but the image projected to us every day (be it in your own living room or at the local cinema hall) does have an impact on our development and system of values. If Plato was right – shall we be confused once we realize the real life diverges from what we have seen before? If Kant was right, do we understand the difference between the nominal and phenomenal worlds? If Baudrillard was not mistaken – is it impossible to separate the culture and the society as it is from what it seems to be?
What is more interesting for me – who are those that ‘film’ the pictures of our lives? Although it may seem that we are the ones who shape our realities, it is not always so. To understand why the images that surround us are there, why certain concepts and ideas are brought in mass while others fade away, I turn to George Orwell. In the Prevention of Literature Orwell has argued on the concentration of control over press, films, books and radio in the hands of the more affluent and influential individuals. Questioning the liberty of speech Orwell complains on the pressure over writers to write on only those themes that are considered important by the ‘powerful ones’.
A look back in the philosophy of the previous centuries allowed me to understand that the works of the greatest thinkers are not just a collection of boring concepts and outdated ideas, on the contrary, I was surprised by how all the teachings from the past still hold true in today`s life, especially if we think of social networks and cinematography.
When I visit the cinema to see the latest blockbuster movie I make a conscious choice of what to watch. But is it so? Yesterday I have finally managed to see the so massively advertised movie Mad Max: Fury Road. The allegory of the society that is doomed and 120 min long chase of the ‘good guys’ by the ‘bad guys’ is so intense it keeps you still in the seat, but is diluted with the themes of love, superiority and depletion of natural resources. I believe, the chosen topics are not just a well-weighed marketing decision, but are the most significant issues in today`s reality. I went into the cinema expecting to see another fruit of boundless imagination of movie creators and went out pondering over feminism, greediness of human race and questioning myself: is there faith in the virtue of human race and where are we all going?