Sunday, November 15, 2015


Any movie exploring extreme states of consciousness or moments of vision or intense emotion is notoriously difficult for story-based viewers to deal with. Practically all movie criticism is exclusively realistic and story-based in its awareness. It is only sensitive to social events and interactions among characters. It is fetishistic at analyzing psychology and motivations and resumes. It is, in brief, only capable of describing and understanding who said what to whom, why he or she said it, and what the consequences in the plot plausibly should or should not be. The difficulty with all this is that nearly all great movie moments are moments when frequently nothing that matters is happening in those ways. Nothing may be going on socially, verbally, or "professionally" that is very important. The only event taking place at a given moment may be a derangement in the style or in the tone; the occurrence of an expressive close-up of a figure’s face; or the brightness or quality of light falling on the wall of a room. These may be actions or events more momentous than those noticed by the story-fetishists and are obviously not analyzable in terms of psychology, resume, dialogue, or social interaction.

The reality to which these true movie moments pay allegiance is a reality that offers itself as an alternative to the prison of manners, social standing, and political categories as definitions of the individual or as indications of his or her capacities of performance. These are precisely the moments in which a character or a dramatic situation escapes from being understood in those terms. They are moments when social or political definitions break down or when an individual is released into another, less limiting relationship to his or her surroundings.

These are the moments or scenes that descriptions of the characters or summaries of the movie story leave out. They are scenes or fleeting moments when characters simply sit still and are silent; when they look at each other but do not speak; when music swells on the sound track, or the rhythm of the editing changes, or a special lighting effect is used, even though nothing is apparently happening in terms of the advancement of the plot or the dialogue spoken. Such moments, when the social situations of the characters or the lines they speak cease to express the meaning of a scene, are often the most important ones in movies. They are moments when the film is laboring to express feelings or visions too intense or private to be expressed in terms of ordinary social manners and forms.

Some examples.