Ruined Temples and Ancient Splendour

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In The Peregrine J. A. Baker speaks of the hunter in pursuit of the hawk and his sense of time and place, how time is marked by a certain light of day; the hunter’s memory of this light ‘as vivid as burning magnesium.’  Baker explains how the act of hunting sharpens vision and a sense of place ‘grows like another limb.’  Each time the hawk is found the world is brightened ‘as though the broken columns of a ruined temple had suddenly resumed their ancient splendour.’ [1] This sense of time and place can be found hidden amongst the visual narrative of a film and like the hunter and the hawk both memory and the cinematic landscape coexist and interact within the same space, the landscapes somehow rescuing the memory of light, time, and place from oblivion. 

Sometimeswe see a flicker at the edge of our vision, something in the cinematiclandscape speeding past at 24 frames per second that peaks our interest, aglimpse of something familiar in the light, the scene, that somehow reminds usof our past experiences.  It is a memory,or sediments of memories, being channeled through the images into the presentconverging with the landscapes on film. It is as if we are time travellers from the future and our past is tetheredto the cinematic landscape.

John Berger reminds us of other visible orders that sometimes intersect with our own,where we discover the interstices between different sets of the visible.[2]  The cinematic landscape is instrumental in the creation of an in-between space where unformed and unstructured memories unexpectedly emerge and blend with the landscapes.  It is collusion between the landscape and us, between the conscious and unconscious, between reality and the imaginary, between two distinct sets of the visible.  A process of appropriation and integration that is both real and imagined where the landscapes act independently and become unhinged from the narratives in which they are imbedded.  The memories recalled are not clear, or a duplication of past events, but a feeling of a time, or a place, and are more often than not triggered by a certain light in the landscape, and the way that light feels.  This feeling is mixed with the memory of other landscapes from film, and with parts of our lives and it becomes a chaotic whisper, perhaps a ‘treasury of things invented.’[3]  Siegfried Kracauer explains this best when he wrote,

Does the spectator ever succeed in exhausting the objects he contemplates?  There is no end to his wanderings. Sometimes, though, it may seem to him that, after having probed a thousand possibilities, he is listening, with all his senses strained,to a confused murmur. Images begin to sound, and the sounds are again images.When this indeterminate murmur - the murmur of existence - reaches him, he maybe nearest to the unattainable goal.[4]

These ideas make the cinematic landscape a more interesting object and when our vision intersects with a seemingly hermetic story the potential for us to find ourselves, the ability to map our experiences, to sharpen our vision through the landscapes becomes apparent.  Our lives are entangled within a vast archive of cinema and when memory and cinematic landscapes blur together creating a confused interstice a sense of place and the memory of light always burns brightly and columns of ruined temples resume their ancient splendour.  

Kristen Coleman

[1] Baker, J. A.  Robert MacFarlane (Intro.) The Peregrine, New York Review Books,New York, 2015. pp. 13 -14.

[2] Berger, John, The Shape of a Pocket, BloomsburyPublishing, London, 2002, p.5.

[3] [Cicero], Ad G. Herennium: Deratione dicendi (Rhetorica ad Herennium) trans. Harry Caplan. LoebClassical Library, 1954 cited by Martin Lefebvre in Memory and Imaginationin the Cinema, p. 480.

[4] Kracauer, Siegfried, Theoryof Film The Redemption of Physical Reality, Oxford University Press, NewYork, 1960, p. 165. 

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