Apr 8, 2015

Vanished Rituals and Nowhere To Go

In Susan Sontag's “The Decay of Cinema”, she addresses the potential of
cinema to transport the viewer, examining the imbalance of the physical
scale of experiencing films in a theater on a large screen versus at home
on a small computer. In her article, she refers to the notion of being
“kidnapped” by a movie as “the experience of surrender, of being
transported by, what was on the screen.” But it seems like it's becoming
harder and harder to get kidnapped.

What methods of cinematic escape do I turn to? Perhaps I lift the lid of my
laptop and watch old episodes of Bob's Burgers. How is my kidnapping
success rate determined by how and what I watch on television on the small
screen of my computer as opposed to a dark, encompassing theater? The
neutrality and scale of the theater sit at the base of the desire of escape
that draws us there in the first place. Small proportions and the
characteristics of being in our homes that lead us back into our personal
realities – squinting at the screen, nearby conversations, books, posters
and photos on walls, a cat dangling off the bed sheet by a jagged nail –
counteract what Sontag refers to as the “overwhelming physical presence of
the image”. How can we be overwhelmed with all of these distractions? I
feel more overwhelmed by the presence of the internet than what I'm
actually looking at on my computer.

Sontag admits, “no amount of mourning will revive the vanished rituals --
erotic, ruminative -- of the darkened theater.” These “vanished rituals”
are the desire of escape and the action of surrender felt in the collective
yet separate situation of an unlit, anonymous space that cannot be found in
our homes.

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