Sunday, February 11, 2007

Linking Kinetoscope, Man with the Movie Camera, and Camera Lucida Temporally and Spatially

Broader Connections in “The Kinetoscope of Time”:

In “The Kinetoscope of Time,” Brander Matthews sets up a narrative structure quite similar to that of a film. Just as the film camera is used to show a representation of space and time based on the director’s and editors’ interests and biases, Matthews gives a representation of time and space by providing exclusive visual details—only the details he wishes the reader to imagine. Matthews sets up this narrative structure as a tool to bring “scenes” or “images” to life, just as Vertov brings still images to life in MWMC. The difference between film and text though in this case is that in film, the interpretation of images is left to the viewer; only the images themselves are concrete, even though the film itself is biased towards the director’s and editors’ interests. In the text, on the other hand, Matthews says what conclusions should be drawn from the specific details he provides to set up an image or scene. Besides the details he provides, the rest of an image or scene is left up to the imagination of the reader. His narrative structure seems to follow a pattern: he sets up an “image” or “scene” with concrete and evaluative details, then conclusions are drawn from these images and scenes, and this order is repeated for each succeeding vision the narrator sees (Matthews 8-11). The evaluative details especially, such as ”irresolute paces,” “curiously shaped,” “anticipated triumph” (Matthews 8) suggested certain embedded presumptions and assumptions about that particular person or object the details referred to. It seems as though the diction Matthew uses to describe images enslaves the mind to picture only what he finds significant, just as the film camera enslaves the human eye to certain images, as Vertov states in his manifesto..

Other Significant Aspects:

Matthews seems to mark the passage of time through his succession of visual details. The successive visions the narrator sees mark how they help give the narrator a sense of time. The narrator senses time and space through the intervals of “darkness” and “light.” He describes these opposites differently each time: “blackness” vs. “blackness robed in color,” “darkness” vs. “glow,” “darkness” vs. “disappearing darkness,” “light died away, void blackness, nothing” vs. “full clear light,” (Matthews 8-10) and then he describes the lack of light more dramatically: “empty blackness”, “inexorable veil of darkness,” “blackness,” “nothing,” “opaque depth.” (Matthews 10-11). His sense of time and space changes depending on the length of the intervals between visions. During the first time he had to wait long between visions, he starts describing the “darkness” as nothing. It seems as if the long passage of time changed his sense of space and soon saw “nothing” instead of “blackness” or “darkness.” He sensed the blackness would not be lit, consequently it failed to seem as blackness and just fritted away into nothing. The narrator’s dependence on time causes him to change his sense of space when he loses his sense of time. This could also be happening to the Time Traveler in Time Machine since the Time Traveler marks the passage of time in the future by day and night.

Connections to Camera Lucida:

This anxiety of waiting in unknown time also comes up in Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida. Barthes speaks of this “waiting” as the only thing left for him to do after his mother’s death. He comes to his conclusion after describing how photographs produce “Death while trying to preserve life” (Barthes 92). He states: “The only “thought” I can have is that at the end of this first death, my own death is inscribed; between the two, nothing more that waiting…” (Barthes 93). Barthes connects how a photograph can give a negative perception of time. This paradoxical photograph of his mother that he says captures her “true being” also makes his mother’s and his own death more real. Barthes says that the details of this photograph seem to “puncture” or “prick” him because when he looks at it he thinks his mother is going to die. The photograph distorts his sense of time since his mother is already dead.



Blogger Silbi Song said...

I really liked how you connected everything to other readings and the film. I thought it was really cool how you related the sense of time with the lightness and darkness in "The Kinotoscope of Time" to the Time Traveller's day and night. I agree that they are very similar; how these little patterns can provide a sense of time, and if these patterns change, the humans panic. I also agree wtih what you said about "Camera Lucida," how the photograph can signify death, and the anxiety of not knowing when, the time of death, will bring a negative perception of time. I got a little freaked out myself, when I was looking at pictures of myself afterwards. Just like when you look at the photo of Lewis Payne, you know he died and yet, you still see him like he's alive. And for the people who saw this photo before his death, they knew that he will be dead soon. So when I looked at mine, I felt like the death was coming after me. It was a scary perspective.

2/11/2007 11:51 PM  
Blogger Frank Song said...

it really makes me sad reading a photograph as a symbol of death. I just cant deny that death is most evoking image of a photograph as I re-read and re-think..
I completely agree that Barthes connected a photograph with the negative image

2/12/2007 12:11 AM  

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