Tag Archives: SF

… what writers can glean from cinematographers …

Like writers, filmmakers manipulate time. They take a story apart and re-assemble it.

Robert Bresson, inquisitor and humanist, stimulated filmmakers and enriched the experience ofrobert-bresson2 viewers. With a tiny leap of the imagination his ‘Notes on the Cinematographer,’ publ. by Quartet Books in 1986, transl. from the French by Jonathan Griffin, also offer inspiration to writers of stories. Here are a few  brief notes I collated during my vocational film degree in the early 90s:

An image is transformed by contact with other images as is a colour by contact with other colours. A blue is not the same blue besides a green, a yellow, a red. No art is without transformation.

For the writer – this would apply to action and reaction, resonance or dissonance, anything that develops the dynamic interactions of a narrative.

img108 adjustedTo create is not to deform or invent persons or things. It is to tie new relationships between persons and things which are, and as they are.

This equally holds for writing. Characters discover themselves through relationships.

Something that failed can, if you change its place, be a thing that has come off.

If a writer’s darling idea distracts in one place, in another place it may earn its stay.

One dismantles and puts together till one gets intensity.

This reminds me of a Goethe quote … Dich im Unendlichen zu finden, must unterscheiden und verbinden … To find yourself in infinity you must differentiate and combine … Details works best if they have a purpose in the protagonist’s quest, especially when it comes to turning points.

An old thing becomes new if you detach it from what usually surrounds it.

This is what creativity is all about. Entrepreneurs seem to grok this.

What is for the eye must not duplicate what is for the ear (within.)

This serves as a reminder not to overwhelm a reader with sensual information.

The cause which makes him/her say this sentence or makes that movement is not in him/her, it is in you. The causes are not in the models. On the stage and in films the actor must make us believe that the cause is in him.

A one-up on the ‘show don’t tell’ writing mantra. Both telling and showing have their place, though we connect to a character more intimately through being shown the interactions with him/her self and others.

The omnipotence of rhythms – nothing is durable but what is caught up in rhythms.

We love rhythm. It measures time and gives coherence, while a counter rhythm can surprise and quicken our heartbeat. In film as in writing this might be the repetition of quirky character traits, tone of voice, tempo, mood, atmosphere, or reoccurring shifts in style and perspective, in the way we enjoy how adagio and presto in music enhance each other.

P1090890 - Copy (2)Translate the invisible wind by the water it sculpts in passing.

This ventures into the domain of poetry …  the ongoing challenge to find ways to express in words or images what rushes past us in daily life, but nevertheless affects us deeply.

The eye is (in general) superficial, the ear profound and inventive. A locomotive whistle imprints in us a whole railway station.

This is about trusting the imagination of the viewer, or reader.

Let the cause follow the effect, not accompany it or precede it.

Robert Bresson shares: The other day I was walking through the gardens by Notre-Dame and saw approaching a man whose eyes caught something behind me, which I could not see: at once they lit up. If, at the same time I saw the man, I had perceived the young woman and the child towards whom he now begun running, that happy face of his would not have struck me so; indeed I might not have noticed it.

Build your film on white, on silence and on stillness.

Profound. Allowing a unique story to emerge requires intuition, and an inner kind of listening.

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A touching interview of R Bresson. And some video clips relating to cinema, including hand gestures R Bresson used in film.

As writers, how do we move a story from one setting to another?

In film, a sudden jump of scene is kind of lazy, unless intended to shock. In writing, too, there are more elegant ways to transit from one place, or time, to another, mainly through matching parallels or correspondences. This could be: A keyword in a dialogue repeated in the next scene, or a similar action, direction of movement, speed, light, colour, shape, sound or mood. It could also be an artificial device, featuring a narrator, or a recurring (out of time) interlude which can form the spine for the narrative.

I have time-jumps in my novels (yet to be publishend.) It remains to be seen whether they work.

Regarding spatial/temporal suspensions of linearity, I remember the beginning of the film Space Odyssey 2001. A victorious ape, having discovered a bone can be a weapon, spins his tool high into the air … time leaps … and next we see a spinning space station, shaped like the femur bone.

More recent, in the TV series The Last King – 1st episode, a time leap works well … The Saxon boy, Uhtred, captured by Danes and taken under the wings of Earl Ragnar, is pushed by him playfully into a river with the words ‘You’re as a son to me.’ In the next scene Uhtred steps out of the river as a grown man, albeit with conflicting localities.

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On a personal note, as my life’s narrative is concerned, having made professional sacrifices ten years ago, in order to write, I wish I could shift to a scene and time that did not involve worrying about keeping my roof over my head.

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… imagination …

From its fountain, the psyche pours compositions of light and darkness, images shaping the natural elements that engender our sensual experiences. Countless composite images trickle through our mind. Do we pause to ponder which to let pass, like dry leaves floating down the river, and which to absorb deeply into our heart – and give life to?  

The images we energise are re-envisioned and re-told through our perception. Nature spirits, archetypes, monsters and fairies, heroes and villains, deities, gods, devils and angels, the dark unknown – mankind’s entire mythical landscapes are encapsulated by the imagination and affect our everyday life.

Through this phenomenological process we discovered language, numbers and geometry, tools that potentially enable us to re-create nature. Some scientists maintain that matter constitutes the real and all phenomena derived from nature’s building blocks is not real. But deep inside we know … our search for the world we intimately desire attracts to us enlightened scripts. Through trial and error we learn to apply these scripts, and, for better or worse, we make our worlds real. Worlds within worlds are born from the imagination.

The young in heart have a natural curiosity to play and explore what lies beyond the horizon, literally and metaphorically, with a keen drive to discover facets of their soul reflected in all matter, experiencing matter not as dead, but as vibrantly alive and animated.

Consider the present demand for SF or its playful sister, fantasy, or magic realism. These genres overlap, they deal with the human condition, the desire for a home, in the widest sense – be it for another planet, an island, a heaven, a yesterday, a tomorrow, or the grail of now. To achieve the latent desire for the ineffable, a writer, any artist, becomes a deep-sea-diver of the psyche, and, on coming up for air, re-arranges the booty found there. Some of my favourite writers are R Heinlein, C S Lewis, R Bradbury, I Asimov, M Atwood, Garcia Marquez. Jorge Luis Borges, Doris Lessing and Ursula Le Guin …

It’s time to re-discover the bridge between the two hemispheres of our brains and balance the outlook of our material societies, value reverie, art and fresh perspectives, engage in play, song, dance and storytelling.

Time to embrace unstructured activities, which sidestep reason’s often pre-conceived observations, the epistemological obstacle, as Gaston Bachelard calls it, the grid of unconscious mental patterns that block seeing through our deeply personal and grounded experience, through the heart.

I’ll never forget the visit during the 70s, instigated through a Sufi friend, to a small Trappist community in the vicinity of Washington DC. The handful of monks rotated duties in house and gardens, interspersed with reading time in their fabulous library. Each one of them also enjoyed an annual 40-days-silent-retreat in one of the huts sprinkled over the many-hectare-estate. My then partner and I were privileged to listen to some of the monks sharing their vastly different cosmologies, psychologies and spiritualities. What struck me was that each monk had a vastly different idea about God, including one admitting that he thought God was man-made and no less real for that. What a stimulating place to be, where you are respected for the envisioning of your world.

 ‘The imagination is not a state; it is human existence itself.’ – William Blake

‘In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.’  – C G  Jung, 1934 

‘If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Relevant links:

Re: CS Lewis  http://users.etown.edu/d/DOWNINDC/dungeon.htm

Gaston Bachelard  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Gaston_Bachelard

The World Within, C G Jung video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6MHRHKd4Ps&feature=related

See also https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/pattern-which-connects/

For those with a metaphysical interest in the imagination, here is an article of mine: https://courseofmirrors.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/science-of-the-heart.pdf

Excerpt … The mystic aims to raise sensory data to a higher level. This happens via the visionary imagination, the ‘presence of the heart’, and it happens precisely in that intermediate world where material beings take form and where material beings dissolve again to become subtle bodies. This intermediate world exists not at the other end of the universe, but right here with us, between each of our breaths. This is how the presence of the heart affects, how ideals, in whatever way we conceive of our Ideal, become realised. What we give being to in this intermediate sphere inevitably appears and becomes endowed with an outward reality. This is so, even when it is visible only to the inner eye, the eye of the heart, just beyond what can be perceived by the senses.

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The rose image: detail of ‘The virgin of the unfading rose,’ eighteen century.

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