— Written by Vitus Bachhausen —
I’ve lost lost my headphones yesterday. Today my life is not the same anymore. I may be a little bit oversensitive here, but let me explain.
This is my ‘home cinema’:
It consists of the following components: A Sony PlayStation 4, which supports various streaming platforms and Bluray, a monitor, which displays the images in Full HD (1920×1080 pixel), a wireless controller, which functions as a remote — and is also equipped with a headphone jack . Back in the days, I used to sit very closely in front of the display, the headphones in my ears. As unmediated as possible, I would see the crystal-clear nuances, the brilliant colors of the image and, likewise, I would hear the crystal-clear nuances, the brilliant colors of the sound. Lights off, world off. The relationship between the movie and me – it was sensual, even erotic. Scholars would call my involvement with the diegetic world immersion, lovers would call it intimacy.
To my defense, I’m not the only one who gets overly intimate with the movies. Jean Epstein, for instance, describes his way of interacting with the movie as follows (Brenez, 2012):
“I look, I sniff at things, I touch.”
And he goes even further (ibd.):
“I am the one pursuing it forehead against forehead. It is not even true that there is air between us; I eat it. It is in me like a sacrament. Maximum visual acuity.”
Same for me. I “contemplate the image as a material presence rather than an easily identifiable representational cog in a narrative wheel” (Totaro, 2002). Expanding a term by Laura U. Marks (Marks, 2004), one could say I contemplate the object’s haptic audiovisuality. Its extreme hapticality, combined with its extreme acousticality of the thoroughly designed soundscape, facilitates the experience of a film in all its overwhelming totality. If you want to know how that feels, have a look at the opening scene of Bergman’s Persona.
I know, I’m too romantic about all this. But even Godard shares my melancholy. In Masculin Féminin he cynically deplores the impossibility of the “total film”, the purest experience of watching a film (Casetti, 2015). A sad scene:
“It wasn’t the total film we carried inside ourselves. That film we would have liked to make, or more secretly, no doubt, the film we wanted to live.”
Only a total dispositif (Baudry, 1978) can facilitate a total film. I’ve understood that now. Unfortunately, there will always be something that distracts you from pure experience. The fragility of the dispositif is all too inevitable. After all, it is just a loose connection of ephemeral, material devices – bound to decay (or loss).
And as I’m watching the idyllic diegetic countryside in Downton Abbey right now I can hear the rattling sound of the exhaust air unit through my window. I hear: reality. But I don’t want reality right now. I miss my noise-isolating headphones.
Baudry, J.-L. (1978). L’Effet cinéma. Paris: Albatros.
Brenez, N. (2012). Ultra-Modern: Jean Epstein, or Cinema Serving the Forces of Transgression and Revolt. MUBI. Available from https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/ultra-modern-jean-epstein-or-cinema-serving-the-forces-of-transgression-and-revolt [Accessed 07 March 2017].
Casetti, F. (2015). The Lumière galaxy: seven key words for the cinema to come. New York: Columbia University Press.
Marks, L. U. (2004). Haptic Visuality: Touching with the Eyes. Framework, the Finnish Art Review, 2.
Totaro, D. (2002). Deleuzian Film Analysis: The Skin of the Film. Off Screen. Available from http://offscreen.com/view/skin_of_film [Accessed 08 March 2017].
Grant, Catherine (2011). Touching the Film Object? Notes on the ‘Haptic’ in Videographical Film Studies. filmanalytical. Available from http://filmanalytical.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/touching-film-object-notes-on-haptic-in.html [Accessed 15 March 2017].