Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Devalorization of the Human






























Above: Final Fantasy: Advent Children; Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within; Sin City; The Matrix: Revolutions (x3); Domino; A Scanner Darkly; Smokin' Aces. I haven't seen all of these.)

As our CGI advances, and we can make more lifelike figures with it (should that be desired), there is simultaneously a tendency to make humans more cartoon-like, more painting-like, more embedded in the picture plane of colors and light. Fidelity to skin tones? That goes first! Not in all films; just in more films. Often this tendency is demonized, dismissed for being tied to youth or genre. Regardless of critical ignorance (or its opposite, blind and uncritical consumption), I think it will be part of the vocabulary of tomorrow's middlebrow, middle-aged, non-generic cinema.

7 comments:

Brian said...

Is it already? I sense a bit of this in, of all things, Letters From Iwo Jima.

Tuwa said...

Is this really devalorization of the human? I just ask because in thinking of Koyaanisqatsi I'm struck by the prevalence of human creations and the relative absence of actual humans, at least large enough within the frame to grant them the favoritism they're usually afforded in film. And then there are those few humans near the end, in slow motion and large within the frame; and after such a relentless assault of documentation of technological excess, that play of emotions--things I must see frequently, without noting it--just slays me every time. I mean that man who's smoking in profile, and puts his hand to his forehead; it's enough to move me to tears. The woman too, who starts to smile and then decides the cameraman is interested more in documenting her than in interacting, and the smile fades as she purses her lips and lifts her chin and looks away. I find this incredibly moving, though seeing this in slow motion in most films would probably strike me as maudlin or over the top.

Is it possible that the human image is being manipulated within the films as a means of emphasizing some aspect of human interaction, or even a theory of what it means to be human? (This is a genuine question; I haven't seen most of these films so I really couldn't say.)

Zach Campbell said...

Brian, it's quite possible. I haven't seen the new Eastwood(s) yet.

Tuwa, I also haven't seen Koyaanisqatsi. But to clarify: when I'm talking about the devalorization of the human (in contemporary commercial cinema), I am not referring to humanity or some such, but rather the re- or displacement of the human as the inspiration for the graphic and pictorial elements of the frame and the space of the frame, pace that Malraux quote below ... that is, the move away from certain "naturalist" modes of representation, and towards colors or compositions that may evoke any number of adjectives (cartoonish or artificial or mannerist, and so on). There may be very human meaning or content or whathaveyou, but the stylization moves away from the affirmation and capture of the natural body.

So to answer your final question, it's totally possible, in fact likely.

Cole said...

Not to sound like a Final Fantasy geek (which I am, of course), but the first picture comes from Final Fantasy: Advent Children and not The Spirit Within.

Zach Campbell said...

Thanks Cole, I will make the change now!

Cole said...

Oh, sorry for the miscommunication, Zach. I meant that the first picture is from Final Fantasy: Advent Children and the second one is from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Mea culpa.

Zach Campbell said...

Done and done. Thanks, Cole.