quarta-feira, 4 de janeiro de 2017

O relógio de Julius Heckethorn

A saltos move-se no corpo o sangue, a saltos atuam os pulmões, movemo-nos a saltos, mesmo as aves de mais tranquilo vôo a saltos se deslocam, nadam os peixes movendo, a saltos, as barbatanas, dia e noite são saltos, ir e vir, passar e ressurgir, sim e sim, não e não, e a própria consciência que temos de existir não é contínua, toma-nos e foge, vez por outra assalta-nos, a saltos. Um erro ambicionarmos, para a representação do tempo, engenhosos contínuos, nunca interrompidos, sem pausas, renegando a nossa natureza, que pulsa como pulsam os pulsos – e que tudo corta, como corta o pensamento, em palavras, em sílabas, em letras. Acentua ainda sua decisão: a presença, no mecanismo do relógio a saltos, do cabelo e das molas, corações metálicos da engrenagem, peças em espiral e, a seu modo, figurações palpáveis do tempo, tão claras qual se fossem, da palavra tempo, a representação ideográfica.

segunda-feira, 30 de maio de 2016

Giants in Time

Assuming that there was a historical Achilles, there are two reasons why his name is still well known. One reason is that Homer wrote about him. The other reason is that practically everything Homer said about him was preposterous. Nobody was ever made invulnerable by being dipped in a river; nobody ever fought with a river god; nobody had a sea-nymph for a mother. Whether it’s Achilles or Hamlet or King Arthur or Charles Dicken’s father, once anyone gets put into literature he’s taken over by literature, and whatever he was in real life could hardly matter less. Still, if Homer’s Achilles isn’t the real Achilles, he isn’t unreal either; unrealities don’t seem so full of life after three thousand years as Homer’s Achilles does. This is the kind of problem we have to tackle next: the fact that what we meet in literature is neither real nor unreal.

The historian makes specific and particular statements, such as: “The battle of Hastings was fought in 1066.” Consequently he’s judged by the truth or falsehood of what he says—either there was such a battle or wasn’t, and if there was he’s got the date either right or wrong. But the poet, Aristotle says, never makes any real statements at all, certainly no particular or specific ones. The poet’s job is not to tell you what happened, but what happens: not what did take place, but the kind of thing that always does take place.

Experience is nearly always commonplace; the present is not romantic in the way that the past is, and ideals and great visions have a way of becoming shoddy and squalid in practical life. Literature reverses this process. When experience is removed from us a bit, as the experience of the Napoleonic war is in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, there’s a tremendous increase of dignity and exhilaration. I mention Tolstoy because he’d be the last writer to try to glamorize the war itself, or pretend that its horror wasn’t horrible. There is an element of illusion even in War and Peace, but the illusion gives us a reality that isn’t the actual experience of the war itself: the reality of proportion and perspective, of seeing what it’s all about, that only detachment can give. 

The Motive for Metaphor

The world you want to live in is a human world, not an objective one: it’s not an environment but a home; it’s not the world you see but the world you build out of what you see. You go to work to build a shelter or plant a garden, and as soon as you start to work you’ve moved into a different level of human life. You’re not separating only yourself from nature now, but constructing a human world and separating it from the rest of the world. Your intellect and emotions are now both engaged in the same activity, so there’s no longer any real distinction between them. As soon as you plant a garden or a crop, you develop the conception of a “weed”, the plant you don’t want in there. But you can’t say that “weed” is either an intellectual or an emotional conception, because it’s both at once. Further, you go to work because you feel you have to, and because you want something at the end of the work. That means that the important categories of your life are no longer the subject and the object, the watcher and the things being watched: the important categories are what you have to do and what you want to do—in other words, necessity and freedom.

What that human shape is, is revealed in the shape of the work you do: the buildings, such as they are, the paths through the woods, the planted crops fenced off against whatever animals want to eat them. These things, these rudiments of city, highway, garden and farm, are the human form of nature, or the form of human nature, whichever you live. This is the area of the applied arts and sciences, and it appears in our society as engineering and agriculture and medicine and architecture. In this area we can never say clearly where the art stops and the science begins, or vice versa.

Science begins with the world we have to live in, accepting its data and trying to explain its laws. From there, it moves towards the imagination: it becomes a mental construct, a model of a possible way of interpreting experience. The further it goes in this direction, the more it tends to speak the language of mathematics, which is really of the languages of the imagination, along with literature and music. Art, on the other hand, begins with the world we construct, not with the world we see. It starts with the imagination, and then works toward ordinary experience: that is, it tries to make itself as convincing and recognizable as it can. 

quinta-feira, 14 de abril de 2016

Camera angles

I always proceeded as follows: on one or two evenings before I went into the studio to shoot the sequence in question, in the mornings I sat at home at my desk, after having seen the rushes, going over the floor plan of the scenes to be filmed in the morning and decided every single camera angle.

I chose not only the angles, but also the kind of lens – whether 28, 30 or 40 – that was to be used.

This method of not working out the angles in the studio just before shooting had two big advantages:

1) When we had rehearsed the sequence and the actors knew it inside out, we could shoot the sequence out of the chronological order which the audience sees later on. Then everything that had to be filmed in one direction was shot first and then the shots in the opposite direction. This meant that the lightning had to be changed only once and saved us a lot of time.

2) When I sat every evening say about two hours only working out the various angles I had to shoot the next day I saved those two hours in the studio. For a film with 40 days of shooting I thus saved 80 hours of shooting time spent in preparing angles. With an 8-hour working day I thus saved 10 days of studio work (80 divided by 8) and the result was naturally a considerable reduction in the cost of a film.

Subject matter

There are two kinds of detective novels or better, to use the English expression, ‘Whodunits.’ There is the type I never liked in which the reader is made to solve riddles and where in the end after long and boring chapters the action is finally explained and the identity of the culprit revealed.

Or the second kind: showing both sides, that of the criminal as well as that of the people who oppose him. I always found it much more interesting to show, as in a game of chess, the moves of both partners, how in an interlocking logic one move necessitates the next while occasionally one side seems to prefer the short cut of violence. Whether this – in its original sense – mental struggle between the two minds has to be developed in psychological terms seems to me more than doubtful...

domingo, 3 de abril de 2016

The Well-Tempered Critic

We are told that in the early days of keyboard instruments it was customary to tune one scale, usually C major, perfectly, so that whatever was written in that key, or in closely related keys, would sound beautiful and harmonious. But this system restricted the number of keys a composer could use; for a key as remote from C major as, say, G sharp minor, would, at least to a professional ear, sound like a tree full of starlings. So a compromise was reached: it was pretended that the octave could be divided evenly into twelve semitones, and that C sharp and D flat, for instance, were the same note. These assumptions were not exactly true, but they were practical. They enabled a composer to use all twenty-four keys, as Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavichord twice demonstrates, and even the ears that could notice the difference were approximately satisfied.

It seems to me that there is a parable in this for literary critics. Literary criticism is an outgrowth of literary scholarship: it has the same kind of interest but extends over a much larger field. The scholar, as distinct from the critic, is confined to a relatively small area of literature: he edits Lydgate and becomes known as a Lydgate man, or, if he sufficiently distinguished, the Lydgate man. He tunes his own scale as accurately as possible, and on all subjects closely related to Lydgate his utterance is beautiful and harmonious. But it is possible for even a good scholar to be an ill-tempered critic, in the musical sense, because the study of literature lacks any real co-ordinating principles. Our university teachers, as scholars, have been trained in a graduate school: as critics, they are largely self-educated. They may never have been confronted with a “survey” of literature which really surveyed anything except chronology, or “tradition”, as it is often called. Usually they do a fair job of educating themselves, for after all they must teach, and teaching in the universities is also a self-educating process. But one wonders if there is a way to make the study of criticism one of composition rather than only of improvisation. 

sexta-feira, 26 de fevereiro de 2016

O homem e a concha

Como um som puro ou um sistema melódico de sons puros no meio de ruídos, assim um cristal, uma flor, uma concha se destacam da desordem comum do conjunto das coisas sensíveis. Significam para nós objetos privilegiados, mais inteligíveis ao olhar, embora mais misteriosos à reflexão, que todos os outros que vemos indistintamente. Propõem-nos as ideias estranhamente unidas de ordem e de fantasia, de invenção e de necessidade, de lei e de exceção; e encontramos, ao mesmo tempo, em sua aparência, o aspecto de uma intenção e de uma ação que as teriam moldado quase como os homens sabem fazer e, entretanto, a evidência de procedimentos que nos são proibidos e impenetráveis. Podemos imitar essas formas singulares; e, nossas mãos, talhar um prisma; montar uma falsa flor, compor ou modelar uma concha; sabemos até exprimir por meio de uma fórmula suas características de simetria, ou representá-las com muita semelhança por meio de uma construção geométrica. Até aí, podemos emprestar à natureza: dar-lhes desenhos, uma matemática, um gosto, uma imaginação que não são infinitamente diferentes dos nossos; mas eis que, tendo-lhe concedido tudo o que ela precisa de humano para se fazer compreender pelos homens, ela nos manifesta, por outro lado, tudo o que é preciso de inumano para desconcertar-nos... Admitimos a construção desses objetos e é através disso que eles nos interessam e conservam-nos; não concebemos sua formação, e é através disso que eles nos intrigam. Embora feitos ou formados nós mesmos por meio de um crescimento insensível, nada sabemos criar por esse meio.