January 20, 2012

More on pull on the imagination

In my previous post on entering the worlds of movies, I noted a certain fascination we might feel with this idea. Let me expand on this a little.

Psychologically, there is certainly some trace of a wish-fulfillment dream in here, but for now, that's not the aspect I want to look into. There is also what I have called a 'pull' that is exerted on our imagination: we feel ourselves drawn into a fictional world, and this feeling of being drawn is not that of a physical dragging, nor necessarily that of a psychological grip (the movie doesn't have to be totally absorbing in order for us to feel the pull). This pull is on the imagination — we feel invited, encouraged, sometimes even compelled to begin imagining ourselves in that world, to think of things we might do in addition to those we watch the characters do, and so on. (I have said that our imagination maps out spaces of options in the world of the movie; that is one of its primary operation modes, and so it's no wonder that it eagerly follows the invitation to take any opportunity for doing so.)

Sometimes this is achieved directly, for instance when a character does something we know he shouldn't do, and we want to shout, sometimes even do shout, something like: "Don't go up there!" — because we know what's going to happen. Sometimes characters do something very unexpected, and there is a residue of things we'd like to check or review, etc. Sometimes there is teasing that isn't followed up in any way. In all those cases, our imagination gets engaged, and by that operation we have the feeling of being pulled in.

At least for someone like me (who likes to muse about the workings of fictional worlds), there is a two-fold pull of that sort in movies like the one I mentioned as an example, Die Einsteiger. One is the pull which the movie exploits: we all know the films that are the targets, those into which the characters of Die Einsteiger enter with the help of their machine; and they are popular samples which certainly have nudged our imagination themselves. (Not each of them, perhaps, but an assortment is used that will probably have something for everyone in a broad group: it includes adventure, horror, romance, and history films.) The other pull is the one the movie itself exhibits: the film is an instance of fiction itself, and in the fictional world of this instance, there is something like this machine — and obviously the imagination of the audience is encouraged to work on that idea. (What would you do if you had such a machine, which movies would you enter?)

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