Saturday, 16 April 2011

3D is here to stay - and?

I’ve been trying to find out why I don’t particularly like 3D. I enjoy the simple circus attraction of course, but when I put the glasses on it distracts from the basic reason I go to the cinema to see a film, as opposed to watch it in some other way like on a plasma screen. I like to experience the size of the auditorium - most of all it’s that. Within the auditorium space, what works is the sheer size of the image, but more importantly the audio enhances the sense of the space and when accompanied by sight in the right relationship the experience of 'cinema' happens.

If I put on glasses I might as well be at home in a small space. Cinema disappears. Something about putting on the glasses cuts off the larger spatial experience and also somehow modifies the sound in a synesthetic canceling out of the larger experience, and pulling off the glasses to witness the blurred overlay of images detracts from whatever visual pleasures do survive visual because you realise that it’s all happening in the eye and brain.

There’s a more philistine approach which likens the invention of 3D to the invention of perspective and asks the question: of what use is the invention of perspective to a work of two dimensional abstract expressionism? This is 'argumentum ad - hopelessness (Sorry I don't know the latin for that). However, I shan’t deal with this because it’s a disparaging argument and there are better ones.

With the glasses on there is certainly an experience of what freud calls unheimlich - the uncanny - but though there’s a small pleasure in the experience of the 3D evocation of what’s before you, somehow the addition of what 3D gives has an equal measure taken away by the above elements, from the experience. And because expectation is heightened from the offer of an additional experience, its neutralisation is as an addition, disappointing.

The indescribable ‘strangeness’ that Freud discussed in his essay ‘Das Unheimliche’ is certainly present in the viewing of a 3D movie but once more it is neutralised by the kind of use it undergoes currently - popcorn 3D movies are the province of 3D and even Tim Burton’s authorial eye in ‘Alice’ is taken towards the chocolate box by its verve and competency of use. If you remember the Third Man and a Touch of Evil, though both are great, Wells use of the dutch angle has so much more power because he’s innovating with it, whereas Karol Reisz’s use is systematised and formulaic. A Touch of Evil evokes the uncanny, the Third Mans uses it to effectively deliver a nice viewing experience. Wells isn’t interested in ‘nice’ and todays use of 3D is all about 'nice'.

In seeing the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, I had hoped to be disabused of 'nice'. Werner Herzog (Mr 'not-nice') and he who is mostly comprised of uncanniness itself, tries to use 3D ‘properly’ in that he synchronises the use of 3D with a subject that demands its use. All the Lascaux cave paintings are in two dimensions - yet painted on carefully chosen 3Dimensional pieces of rock. Herzog argues that this pre-cinematic use of still-yet moving images is enhanced by the sensation of looking at what we know to be a 2Dimensional form in its first use displayed in a 3 dimensional form.

If the early artists used psychedelics to project themselves as flatlanders (using the VIctorian notion of 2 dimensional beings experiencing a 3Dimensional form as a point which grows into a circle and back down to a point) then those psychedelics enabled the earliest artists to create a form that when experienced today is recognisable as such. But of course, Herzog is saying that we’ve lost our wonder at their prescience - so he uses 3D shooting to re-evoke it. But in the end I think I would have preferred to see the film without glasses on and in 2D.

I look forward to WIm Wenders use of 3D in 'Pina' in the hope that he will actually make 3D come to something (but Pina Bausch's work is already amazingly wonderful and one might suspect that it shouldn't be messed around with) but my suspicion is that in general yes, 3D is here to stay this time because what it requires technically is present within digital acquisition in a way that it was not within film - but now that it is here to stay it will become ubiquitous and quotidian - some of us will say of course that it was never as good as it was cracked up to be anyway. In essence, 3D is its own worst enemy.

Roll on holographic 3D as the next technology and all the rest that are to come - but actually, it’s the art within the use of all technologies which is the important thing - as we all suspect before we formulate a sentence to discuss the issue.