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The 'I' of the Beholder: On Richard Allen, Projecting Illusion: Film Spectatorship and the Impression of Reality

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Microsoft Word - 7Bardsley.docx Film-Philosophy 2.1 1998 Karen Bardsley The 'I' of the Beholder Richard Allen Projecting Illusion: Film Spectatorship and the Impression of Reality Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995 ISBN 0-521-58715-8 176 pages 'In projective illusion I experience a pictorial or dramatic representation as if it were a fully realized world of experience and not a representation.' (82) Legend has it that in 1895 at the first public screening of the films of the Lumiere brothers, audience members reacted to the cinematic image of a train entering a station by screaming, ducking and running away from the screen. I sometimes wonder if the behavior of these early filmgoers was motivated at some unconscious level by a desire to garner for themselves a place in some sort of 'oft-quoted anecdote' hall of fame. Surely, it is an example that is frequently mentioned by cinema theorists as we tackle questions concerning the role the impression of reality plays in the film experience. Although there are certainly a number of ways to explain the behavior of the audience at the Lumieres' film, some would argue that the incident demonstrates the power of the cinematic image to fool the human mind: to confuse us into thinking that an object represented on the screen is actually in our presence. [1] Of course, since 1895 millions of film viewers have sat calmly watching movies that seem to show criminal actions without leaving the theater to call the police, movies that take place in the Arctic without reaching for their coats, and so on. Few people seem willing to argue that the average filmgoer ever actually believes that they are directly witnessing the events represented on the screen as they unfold. Yet, there are still occasions during films when viewers cry out and perhaps even duck. Even when we remain quietly in our seats, many of us wonder if there are not moments during the film experience when the fact that we are watch

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