|Remixing reality with narrative media|
|Written by Fran Ilich|
It is no coincidence that in spite of the fact that the special effects and computer-generated images in The Matrix might appear wholly unreal to us, there are details (and not just a few) that talk of our times and reality. Not unusually, millions of people identify with the film’s metaphors.
Although The Matrix comes to us from Hollywood, it stimulates us to re-question everything that our senses tell us (we would not be wrong in describing the film as Plato’s Myth of the Cave, with a remix by DJ Spooky or Alec Empire), and simultaneously to read the meanings of our perceptions more calmly, to reason, to use our reason, we could say, to read the code within the “cyber lingo”. This evidently leads us to talk of media literacy/digital literacy. In other words, to talk of our capacity to read and write in the different “media”. As we are aware, reading and writing the code is not easy and it is certainly not one single activity.
When we talk of today’s cinematographic language, we know that there are millions of readers, but in comparison there are very few who can write (in other words produce an audiovisual work). We should also mention that such a language has changed remarkably since it was born. Sixty years ago Alexander Astruc reflected upon the "camera-stylo" and the arrival of a new period in the development of cinema when this medium could be as flexible as a simple fountain pen. According to Astruc not only would we soon see fiction films of the types and genres that have now become essential for the movie industry (especially for Hollywood), but that we would also make/see cine-essays, cine documentaries, etc.
Astruc also expected to see future film libraries (similar to today’s book libraries) where all film-makers and all those who wished, could borrow different types of works and where they could find quotations to include in their own cine-essays. It goes without saying that these quotations would not be included between quotation marks, as in a traditional essay, nor would there be footnotes. On the contrary, these quotations would be like a sort of primitive hypertext where reality or creation would be revisited by several authors. This is evidently rather complicated to put into practice, due to the copyright laws that govern such activity in the West.
It would be interesting here to question the exact extent to which desktop computers, laptops and palmtops foment and facilitate this creativity as well as giving Astruc’s dream another chance to become reality, something that the new wave, cinéma vérité and cine-essayist film-makers achieved to a certain degree but which today however have remained as unfulfilled or little-distributed genres.
As in Ancient Greece, today’s predominant narratives help society to a certain extent in formulating and constructing its moral codes and identity. Today however the Internet holds out new promises that are not completely fulfilled due to issues involving both “digital literacy” and the “digital divide” or in other words, access to new technology. Perhaps to speak of economic models that encourage narrative in the media is still at present rather Utopian. This however does not mean that it is a question that should be avoided (we must remind ourselves that although many of the world’s countries the literary industry is rather small, the television fiction and cinema industries are able to generate thousands of millions and capture huge audiences).
Because of this it would seem essential to reflect and develop themes with regard to realism in the narrative media, both in theory and in practise. Certain details of the method of literary realism developed by Flaubert in the 19th century can be compared in with Lars Von Trier’s dogma 95. However, to talk of reality in this period when reality is interpreted by the communications industry, which in turn is controlled by national governments and transnational corporations, leads us to observe a probable fictionalisation of reality. This in turn makes us return to the myth of Plato’s Cave, The Matrix and of course the question of how to use the media in the widest sense of the meaning in order to develop stories: from staging and performances in spaces under CCTV surveillance to interactive narratives using Wi-Fi devices in urban spaces.
Alain Robbe-Grillet questioned the form of realism saying that it was not very realistic to create an omniscient narrator, a psychological reading of the characters and a description of their thoughts. Jean-Paul Sartre on the other hand questioned language as giving a narrative piece its value, reminding us that a story can be narrated via several media. Narrating is narrating: orally, textually, digitally, audiovisually, sonically, graphically.