The Analogy of the Flickering Mirror

I've now used the "flickering mirror" analogy in several posts, and on my about page, so I figured I should probably do a little explaining of what exactly I mean by that. It's a recent thought discovery I've had that describes how I view the moving image in our lives and culture.

Art is a reflection of the world around us. Our experiences in it as people, its beauty and sorrow, relationships, emotions...any part of who we are as humans. It captures how we view the world and our place in it, how we relate to what is around us and how it affects us. We as people have expressed these things since as far back as we can remember. It is a mirror that we hope will bring clarity to the world around us as we reflect on it.

The moving image is a very particular form of art, and one that I am very passionate about. It has a very prominent place in our lives and we spend a lot of time looking "into" or "at" our screens. For some of us, maybe even more than we look at the real world around us.

Moving images capture what appears to be reality and place it before our eyes. To our brains it can be hard to discern the difference between what's on the screen and what's not, because we are capturing life and then replaying it later.

[caption id="attachment_1460" align="alignnone" width="570"] Uncanny right?[/caption]

I also like the idea of flickering. Yes, it's kind of technical, that's what film does when it's projected. It flickers as the images pass before the lens. But there is something very unique about that. Movies don't unfold as reality does. There are 24 pictures every second that go on the screen, and in between there are tiny breaks, leading to the flickering. But our brain does an amazing thing and fills in the gaps so that we don't notice. We see fluid motion because our brain is actively engaging and filling in what isn't there.

And I think that's what so powerful about this mirror. It flickers, requiring us to engage, to fill in the gaps and be a part of the storytelling. It not only provides an almost uncanny recreation of the world around us, but it asks us to take part in its unfolding. This engagement allows the moving image to cause us to see or world differently, to leave changed after experiencing an entire world. Not it's not reality, but neither is looking into a mirror. And yet we can learn so much of ourselves by staring long and hard into a mirror, and I think that film provides a similar opportunity.

So let's stare long and hard into this mirror. Let us not leave unchanged. Let us not forget what we see in it, but may it cause us to look deeper into the world around us and ourselves. This medium is too powerful to be left uncontemplated. We can't let it only entertain us. We must let it transform us.

 

(Images thanks to camil tulcan, imsh_, and ToastyKen)

Ben Brandt

Ben is a front-end developer with a love for all things web. When he isn't coding for his 8-to-5, he's usually running, watching movies, or playing with new web frameworks and languages.

Portland, OR

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