Suspension of Disbelief

0 commentsFilm,Writing

Philoso­pher Martin Heidegger wrote that there is a fun­da­men­tal rela­tion­ship between being and archi­tec­ture. He traced a link between the German word bauen, mean­ing “to build” and the Old English word buan, mean­ing “to dwell.” Dwelling can only be achieved by means of build­ing, which is there­fore an exis­ten­tial act.

An equal­ly pro­found con­nec­tion between being and archi­tec­ture can be traced to Plato’s Cave, a metaphor­i­cal mod­el of man’s ascen­sion from igno­rance to enlight­en­ment.

My inter­pre­ta­tion of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (click to enlarge).

Prisoners of the cave who make do with pro­ject­ed images rep­re­sent ILLUSION, the ques­tion­ing of the valid­i­ty of these images and the aspi­ra­tion towards Truth rep­re­sent BELIEF, while the escape from the cave and release into the world rep­re­sent ENLIGHTENMENT.

Cinema relies on a sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief, a kind of self-delu­sion by the view­er that the events on dis­play rep­re­sent the Truth (or at least one aspect of the truth, small “t”). Translated into Platonic terms, this means that the view­er cre­ates a counter-belief against the doubt that the real­i­ty pro­ject­ed on the screen is an illu­sion and there­fore sup­press­es the quest for enlight­en­ment.

For the view­er, these events should remain con­sis­tent with the set of rules that the film estab­lish­es. Hence any break from these rules, whether result­ing from tech­ni­cal or artis­tic error, would dis­tract the view­er, break her con­cen­tra­tion, and snap her focus back onto real­i­ty — to the real­iza­tion that the film world is noth­ing more than a pro­jec­tion on the screen. Therefore the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief that a film demands and ulti­mate­ly effects on the view­er is a key fac­tor in her almost uncon­scious iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with cin­e­mat­ic real­i­ties.

This sus­pen­sion is at play in every facet of our exis­tence in the world we build, in an attempt to delude our­selves that whether in enlight­en­ment or mean­ing­less death, our life­long movie will come to an end.

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