Would Frank Herbert’s Dune have been such a wide success if its publication in 1965 had not been preceded by David Lean’s masterful cinematography of windswept dunes in 1962’s immensely popular film Lawrence of Arabia?
Without those filmic visions clearly in the readers’ minds, would they have been able to relate to great saga of the desert planet, or the heroic characterisation of the Arab-descended Fremen tribes in their fight for justice, in the way that they did?
How, more generally, does our experience of pictorial representations of landscapes and people (both still and moving pictures) influence our perceptions of other works of art, of the world and people around us, and even of our own self-awareness?
I know I’ve read articles about studies showing that the ubiquity of cameras has made us much more self-aware than previous generations, almost as aware of how we look for the camera as a trained actor would have been a few generations ago, and how the range of normal affect-display caught on film has changed over the last century (can I find those articles right now? No – if you know the ones I mean please link in comments!). Combine this increased self-awareness with years of exposure to montage editing techniques in film and television to shape the narrative, techniques that rely on the actors being relatively expressionless (following on from work of famous Russian film editor Kuleshov), and what happens? The change in people’s affect displays in candid documentary film footage over the generations is easily demonstrated – we simply do not gesture as broadly or move our heads or our facial muscles as freely as our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did. We don’t gesture or grimace as freely as even early motion picture stars did, to the point where looking at their work today it often strikes us as ridiculous overacting. Is the change over time just because each generation looks at various idosyncratic family/community affective habits and decides that’s not what the cool movie stars are doing now, and we all want to be cool, so we tend to suppress those affective habits in ourselves?
I find all this socialisation effect of media on our interpersonal interactions, and how the feedback into both our perception and creation of artistic narratives changes our social conventions of communication, fascinating.
Image credit: index thumbnail image shared under CCL by patrickw1 on flickr