Photoplay (Jeremy Burke)

18 Apr

To say that “The Kleptomaniac” is truly a factual presentation of events may be a severe overstatement. The film is most certainly something of a hyperrealistic interpretation of facts. The two cases (the poor and rich women) would not have been tried in the same court at the same time, and the series of events shows only the simplest of motives, working on mental associations (such as those we have between the rich versus the poor, as well as how institutions respond to them respectively). But there’s certainly a difference between a fixed camera documenting a series of generally conceivable events and the array of complex techniques and bizarre scenarios used in “Sherlock, Jr.”

Special effects allowed film media to step back to the power of imagination more familiar in literature than in theater, while bringing it to life upon the screen before us. The earliest of films seemed to be more reminiscent of photography as we understand it (“photoshopping” notwithstanding), a portrayal of things as they appear upon the landscape, a description of what is. Though certain elements of photography could be “faked,” a photograph was a photograph, and nothing within the picture itself was really much of an abstraction. But by the time we reach “Sherlock, Jr.,” we are beginning to see techniques such as the dream sequence, and the ride on the motorcycle, where genuine impossiblities happen before our very eyes. We can understand the abstraction in the same way that we suspend disbelief and imagine the impossible while reading a vivid fantasy novel. And though the medium itself is generally the same, the different techniques allow for a very different kind of story, layered with greater depth. In the contemporary world of film, we take this multi-layered depth of narrative for granted.

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