Essay: Virilio’s View on Cinema
Reflecting on the cultural and economic ties between the industries, Virilio argues that cinema fits perfectly within the spheres of the war machine: he claims that for instance, arms industry funding of the German film company UFA in the 1930s. He also points out the role of cinema stars and directors during the two World Wars (not just in propaganda, but also selling war bonds, etc.). On the contrary, he insists that the war machine – through its focus on mass-management against diverse locales, logistics and planning – fits within the spheres of cinema, and marks up to the scaling-up of production for master films like Birth of a Nation.
According to Virilio, cinema is not the production of images but the manipulation and adaptation of these images: pans alongside tracking shots, the zooming in and out, editing, magnifying etc. Cinema is the integration and manipulation of dimensions, producing depth and intensity through movement in the process. As has been pointed out by artists and writers preceding Virilio, that this co-joins the experience of watching movies against flying ambitions. And while ace directors were coming to terms with this new found aspect of cinema, he asserts that, aviation in the early twenties was less about crossing speed records and more about a new way of seeing.
The cinematic manipulation of dimensions draws its history from the rifle scope. “In his pencil-like embrasure, the look-out and later the gunner realized long before the easel painter, the photographer or the filmmaker how necessary is a preliminary sizing-up. This action, like the seductive wink so fashionable in the thirties, increased the depth of the visual field while reducing its own compass” (Stevenson)
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