When an airplane dips, it’s the worst kind of fear. Your insides turn to glass. You feel the people around you like they were lead pellets. Their fear threatens to shatter you. Trapped in mid-air, you will the next second not to happen. Hate comes easily, because everyone seems to be certain of the crash. Doom spreads from every desperate glance. There’s death in every whimper. You try to be brave. There isn’t anyone who can help. Fear bristles and bears its fangs, caught in your head. The wait is awful. It’s like waiting for execution. Until the plane steadies; grants you a reprieve. In the movie Animal Kingdom, the anti-heroes can’t escape their fear any more than air passengers. They’re both locked into catastrophe.
True grace displays harmony with the environment. Moving gracefully is the opposite of showing-off. If you’ve ever watched a cat move across a room: that’s graceful. A cat would make the same incredible leaps if no-one was watching; it’s not about inviting an audience. Those leaps and feats of balance are about connecting with a space, feeling everything. Yes, cats are mostly moving because the sun has moved, or someone’s put out food, but they know the texture of their world, while we – for the most part – can only look. In Matthew Marsh’s second short film about parkour, Imagination is Everything, what strikes me is how grounded the traceur is, how enlightened. His heart has no loose seams. He’s at one with the world.
There’s a distinction in law between malum prohibitum and malum in se, or rather, between what is considered unlawful and what is considered evil. In a Western, you don’t have to worry about the difference. A son-of-a-bitch has it coming, whether it’s malum or not to kill him. Western lawmen are vindictive. They serve out justice. They do not enforce statutes. When a man kills a little girl’s father; it doesn’t matter why he did it, or what socio-economic forces led his morals to corrode. That son-of-a-bitch is going to get his just desserts. Never mind the moral quandary of “an eye for an eye”. In True Grit, the hero only has one eye; the better to see malum in se, the better to look at the world through a gun-sight.
When we look up at the stars, we see how they used to be. Starlight takes years to travel to Earth. We kid ourselves it’s static. Like old movies, the illusion of permanence makes us feel less flyaway. As the world rockets to the future, we need things that seem stuck. Black and white cinema is comforting for this reason. It’s already the same colours as the night sky. Its stars have been around forever. It doesn’t pummel your eyes, or shriek of the world. When you watch a movie that was made before you were born, it’s reassuring because you know so many others have seen it. We’re not the audience of the past, but we’re part of that audience. Ben Craig’s short film, Modern Times, is about the séance of cinema.