I was recently struck by a remark a medical doctor made in connection victims of stab wounds. When a person is stabbed, they do not die instantly, or even quickly; it takes time for the heart to empty the victim’s blood supply out through the puncture wound. Until that point, the body remains functional, the heart beating, the victim wounded, but alive, breathing, in the throes of death.
Shortly after that grisly revelation, I saw a film, where two knights of olde were involved in a sword fight. One of them fell backwards upon a knife sticking out of the ground and was instantly dead. At that point, remembering what the doctor had told me, I was struck by the fact that the film version of death was a dramatic fantasy, not at all the true manner by which death would occur. The film maker had taken dramatic license to move the film along; no one wants to watch a film where the loser lies writhing, moaning and groaning in pain, cursing, slowly bleeding to a painful death.
Take Schwarzeneger’s “True Lies”, where Mac10 machine pistols or Uzzis spray out waves of bullets, taking down scores of terrorists. In Cinema, they fall, they’re dead. In Reality, many would still be alive, bleeding, moaning, crying, calling to their mothers, begging for help. That sorry bit of reality would only slow the pace of the unfolding adventure.
If you want a reality check, to see how Cinema has altered your perception of real life, did you think Nicole Simpson died instantly when her throat was slit. Not necessarily. No reason for a strong, healthy-till-that-moment person to die instantly. In reality, she probably was alive until her precious life blood was pumped out into a puddle around her. Grisly thought. Our many visits to the Cinema, however, help us bridge around that appalling thought.
How many readers remember John Wayne fighting in the standard Hollywood saloon, where a punch knocked a man over a balcony railing, onto a poker table far below. The table cracked in half, the man would stand right up and continue to fight. Punch after punch rained, until Wayne deftly cold cocked the villain. Is that reality? Of course not. In real bar fights, wild punches, bear hugging lunges into walls, ripped shirts, jockey shorts peeking out over belt loops, a fall, a crack of a head, a shrieking out in pain, and the dreadful ugliness of a bar fight ceases with much cursing, blood, and lingering, if not permanent, injury.
Change from violence to love. In the Cinema, even the bad guys speak well, their lines poignantly moving the story along. From the Cinema, young girls learn to wait for their Prince, the charming, the handsome man of their dreams – like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Paul Newman, who is on their way to fill their lives.
In reality, men are not as articulate, or dashing, nor women as seductively glamorous or coyly kittenish. And the resulting romance is flat, vapid; life, ensuing marriage, seems plain vanilla, ordinary, grinding boredom. Ugh! Let’s go to the movies to see some Hollywood reality, where even the bad endings are more exciting than the monotony and drabness of reality.
When we view the world around us, we must be very sure that we are not judging what is, against some film makers nonsense. Tom Cruise isn’t really Tom Cruise, he isn’t that charming or as much fun – some reader ladies, totally smitten with the film image, are now saying give me a shot at him anyway. But reality is, he’s a tiny man for whom someone wrote the lines, someone else directed his every move, and when he made a mistake, they shot the scene over and over. The script writer threw six versions of the line away before coming up with the right, casual, throw-away remark.
Hollywood cinema people, are like real people. Their lives are reality, not a script. When they hit their heads, they bruise; they bleed; they have to go to the chiropractor for adjustment. The fantasy is put together so suckers pay seven bucks to get out from under reality for a couple of hours.
Extending this thought further, perhaps the violence that we read and hear about on a daily basis has some genesis from the smooth, easy gloss Hollywood puts on life: on film, people shoot the Uzzis with such aplomb, victims die so gracefully, it’s all a fantasy of easy motion, not the ugly, stutter, gasping, moaning, bleeding of reality. Young people who have never seen a person die, or even known a person who died, have only the cinema to bear witness to their perception of reality. And, it all seems so graceful, natural, so easy. Bang! You’re dead. Now you’re a new guy. Bang! I killed you again.
The next time you want to know what the most subversive element in your life is – particularly when you’re falling out of love, bored with your drab, every day job, putting your pants on one leg at a time – it was the cinema, the television, the fantasy that you’ve been spoon fed since you saw Dumbo that is contributing to your dreary perception of reality.
Let’s face it, didn’t you think O.J. Simpson, as he hurdled bags and people in the airport to catch a plane, was just such a swell guy, a real fun guy to know. First, there’s a little something you didn’t know, in reality, he was a mean spirited, angry man, not an atomic scientist, for whom some script writer wrote clever lines; and second, his arthritis would have prevented him leaping and running like that.
Your life, your neighbors life, the battery going dead, the sink clogging, the boiler going out in winter, the house getting messed up by the kids every day. That’s reality. If you can accept it, work around it, make it work for you, you’d get the hang of it, you’d be able to enjoy the good things in life. Cinema? That’s for fools.