Friday, June 10, 2005

Platonic Cinema

Outside In

Cinema brings to mind Plato's Cave. There we are, glued to our seats, mistaking mere images for reality. I know, this is not an original idea. Movies have been made about it. What fascinates me, though, is that Plato may have been mistaken. The way to truth, to reality, to beauty and to goodness...well, it may not be to leave the theatre... cave, that is. The reality may be inside, not outside.
Take Harry Potter, for instance, or Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. What do these films, and others like them, provide? Magic, fantasy, adventure, myth. Do they not contain truths we are seeking? The best films come right from the Psyche, the Collective Psyche. Plato must have known this was true of Homer's work, that of Sophocles, of Aeschylus.
It is true of the best cinema. Chinatown reveals the reality of evil and corruption better than any history of L.A. Women In Love presents us with an understanding of the depths of desire and the connection of desire with friendship and society in general. Film has the power to see beyond the everyday world of particulars to the eternal archetypes. Just as Hamlet in Shakespeare's day was an archetype more real than any single Renaissance man; the anti-heroes of today, Michael Corleone, or Mike Waters from My Own Private Idaho, transcend those of us who sit in the theatre darkness, enthralled.
It remains a question of irony just how much Plato belittled art. After all, were his dialogues not art? Would his fellow Greeks not have found humor in some of the comments we take so seriously from The Republic? Perhaps Plato had more knowledge and respect for "the Dark Side" there in that Cave than we realize. What is certain is how amazingly relevant Plato remains. In a democracy, he wrote, even actors become leaders. Actors are most suited to win over the majority. From the screens of the cave they step out to rule the willing onlookers. Whether literally...Reagan, Schwarzenegger... or in leaders pretending to be what they are not, Plato has proven to be all too right. The Cave has turned inside out.


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