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A Flickering Reality: Cinema and the Nature of Reality

Just how real is the world around us? And what of ourselves, our memories and the solidity of our lives? From India comes the concept of Maya—that we have become entangled in the illusion of a physical and mental reality that veils us from a deeper truth of Brahman.  From China we have Zhuangzi who dreamed he was a butterfly, then on waking wondered if he was no more than a fleeting element in a butterfly that was dreaming it was Zhuangzi. And from Greece, Plato’s prisoners who could only see the shadows on reality on the wall of their cave.

In the West the rise of science presented us with what has been called the ‘Newtonian clockwork’ a hard and fast objective reality that we can see and quantify. But all that began to change in the year 1900 when Planck proposed the existence of the quantum and Poincaré discovered that chaos could exist in the heart of the solar system. Five years later Einstein’s relativity unified space and time, and matter with energy, then by 1925 we had Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and then such things as the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat and Bohm’s notion that the world around us is no more than the constant unfolding and enfolding of an underlying Implicate Order. In parallel to all this were the developments of Freud and Jung, the growth of the neurosciences and the ideas of Derrida and deconstruction.

A Flickering Reality suggests that we can most directly experience some of these changes while ‘dreaming in the dark,’ in other words through films and cinema. The book opens by discussing such films as Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, Matrix and Inception, as well as films in which the viewer is placed in the same situation as the protagonist: The Truman Show, Vanilla Sky, Shutter Island, and Beautiful Mind. It looks at the nature of memory through Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento. The arrow of time (Back to the Future, The Jacket), the Butterfly Effect and parallel universes (Sliding Doors, Donnie Darko) are also discussed.

From Jungian psychology come such concepts as the Archetypes (Star Wars, Fatal Attraction), Projection (The Purple Rose of Cairo), Synchronicity (Magnolia, Crash, Closer) and the Shadow (American Beauty, Dead Poets Society) and the Persona (Being There, Bergman’s Persona). The book explores the nature of story and the veracity of documentary films. The particular vision of individual directors include Darren Aronofsky, Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, Derek Jarman, David Lynch, Lindsay Anderson, Peter Greenaway, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Federico Fellini, Antonioni, Kubrick, Hitchcock and David Lean.

A Flickering Reality: Cinema and the Nature of Reality, Pari Publishing, 2011 – www.paripublishing.com