Suspension of Disbelief

11 commentsFilm,Writing

Philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote that there is a fundamental relationship between being and architecture. He traced a link between the German word bauen, meaning “to build” and the Old English word buan, meaning “to dwell.” Dwelling can only be achieved by means of building, which is therefore an existential act.

An equally profound connection between being and architecture can be traced to Plato’s Cave, a metaphorical model of man’s ascension from ignorance to enlightenment.

My interpretation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave (click to enlarge).

Prisoners of the cave who make do with projected images represent ILLUSION, the questioning of the validity of these images and the aspiration towards Truth represent BELIEF, while the escape from the cave and release into the world represent ENLIGHTENMENT.

Cinema relies on a suspension of disbelief, a kind of self-delusion by the viewer that the events on display represent the Truth (or at least one aspect of the truth, small “t”). Translated into Platonic terms, this means that the viewer creates a counter-belief against the doubt that the reality projected on the screen is an illusion and therefore suppresses the quest for enlightenment.

For the viewer, these events should remain consistent with the set of rules that the film establishes. Hence any break from these rules, whether resulting from technical or artistic error, would distract the viewer, break her concentration, and snap her focus back onto reality — to the realization that the film world is nothing more than a projection on the screen. Therefore the suspension of disbelief that a film demands and ultimately effects on the viewer is a key factor in her almost unconscious identification with cinematic realities.

This suspension is at play in every facet of our existence in the world we build, in an attempt to delude ourselves that whether in enlightenment or meaningless death, our lifelong movie will come to an end.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Pasquino December 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Check out this depiction of the Allegory of the Cave, its really well conceived


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