Friday, 9 September 2011

The Phantom Ride

The camera shunts along the tracks, headlong into darkness, into the unknown. This is innovation, the movement of the camera giving the audience the feeling of a journey. As an event in the development of cinema's history, this film is as important as Auguste and Louis Lumière's The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, 1895), which suggested, through a single moment, the possibility of cinema as spectacle. In George Albert Smith's The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899), the opening and closing shots represent the reverse-angle to the Lumière's remarkable film. Now the audience could experience not only the arrival, but the journey as well.

All of a sudden the cinema was no longer a medium for static observations, but something that could move between worlds.


The Kiss in the Tunnel directed by G.A. Smith, 1899:

The kiss that occurs in-between represents the embrace of the new, this kingdom of shadows called cinema. An artistic medium somewhere beyond the influence of literature, theatre or still photography; instead, a magic act of movement and emotion, where the light at the end of the tunnel becomes a premonition to the light from a film projector as it burns against the darkness of the screen. As the camera continues along the track, out of the darkness, into the bright future of this new world of artistic expression, the movement, eloquently described by Mark Cousins as a "phantom ride", suggests the possibility for future films to transport the audience, both figuratively and literally, into the unfamiliar territories of the heart and mind.