Do we apply to the lens for mere reflection? No. For that we have mirrors. We subscribe to the motion picture for precisely what the mirror cannot do, illuminate the mystery of our existence.
When we watch a motion picture, we allow what the camera has recorded at a previous time and place to interpose itself into our perception of the present time and place. For an entirely alternative reality to be allowed to supersede our ordinary reality like this has been, in the past, reserved for pagan enchantments, shamanistic ceremonies and high-church rituals.
Motion pictures, dreams and rituals share several artifices in that respect, such as plasticity of time and space, the occurrence of vivid, uncanny detail and situations where unconscious fears and desires are expressed.
Dreams work by relying on the suspension of waking consciousness. Motion pictures work by relying on what is often called “the suspension of disbelief,” which also accounts for why we forget we are looking at a flat screen and become absorbed in the story. More importantly, motion pictures of the highest order convert our most sovereign beliefs, if only momentarily, to the extraordinary order or belief system imposed by characters and situations within the story we are watching.
Motion pictures record and compose artificial realities using sound and image. Seeking meaning to our lives, we reach out with the light of cinematic language into the unknown; similar to the way a flashlight extends into the darkness. The cone-shaped beam of the movie projector casts an enchanted luminescence over ordinary things, turning a dim room full of nothing but chairs into a portal to the next dimension, a temple for the collective consciousness to merge with the unconscious.
As a hollow, dark and mostly empty space, the motion picture theater represents the mind and motion pictures bring to light the chaos and conundrums that take up space in our minds.
If movie characters stand in for us, the camera often stands in for God. It is one of our oldest habits to imbue that notion of a great eye that watches us with the authority of God. Could it be that, after a long time of searching for God outside ourselves, through religion and war, motion pictures enable the eye of God to open up inside us? The camera watches and we see through its eye, while it peers out in every direction from inside the mystery of our existence.