BEYOND THE BORDERS
A little girl falls out of her bed and disappears through the wall behind the bed into the forth dimension. Only with great efforts she can be brought back into her parent’s living space. Little Girl Lost is an episode of the American TV series The Twilight Zone (1962). About thirty years later the TV series The Simpsons takes up the idea of Little Girl Lost, only that, here, the comic strip character Homer doesn’t fall into the forth dimension, but from the drawing’s second dimension into the third one of 3-D computer graphics in order to eventually land in the real-spatial living world of man. Four-dimensional hyper spaces can be proven in higher mathematics and physics but are not accessible to our direct experience. Today, the forth dimension is often equated with time and 4-D space with the idea of “space-time”. So far Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity (1905/1916) is part of our general education. The slowing down of time through quick motion favors the fantasy of space travel.
As a literary motif time travel already appears in the late 19th century, in the movies in around 1960 for the first time. Chris Marker’s cinematic photo novel La Jetée (1962) is only the beginning. Six years later the motif appears again, similarly melancholy in a concluding sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys translates the pattern from La Jetée into the 1990s’ Hollywood iconography. Already Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981) had gone through the motif of time travel in fairytale pictures, and in popular movies like The Terminator, Contact, The Fifth Element and The Thirteenth Floor it plays a key role.
As background for the idea of the dematerialization and re-materialization of persons in another place, another sphere, another time, various cultural-historical impulses can be assumed, starting with shamanic travel, with Platon’s concept of ideas, Jewish Mysticism of the Kabala or the Christian theory of the Holy Communion’s transubstantiation. Andrei Tarkovsky’s movie Stalker (1979) links such mystical-philosophical reflections with his protagonists’ quest for the truth which move in an area governed by cryptic rules, the “zone”, next to the abyss of their own psychic state of mind. Also Darren Aronofsky’s movie Pi (1998) leads one to a magical border area, where computer technique, kabalistic numerology and paranoid horror combine to form a subjective drama.
Since the 1990s the digital age leads to a new understanding of matter. The body’s consistency is not defined by atoms anymore, but by a code which can be translated into alpha-numerical signs. From matter a pattern of data can be read out, the genome of an organic body or the digitalisat of an analogous preparation. Advanced technique is said to allow, in the near future, material appearances to form again from such codes. The so-called beaming in the television series Star Trek (1962) does function thanks to such de- and re-materialization, even though, here, there’s not yet talk of codes, but of beams, and even though the method still reminds one of an apparatus-supported magic trick.
Twenty years after Star Trek Steven Lisberger’s movie Tron (1982) presents, as first sci-fi movie, the dematerialization of a human being via its digitalization. In The Fifth Element by Luc Besson a hybrid hi tech procedure is used pictorially for the reconstruction of a human being from a body fragment, while in David Cronenberg’s movie eXistenZ a so-called “bioport” leads to a virtual game existence as post-industrial interface. Here, the concept of the Virtual Reality crosses with the French philosophers’ simulacrum idea. Compared with their significat, signs and images break free, up to total referencelessness. And they gain a life of their own. The demon steps out of the monitor and faces the screen hero in person, be it in Chris Cunningham’s video clip Come to Daddy or in The Ring by Gore Verbinski. And vice versa: Man steps into the medium’s virtual space, as cybernaut in Robert Longo’s Johnny Mnemonic, as avatar in Tron and eXistenZ, as physical intruder in David Cronenberg’s Videodrom. The clips from Time Bandits, from Contact and The Matrix speak of an open border, too. Cleverly, a vodka bottle serves as medium of transcendence in Michel Gondry’s commercial clip Smirnoff.
The basic theme of all movie examples presented here is the overstepping of space-time borders, the submerging into picture spaces and virtual realities. Physical and metaphysical orders that always have been put forward and questioned by religion, philosophy, science and art are reflected in the medium of movie fiction, artfully and suitable for the masses.