Monday, August 04, 2008

Reflections on Design and Cinema

The following is a small extract from my diploma document. For those who don't know what that is - it is basically the final stamp on four (or two-and-a-half for some) years of design education. I look at it fondly as a reminder of all that transpired between me and NID. However, I chose to post this particular extract for a different reason......

In the four years I spent at NID needless to say, there was a lot to learn. For instance, I learnt a fair amount about what we mean by design and what one has to do to put the process of design into motion. Having been a student of Film and Video Communication at NID I have somehow always felt greatly at odds with the over-arching discipline of design vis-à-vis that of cinema. Cinema – a very intuitive and subjective medium not to mention a highly sensual one – seems far removed from the pedagogy of design. The latter is rational, logical and in its very essence something functional.

It would be far too simplistic to view the disciplines of design as cinema as two separate water-tight compartments when in fact their paths do cross often. Undeniably, a piece of cinema is actually part of a meticulously crafted and constructed reality. The beauty of cinema however, is in its ability to combine word, image and sound in space and time. It is the potential of the cinematic idiom to evoke emotions – real emotions – that set it apart from the problem-solving, analytical realm of design.

Cinema owes a great deal more to literature, music and the fine arts than it does to the academics of design which prescribes certain ways of dealing with a problem of life and living. Imagine trying to rationalize the tragicomic nature of Chaplin’s Tramp or any of Woody Allen’s neurotic characters!

Though one may say that a character is designed to perform the charade it does on screen, it is impossible to define the formula or right process by which a character may be ordered to do one’s bidding. The guidance for that comes from some sort of inner compass located first within the director/writer and in some extraordinary cases, within the gifted actors who play those parts.

Those aspects of cinema that touch a chord with its viewers operate beyond the practical realm of design. Good cinema cannot be inspired as a mere solution to say, a narrative problem. It is not the means to an end as is the case with design. It is both the medium and the message. The communicator and that which is communicated. And though it is mechanically conjured and virtually an engineered product, it transcends those limits once it reaches its final destination – when it is seen, heard and felt.

No comments: