When you pick up a book you know you only have to turn a few pages in order to begin to enjoy the contents. You don’t even have to engage the contents of those pages if you don’t want to: you can simply look for Chapter 1 and dig in.
If the contents are fiction, you know once you immerse yourself in the story that you will not be interrupted by authorial asides or editor’s footnotes. You will be allowed to forget about the book as a mechanism and as you embrace the contents.
When you watch a movie you expect the movie to believe in itself — unless it’s an art film whose raison d’etre is disrupting the audience’s “easy relationship with the cinema”.* Scenes play out without commentary from the director or actors, allowing the audience to believe in the world of the story. Editing, a musical score — everything is aimed at supporting the audience’s suspension of disbelief while making the medium itself transparent.
Even bonus commentary on DVD’s can do damage to an audience’s ability to suspend disbelief. While it’s interesting to hear how a movie is made — at least once — it’s also a bit of a letdown to learn that a gripping scene was the result of accident. “We only had one copy of the Magna Carta on the shoot. When the AD fell off the crane and split his head open, somebody grabbed it and used it to stanch the blood. What you see the dying wife holding in this scene is actually a place mat from a diner down the street.” [ Read more ]