The Age of the World Motion Picture: Cosmic Visions in the Post-Earthrise Era
Martin Heidegger characterized the modern world as the “age of the world picture,” an era when the world became conquered as a picture or representation set fully and clearly before our gaze. In the 1960s, the first images of the Earth from space delivered a glimpse of a world picture that was global and ecological, but also suggested humanity’s domination both of the earth (today) and of outer space (tomorrow). Fifty years later, we have not colonized other planets, but we might speak instead of an age of the world motion picture, an era when our colonization extends to imaginary planets, like the Pandora of the blockbuster film Avatar (2009) and where we see our world and ourselves in turbulent and uncontrollable motion on screens around the globe. The moving image has been with us a little over a century and in that time the world has arguably come to move faster and faster all around us. For Gilles Deleuze it was cinema that provided the greatest resource for reviving our lost “belief in this world.” This chapter asks how cinema is faring today, on the cusp of the digital era, in supporting “belief in this world” and in the universe that sustains it. I examine five films made since 1968. The year in which we received the first images of the Earth from space: 2001, A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (1973), Contact (1997), The Tree of Life (2011) and Melancholia (2011). Drawing on the semiotics of C. S. Pierce, I examine how images of the Earth in space have “moved” their viewers and how their use in these films facilitates new forms of global identity built on new emotional and spiritual geographies.
KeywordsCinema Whole Earth images Semiotics Heidegger Deleuze Peirce
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