Cinematic Transcendence From a Synaesthetic Perspective

(A Review of Michael Snow's Wavelength & David Rimmer's Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper)

Kenneth Hemmerick

Originally published in Lonergan Review Number 6 - Canada's Film Century: Traditions, Transitions, Transcendence

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Synaesthetic Analysis

The senses are the highways of human perception through which the world is apprehended and comprehended. In reviewing the static and dynamic ranges of the senses, we can begin to appreciate how important these "information gatherers" are to human awareness and creativity.3

Radius of Static Ranging Dynamic Velocity Tactile: 1/1,000 of a mile @ 10 miles per hour
Olfactory: 1 mile 400 miles per hour
Aural: 100 miles 1,100 miles per hour
Visual: 6 trillion miles* 700,000,000 mph

* One light year is 6 trillion miles, and humans see Andromeda with the naked eye one million light years away, which means six quintillion miles.4

Throughout history, the actual number of senses which humans are believed to possess has been in dispute. (Aristotle, Galen, Erasmus, Darwin, and von Frey believed there were five, six, twelve, twelve, and eight, respectively.) However, philosophers, scientists and artists have agreed that there appears to be a sensus communis through which all the senses seem to be unified. John Locke (1690) noted that the senses assist one another'in defining the existence of a perceived object.5

In other words, the paper you are presently reading is known to you through sight, touch, sound, and perhaps the smell of the paper and ink. W. H. Auden suggested that there exists an "infirm king" to whom eyes, ears, tongue and nostrils bring together objects that vary in size, texture and shape.6 We sensually perceive the objects differently and as different from one another; but when we touch them and when we see them, we know that the objects are one and the same.

Aristotle considered rest, motion, number, size, unity and shape to be common sensible attributes.7 Galileo named four qualities- size, shape, quantity and motion.8 To Hobbes9 and Locke10 form or figural shape was a common attribute of sensation. Kant (1781) believed space and time are general forms of perception." 11

Hume (1739) stated it is impossible to go beyond sense data to objects and events themselves.12 J.S. Mill's (1865) interpretation of reality was as the permanent possibility of sensation.13 Hombostel (1925) observed movement can be perceived by touch, sight and sound.14

Macintyre (1958) believed that not only do odours, lights and sounds correspond to one another, but they also point to the noumena underlying the phenomena of synesthesia.15 Given this wide range of experience and insight into the senses, it may be said that the senses display a fundamental unity because there exists a class of supra-sensory attributes which pertains to all senses, however distinct from one another.

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© 2006 Kenneth Hemmerick