I always believed there was a world just to the left of ours. It was a place populated by all the characters of books and television, a place of heroes, villains, and wonders. I told myself stories about it as a child, dreaming that I would be one of the select group who could bring a character from there to here. I peered through the windows of books, consuming text and composing the vision in my mind's eye, always standing on intellectual tip-toe to catch a glimpse of that other world. Over the years, I stopped telling myself those stories, but I never stopped believing in that other place, glimpsed just out of the corner of your eye, never stopped standing on the tip toes of my imagination to peer through into a different world.
And sitting there, in the movie theatre, 3D glasses digging into my nose, catching a glimpse of the texture of the screen beneath the images of the film, I smile to myself. I know so many people who object to the modern rebirth of 3D, and while I too am painfully familiar with the ill fated fads of the 50s and 60s matinee, I am thoroughly enjoying this new variation of film in the illusion of the third dimension. It raises the blinds on a new frame around an old, familiar window.
The new spate of films presented in digital 3D fascinates me because, for those directors who understand their medium, the dimensionality of the media is treated far differently from earlier 3D. Gone are the cheap gags and the notion of objects hurtling into the audience's field of vision. Such images are reserved for theme park shows and remakes of unspeakable James Cameron films (I have still not recovered from the trailer for Piranha). In their place is a strange new artistic convention - a conscious framing of mise en scene in a way that gives the illusion that the movie screen has become a window - a view into another place populated with heroes, villains, and wonders. We, as the audience, are not thrust into that place; there is no attempt to create the illusion that the two worlds are invading one another's space; rationality tells us that the wonders of the world beyond the screen have little place in our reality, and, much as we may regret it, we have little place in theirs. Instead, these films create a breach between the worlds, a way of seeing what lies on the other side of the wall between story and reality. They are windows, and we are given the opportunity to peer through into a place newly given dimension and depth.
Certainly, not all these new films are created equal. Some are merely films rendered into 3D - a simple window into another time and place. Others are conscious of their role, framing their images within windows and clouds, creating a deliciously voyeuristic sense of peering through into another world, of stealing a story through reflected spaces and from unsuspected corners. In those films, there is a sense of the furtive wonder and belief in story that I held so fervently in the green and brown world of my childhood. There is a sense of opening a door and finding a place of wonder just beyond its sill.
Perhaps, once again, rendering film in three dimensions is no more than a fad, a desperate attempt by a film industry that is again feeling threatened - this time by digital media rather than the advent of television, but threatened nonetheless. Perhaps it is no more than a last ditch attempt to offer audiences something, anything, that they cannot find on personal screens. But I do not view it in quite that way. Regardless of its origins, I find myself enjoying the new interpretation of an old medium. I find myself again a child, face plastered to the glass of reality, peering into a place of dreams. And when I catch a glimpse of the screen, I cannot help but smile, because to me, it is just the light glinting off the glass of imagination, reminding me that the blinds are open, and I can see through that window into the world I have so long dreamed.