Arts & Culture

Discovering the Code of Cinema in a Prophetic Anecdote

The miracles bestowed upon the prophets as divine endowments are instruments of test both for themselves and for the people who are subject to divine revelation, and through its contents beacons the horizon to the mankind. The rod given to Moses carries a message for the Pharaoh and his devotees. Besides; the rod which brought forth water from where it struck has inspired people for such works as drilling. The fact that Jesus resurrected the dead people displays the following explanation by the medical science; “it is possible to temporarily give color of life to death.”  The talyin-i hadid (the ability to bend the iron with hands as though it is clay) bestowed upon David, is a striking example of metal forging. Within this context, one of the miracles granted to Solomon refers to television and cinema:

“(Then Solomon) said to the leaders of his tribe:

O! chiefs! Which one of you will bring me (Sheba’s) her throne before they (Sheba and her tribe) come unto me, surrendering ? A stalwart of the jinn said: I will bring it to you before you rise from your place. Lo! I verily am strong and trusty for such work.’

One who had knowledge of the Scripture said: I will bring it to you before you wink at me.
And when he saw it set in his presence, (Solomon) said: This is of the bounty of my Lord, that He may try me whether I am thankful or I am ungrateful. Whosoever gives thanks he only gives thanks for the good of his own soul; and whosoever is ungrateful, my Lord is absolute in independence, yet bountiful.”

This miracle referring to the immediate transmission of vision and sound not only presents a significant code for cinema and television, but also emphasizes that it should not be an instrument of immanence.

This miracle that utilizes the earth to some extent not only contains the transmission of vision and sound but also the transmission of material. I am not suggesting that we should ignore the aesthetic or the ethical aspect of the cinema and the television. However, I wonder whether it is to be an instrument of immanence. In relation to this, I also attempt to discover the authentic reference of its epical aspect. When the throne of Sheba was in Yemen, it is brought to Damascus in the blink of an eye and the sounds of the people in the surrounding area are heard along with their visions. The miracle says “If you wish to realize the absolute justice, you should attempt to fully see and understand the earth.” Within this implicit announcement, there is a reference to wisdom and to the fact that man is a caliph on earth.  Each man is granted with an ability to become caliph. If everybody works with a conscious based on religious servitude, then they can transform earth to a garden where all the sounds and visions are acquired. We should search for such a connection between the meaning of human existence and cinema and we should form an equation between vision and reality. I’d like to go back one more time to Tarkovsky’s conviction: “The vision is an impression within reality at which we are allowed to look with our blind eyes…”

Contrary to what we assume, life is the moment in which we exist. Expanding and eternalizing the life and going after the “lost moment” leads us to a desire to record our deeds, our factual experiences and thoughts about future.

Although it seems as though it contradicts with the thought that the past covers the future, it in fact overlaps with the obligation to eternalize the moment we live. The worldly view regards everything as dead other than the moment lived. After that ‘moment’, the entire time and its content reach a nullity. The material life which we trust is only momentary just like the guardians define it as occurring in the blink of an eye. However, when we rupture the wall of worldly reality and reach the life platform of the soul, heart and secret, we can sense the past which is dead and the future which is yet non-existent as though they occur in the present time. This is a factual reality experienced by the prophets, angels and guardians who transcend the worldly reality in relation to time and place. The simultaneous existence of Gabriel alongside the Prophet of Islam in the appearance of a companion called Dihya, when he also prostrated with his glorious wings before the great sky in the presence of Allah or his conveyance of divine orders in many places… The ability of the wandering dervishes of the guardians, who gain illuminated soul characteristic, to perform different actions in different places at the very time… The relationship between recording of the people’s deeds by Allah for judgment and the time recorded in the factual forms and images requires our reasoning on the opportunities of the cinema that have not been utilized yet.

This is what became the beginning point for Tarkovsky in all his assumptions. The thing on which the humanity builds its existence… During our short adventure on Earth, our every action that is related to the infinite universe is recorded. We experience the strange similarity of cinema as being a recorded time also in our worldly adventure. The extension and enrichment of time and space is related with the feature of eternity of the human as well as his liability to save his fate from depending on false ideals. The glorification of the cinema against this main problem or the transformation of purposeless fantasies into means of expression must be an unfortunate result for the humanity.

If reality points to the area of richness beyond the perception of the five senses, image is the reality itself. Islamic thought, which prohibited figural depiction, opened an endless field of illustration. In the cinematic narration, sometimes a symbolic allusion can give a unique image of the world. Allusion of a single part may be enough to tell about the whole. However, the camera observes the world directly. In movies that reached this narration level, everyone can watch himself. The movies that do not have this quality are the ones that do not usually take into account the experience of the  audience.

Tarkovsky, who points out the necessity to separate the imaginative cinema from the poetical cinema, mentions that pictures and poetry that determine the nature of the movie do not intersect. Poetical cinema produces symbols, allegories and rhetorical types in accordance with these. It is some kind of a false reality. Huseyin Nasr’s approach to this style of narration that involves the danger of deviating from truth is based on the idea that it is a transformable phenomenon: “We must define the cinema clearly. We must accept that the cinema, which was thought to be a means of entertainment in the beginning, has a very strong effect in terms of conveying something to the people who deviate from moral truths. It is possible to develop the cinema as an art—I am not saying as an Islamic art—in a way that it can express the artistic and moral-ethical aspect of the Islamic civilization in an art form.”

Due to its proximity to life, cinema is more related with reality than other fields of art. When we consider the relation between reality and beauty, we can perceive how dangerous the illusion can be for the audience. Cinema can completely be a means of crime for those people who think that what is seen on the silver screen is real. In an environment where examples that instigate violence and sexuality, and produce false values outweigh other examples, bringing forth an epical language can be a refreshing step for the drowsy audience. The modern cinema audience, who are numbed with astonishing visual effects, fantastic fictions and Hollywood productions that are entirely fictitious, experience a period where catharsis is resurrected without distinguishing that they are watching a tragedy or a comedy. The audience is continually amazed for two hours in the movie theater. No opportunity is given to the audience for participating in the game that they watch on the silver screen with their own experiences. Today’s movie audience is more passive than the Ancient Greeks. The perception of entertainment consumes their activity. “Purifying the soul from the passions” is substituted by “burning the soul in the passions and bewildering the mind.”


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