Monday, 6 May, 2013
Magic and Movies - two realms but same vision…
Both magic and movies are based on tricks and have similarities. We can say that a movie is even considered a triple trick now a days. The visual illusion of movement caused by still images projected in fast progression, the auditory illusion of people speaking on the screen while the sound comes from somewhere else and the cognitive illusion of watching real people with real lives are amazing the spectators from the yore’s of time.
In the book ‘Magic of Movies’ by Matthew Solomon (author and the editor of first known science fiction film, A Trip to the Moon), he clearly explained the relationship between the movies and magic. The major difference between the two theater forms is that when watching a magician or magic the salient question that arises in audience’s mind is “How is it done?”, whereas while watching a movie they ask themselves: “What will happen next?.”
During early days, movies were known by the name of Magic Lantern. Magicians were film exhibitors, performers and producers. Georges Melies, Harry Houdini, Carl Hertz, G.A. Smith, Alexander Victor and Charles Pathe were the magicians who pioneered in embracing film as a performance medium. Their efforts led to the development of special effects as a narrative device. The appearance of moving pictures as a form of entertainment in the late nineteenth century coincided with the Golden Age of theatrical magic.
A time came when magicians used cinema innovation with their cheerful little “trick films” screened as part of a live act: films with novel editing innovations such as multiple exposures, cuts and dissolves, which made people appear to vanish, or suddenly transform into something or someone else. Georges Melies was the French stage magician and movie pioneer most obviously associated with this subject. Considering his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality through cinematography, he is sometimes referred to as the first “Cine Magician”. Two of his most well-known silent films are A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904).
There emerged a number of American silent feature films, centered on magician characters. The Hollywood had used the unique skill of real professional magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini. In 1906, he started showing film of his outside escapes as a part of his vaudevile act. Like Melies, he returned to a full-time theater career after several years devoted more or less exclusively to different aspects of film-making. He made five major silent films and he is the only magician in history to have starred in five films. In a nut shell, Houdini is a legend not only as a magician, also a best in the film history.
Today, films about magic and magicians are very popular.Films now prominently feature magicians performing seemingly impossible feats using classic techniques such as sleight-of-hand and misdirection. Today scenes that depict wizards, witches, or any other character that uses supernatural powers to magical effect are included in certain movies. Magic tricks are featured in recent films such as Death Defying Acts, The Illusionist, The Escape Artist, The Prestige, Guzarish, The Harry Potter series etc, which brought magicians back onto the silver screen. To the Malayalam film industry M. Mukundan’s masterpiece novel –‘Daivathinte Vikrithikal’ is converted into beautiful movie, distinct as a tribute to the art of magic. A range of books and articles also carry interesting articles on the involvement of magicians and magic in the silver-screen.
Although considered two distinct art forms, many techniques of magic are still used in cinema - a fact that quite often we fail to pay due attention. But the reality is, magic had played a huge role in shaping the cinema to its modern form. That’s why the renowned Oscar winning American film director, producer and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola said- “cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians, they were creators”.