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Trickery and Illusion: The Magic of Cinema
Sarah Wood
Trickery and Illusion: The Magic of Cinema

With very different effect, George Barber in his 1985 video Absence Of Satan re-forms the mumbo jumbo of low-brow commercial cinema and reveals the absurdity of the triggers that make us afraid or excited in the horror/action genres. Barber approach is brilliant and simple. He re-edits unrelated moments to have equal weight. The edits suggest a continuum that of course isn’t there. Instead of narrative we are left with effect without meaning. A beautiful woman screams at something unseen off-camera which suggests a narrative which remains unfulfilled. Her scream in context would be a trigger of emotion; here we just see it as the device it is. A heavy soundtrack, fast edits, close up concentration on apparent significance to create atmosphere instead unleash a wonderful surreal reworking of cinematic narrative and cliché. How we are lead to see the mechanics of narrative film as effect is shown isolated from cause. Illusion is undone and we are re-educated in the way we see.

Still from Absence of Satan by George Barber, 1985
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