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

Swann and Barber’s revelation of the original patterning of film brings us closer to another area of magic exploited in the best filmmaking. When the artist Maya Deren returned from Haiti a newly qualified Voodoo Priestess, she began to consider whether or not a ritualised visual representation and patterned rhythm in the edit of a film could in fact produce a magic effect or maybe even a magic totem. Cinema is often described as spellbinding and Deren pushed this idea to its limit.

Deren, of course, famously acted out a particular ritualised form of cinema but it is interesting to see how later artists have negotiated this tradition. Look, for instance, at Tanya Syed’s Delilah. Here Syed edits and re-edits a sequence suggesting postponement and fulfilment to build up a narrative of found love. The repetition and rhythm of the film itself also have the effect of conjuring up the climax as though the film is an act which creates as well as narrates its own passage.

Still from Delilah by Tanya Syed, 1995
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