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

It is the glimpse, the fraction of time that can almost be captured on film that is invisible to the human eye, that inspires a more sophisticated response to the moving image. In this response lies more than a simple desire for the magic of say, the sleight of hand of a conjuring trick. Here we are drawn to an understanding of time – life and death even – through the glimpse of the passing of time. Between each frame of film there is the possibility of capturing something beyond human sight, and it’s here that mystery is either exploited or understood for itself.

The filmmaker Margaret Tait eloquently defined this in her poem ‘Now’, published in 1959:

I used to lie in wait to see the clover open
Or close,
But never saw it.
I was too impatient,
Or the movement is too subtle,
Imperceptible
And more than momentary.
My five-year-old self would tire of waiting
And when I looked again
– All closed for the night!
I missed it
Once more.

Cinematographically
I have registered the opening of escholtzia
On an early summer morning.
It gave me a sharp awareness of time passing,
Of exact qualities and values in the light,
But I didn’t see the movement
As movement.
I didn’t with my own direct perception see the petals
moving.
Later, on the film, they seemed to open swiftly,
But, at the time,
Although I stared
And felt time not so much moving as being moved in
And felt
A unity of time and place with other times and places
Yet
I didn’t see the petals moving.
I didn’t see them opening.
They were closed,
And later they were open,
And in between I noted many phases,
But I didn’t see them moving open.
My timing and my rhythm could not observe the
rhythm of their opening.

The thing about poetry is you have to keep doing it.
People have to keep making it.
The old stuff is no use
Once it’s old.
It comes out of the instant
And lasts for an instant.
Take it now
Quickly
Without water.

There!

Tomorrow there’ll be something else.
The atoms are exploding throughout our atmosphere.
A bombardment
Of rays reaches our innards,
But we don’t know it.
Like crazy delinquents
Whose moment is worth so little
That they use it to destroy the next one
We set off a crackling and a popping of all we are
made of,
Liberating the final rays that held us together
But which,
Liberated and lost,
Can only split us
And disintegrate our several cells and entire selves.

No one should ever get to think of themselves as
infallible
Or of anyone else as infallible.
We are all capable of folly.

So let me even praise unwisdom a little,
For we are never so wise
As to be all-wise;
And in discarding all wisdom and prudence
Now and again,
– Rarely, say, but still sometimes –
We can reach,
We can see,
We can feel, touch, sense in some indefinable way
A deeper knowledge than wisdom,
Bone-knowledge
Blood-knowledge
Felt or known by our deepest sensibilities
For which as yet we have no words.

Still from Colour Poems by Margaret Tait, 1974
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