You’re Not Real, But I Can Feel You
Today we've seen it all. From James Cameron’s futuristic killer machines in The Terminator (1984) to his classic enormous sinking ship in Titanic (1997). But before all these SFX blockbusters, cinema was introducing firsts for a lot of people. For example, viewers were terrified by the footage of a train in L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de La Ciotat (Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station) directed by The Lumière brothers. They were literally fleeting their seats from the locomotive coming at them on the screen. The audience felt shocked by the realness of it all.
In The Piano (1993), during the scene where the Scottish settlers put on a play for everyone, including the Maori people, there was a touchstone to how old cinema affected people. The Maori people represented the audience of early cinema. To the settlers, the actors were simply using shadows behind a sheet to create the illusion of a murder, but to the Maori people, they saw action and reacted. They believed what they were seeing and why wouldn’t they? What’s more real than seeing something with your bare eyes?
Film today still has a way of affecting people. The Audience knows what they see isn’t reality but that doesn't make it untrue. Today, cinema leaves an impression on people, making them think about life, actions, maybe inspire them or simply create social buzz relating to current issues. For example, in the book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciosness, and Creativity by David Lynch he talks about his inspiration to his film Lost Highway (1997). He mentions how during the time he was writing it he was intrigued by
the O.J. Simpson trial and how strange his behavior was after the death of his wife. He mentions, “how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living?” Referencing the psychological term— “psychogenic fugue”— describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. With that, came Lost Highway (1997)
Audiences today are more advanced on what to expect when it comes to cinematic effects but everyone is vulnerable to gaining something from film no matter the decade. So in comparison, old and new cinema both have an affect on people. There's just a difference in the way the viewer takes action.