It’s a familiar observation that the essence of cinema is looking and desiring, and that there is a built-in furtiveness to the whole transaction: the actor on screen is there but not there, pretending we’re not looking but knowing we are, while we sit – fantasising, desiring – sheltered in the dark, liberated from shyness and responsibility. The cinema has made us all, in David Thomson’s phrase, “fantasist-voyeurs”.
It’s a familiar observation in part because films themselves have pointed it up in stories about the perils and attractions of voyeurism in which the audience for the film are slyly implicated. Perhaps the most famous is Rear Window, but we’ve picked Lost Highway, in which the voyeurism theme is allied to twin contemporary anxieties about surveillance and about the enhanced reach of moving images – of sex and violence – into our homes via VHS technology. What might those images do to us?
Saxophonist Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is driven to the brink when a series of videotapes are left on his doorstep. The tapes depict an intruder filming inside his home and then, terrifyingly, him and wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) asleep in their bedroom. France/US 1997 Dir David Lynch 134 min 35mm presentation
+Spectator This nightmarish short from Dutch experimental filmmaker Frans Zwartjes takes as its subject cinema’s relation to voyeurism. In a confined space, a man observes a partially-clothed woman with a pair of binoculars. But there are two “spectators” here: a thrusting, intrusive camera – all abrupt close-ups and sudden zooms – also prowls around and clings to the woman.
Holland 1970 Dir Frans Zwartjes 10 min 16mm presentation