Cinematics is an animated short whose main topic is cinema itself, much like Disney’s short Get a Horse! which takes place in a cinema theater and literally breaks the 4th wall. Cinematics’ self-reference is not as direct and explicit though. It is not as much “self” reference, as it is cinema reference. Cinematics is yet another clever instance of the postmodern trend of art to turn an eye on itself and to become its main subject in a self-exploratory way.
Self-Reference in Postmodern Art
But self-reference in art has philosophic implication that transcend the boundaries of art. Self-reference as a theme and technique became particularly prominent with modern art, and it can be seen as one of the landmarks of 20-century’s scepticism. Scepticism is the underlying idea for post-structuralism and postmodernism, which proclaimed the collapse of meaning, truth, and language as an objective reflection of reality. Postmodern scepticism is sceptic even towards the classic Cartesian scepticism. The self-declamatory “I think, therefore I am” can no longer be a universal truth. Postmodernism asks, “Am I really? Am I really thinking? Am I really who I think? Why am I thinking this?” These questions are inherently self-referential because they are concerned with the inquirer itself. And to mirror this, sometimes consciously, and sometimes not, art becomes self-referential too. Ultimately, self-reference becomes the question or attempt for one’s personal justification.
The Medium Is The Message
Media theorist Marshal Mcluhan coined the phrase “The medium is the message” and argued the medium inevitably influences the message, and is more meaningful than the content of the message itself. According to Mcluhan, a medium does not neutrally convey a certain message, but rather actively participates in the message itself. A medium such as television does not simply deliver the news—the specific characteristics of television as a medium shape the message. The medium is therefore interconnected with the message and cannot be separated or detached from it. As experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton argued, every film is essentially about film itself.
Moreover, the content of a particular message has only a local subjective value to the recipients, while the medium itself has a global and cultural impact on society itself. In Cinematics and films that refer to cinema as a whole such as Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, Atom Egoyan’s Speaking Parts, or Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, the more accurate description is probably “The medium is the subject.” Regardless, they are all prime examples of self-reference in cinema.
Cinematics: the Animated Cinema History
Cinematics by the obscure Brazilian animator Pier Paolo follows the history of film from Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights to Pixar’s Up. Some of the other movies referenced are Singing in the Rain, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Last Samurai, and The Godfather: the film obviously favors popular Hollywood films. To further call attention to the “filmness” of the film, Cinematics has graphics of a camera roll and occasional black dots to evoke a vintage effect similar to Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell.
Cinematics is an unpretentious short film that can be seen as a metaphor for cinema’s vain self-obsession. The story of cinema cannot be rendered justice in 60 seconds, but it looks like the nature of film can.