Visions of Paradise: Images of Eden in the Cinema

By Wheeler Winston Dixon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
The Uses of Heaven

Since the cinema is inherently a zone of fantasy, a place where the self can be projected at will in whatever guise one wishes, it is an ideal location for visions of the next world, whether paradisiacal or not. Cinema aspires to complete the work of imagined constructs of Heaven by giving imagistic solidity to that which must be taken on faith; we will never know whether or not Heaven exists until we die, and then we will be beyond the reach of those who would wish to communicate with us. The cinema itself represents a kind of quotidian Heaven, in which the daily concerns of existence can be put to one side for a moment, and the viewer can forget his or her cares for a few hours before returning to the world of the actual. The film palaces of the 1920s and 1930s stressed this air of unreality in their over-the-top grandeur; this was not the real world, but rather the world of “stars” in the cinematic firmament. For all of us, life is a continual balancing act in which we bargain for security and safety by buying a house, paying insurance, holding a job, and believing in our work as if that work itself represented our actual world. But it does not; our bodies, which are by definition mortal, encompass our world. The boundary between the self and the image on the screen is inviolate; one can only regard the images of paradise that the cinema offers us with a sense of wonder and dismay that the world we must inhabit is such a consistently dangerous place, a zone of continual risk and uncertainty. The cinema allows

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Visions of Paradise: Images of Eden in the Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chapter One - The Great Escape 3
  • Chapter Two - Eternal Summer 43
  • Chapter Three - Paradise Now 86
  • Chapter Four - The Uses of Heaven 128
  • Chapter Five - The Promise of the Future 158
  • Works Cited 195
  • Index 201
  • About the Author 221
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