We are writing this note in the age of a global communication grounded in the Internet and other electronic forms. As we write, fewer and fewer cinemas show independent small budget films; cinema venues are shrinking slowly in number; commercial narratives devoir more of the world market, and alternative inema struggles for its space of self-expression. This note is addressed to those mainstream film industry people with a curious ear, as well as those audiences who may feel that they have allowed themselves to be hypnotized by mainstream cinema.

Today we desire to create a new cinema. We call it Metaphysical Cinema. The
way to our cinema has been paved by guerilla intellectuals from every corner
of the world – those who fight for their own voice in the time of infotainment,
of primetime news, of CNN, and of blockbusters. The Hollywood dream
machine manufactures its wares, as GM manufactures its cars. We know it too
well, the flood of media which mingles reality and unreality, which constructs
our desires, but incites dullness, which offers knowledge and brings only
superficiality. What we call metaphysical cinema is born from our utter
dissatisfaction with and longing to escape from this world of confectionary and
fabrications, from this cinema that peddles mirages and anodyne comforts. An
alternative cinema is required more than ever; a cinema that exists as a
demonstrative visual activity, that lives as a revelation of reality, that strikes
like an awakened weapon to cleave through the classical dream machine

Cinema is implicated in power, economical and political power. Cinema is the
conceptualization and constitution of images of reality. In the current world,
political and economical control works through the creation and imposition of
master narratives, lived by those subject to power. The Hollywood dream- machine is but one manifestation of this strategy of control by narrative seduction.

Metaphysical cinema questions narrative - by reconstructing narrative forms
against or beyond themselves.

How can narrative be re-directed beyond the goals of narrative, that is, beyond
the purposes of power?

Metaphysical cinema confronts narrative. Narrative is about character immersed in a temporally ordered progress of meaning. The person in a narrative form always looks for meaning, and the narrative is about the unfolding of that quest for meaning. Meaning is found, or it is not found. Even in the latter case, the classical story, is that the world finds its meaning even in the shattering of individuals and their failure to gain meaning. There is a higher meaning, where we admire tragic outcomes, and see them within some cosmic narrative of birth and death or in the inevitable hubris of human beings, or the struggling of individuals, and so on.

Of course, classical narrative does not intend to put into question meaning, character, and the imperative to find meaning, and the idea that meaning is there to be had. In some sense, it is theological, insofar as it is tied and trapped to world-story. It never puts into question the goal, which is to tell a story.

But this addiction to meaning carries with is a kind of death. Meaning, or living the search for meaning, is one in which reality is obscured. To represent something as wounded or in-love is to draw it into the world of meaning, and human ends and narrative drive. To represent something in this way is to let our concept of it control our camera. In representing it as wounded or in-love, we lose the wounding or the love, or the wonder about these things: the shine of their being. This representational habit draws us into the dead end of meaning. It gives us the satisfaction that naming something gives, a sense of control and the power of knowing, but it takes us away from the world by separating us from the unknown. Life carries on with or without meaning. A rock lies on the ground with or without meaning. A life looking for meaning goes on with or without meaning. Pure narrative, in trying to conceptually capture everything and give it its place in an order of knowing, feeds the human needs for a false and imposed identity. Narrative promotes consumption of life, things in life known, named, and controlled. It reduces the world to a meal to be eaten by a hungry ego. Narrative is the capitalism of emotion.

We – the Metaphysical Syndicate - call our cinema the metaphysical, that point
in which meaning evaporates, and the events and non-events themselves
appear—the fabric of life itself appears. The appearance of life, in this sense, is
a kind of silence, it is an eloquent silence, which bursts forth from a crack in
narrative structure. It is a rupture in that progress. Only in this way, as the
shadow cast by narrative, as background to some foreground of events, can
life-itself appear. Our Metaphysical cinema’s manifesto speaks of the
unsayable in cinema. It seeks to articulate, to conceive of, a possibility, which
is of a cinema that moves beyond the consumption of the known, which is not
bound by what can be said and defined.

To engage in metaphysical cinema is to aim at presenting a visual and audio
world with poetic tools that project us beyond the comforts of control. It is the
cinema of faction, but not the seduction away from fact. It is a cinema of the
Real, in which our non-fictional states of being emerge--the flow of our fleeing
past, ungraspable present and undefined future. Metaphysical cinema draws
and reflects this pattern of being, the strata of reality - concrete or non-
concrete. Metaphysical cinema is fascinated by the grotesques and the
contingent of our daily reality, but most of all it is about to reveal another
reality of human life. Call it unreality, as our life as we ordinarily know it is
permeated by all kinds of social and political codes.

Metaphysical cinema redefines representation. Gone are the celebrities and the
studios of studied drama, the camera of absolute control, the idea that precedes
the hand and eye moving through the world. Our way of filming and editing is
a kind of trust in accident and non-essence. We trust the non-actor, the non-
studio: we say give them a vivid unconstrained being. We trust the imaginary
camera that documents the world that ever fascinates us with its newness. The
author’s attitude is our prop, and the narrative-form our springboard to the
beyond. We fear no fraying of the narrative thread—since it is in between the
threads that we find the truth.

Metaphysical cinema is a meta-cinema, since it examines reality before,
behind, underneath and beyond. It tries to evoke and re-create our ‘Being-in-
the-world’. We want to build the cinema as reflective borders, cinema as
throwness of the mind, and a dynamic explosion that dances with narrative but
whose steps and song return us to our hidden beings in an ever noisy, blurred
and distorted world.

Written by Xiaolu GUO, Steve BARKER, and Metaphysical Cinema Syndicate 2010

This article is a postscript to “Notes Towards A Metaphysical Cinema Manifesto” which was read on 21st March Sunday 2010 at a masterclass in ‘Cinema du Reel’ at Centre Pompidou.


  © 2004 - 2010 Xiaolu Guo