Eyes in Movies

Photo by April White

A native of Wolseley, Saskatchewan, Jonathan Petrychyn is currently completing graduate studies at Memorial University after completing an undergraduate in Film Studies. As part of the Words in Edgewise series at the Eastern Edge Gallery, he did a presentation on eyes in cinema in February. Petrychyn recently chatted with Adam Clarke about that presentation, which you can watch online below.

So, why do a presentation on eyes?
I wanted to see how many pictures I could get of eyes from various films and spend 20 seconds talking about each one. Later, that concept expanded to spectatorship and the concept of vision in general. I used The Ring since the cursed video is like an eye. I talked about Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, since you can’t talk about eyes in film without talking about Rear Window. Also, Un Chien Andalou, [by Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí] from 1926 where the eye gets sliced with a razor blade.

Rear Window and Un Chien Andalou both represent in this very broad, airy-fairy, very metaphorical way, the governing ways we approach vision and perception in cinema. Andalou splits the eye which to me speaks to that idea of split vision and the camera’s vision, the spectator’s vision and the character’s vision. All the ideas Laura Mulvey goes on about in her seminal, widely-anthologized article from ‘75, “Visual Pleasure & Narrative Cinema.” Then in Rear Window, that whole film is a metaphor for cinema. James Stewart is sitting there, staring out his window and he is imposing narrative on random events. That’s Hitchcock’s metaphor for cinema. I feel that, when people go to the movies, that’s what happens. This process of negotiating between their vision, the camera’s vision, the projector’s vision, the character’s vision… all these different ways of looking and you’re stuck here in your chair. You can’t move. Well, you can, but etiquette suggests that you shouldn’t.