“Images were humanity’s first means of communicating its ideas. In the twentieth century it was discovered that moving images permit a more realistic and comprehensible system of communication, compared to the printed word. Film gave humanity its first universal language”.
This declaration made by the famous documentary film-maker Robert Flaherty dates back to the early 1950s and today, in the new century in which images play a preponderant role in communication, and in which these images are produced with increasingly sophisticated techniques, is extremely topical. In his films the cine camera applies angling, lighting, framing choices that are not casual, and images of nature formulated for us are realistic, constituting some of the most valid demonstrations that the “pure” cinematographic image, that is to say without the support of spoken language, may serve scientific documentation by creating great works of art in one and the same breath. Enlightening examples are Louisiana story (with an exclusive presentation in the restored original edition) and The Land, epic poems about the impact of modernization and progress on American territory and its people.
Thus “Vedere la Scienza” [Seeing Science]– the title of the initiative to which FCI has the honour of contributing with films from its archives – is a slogan that hits the bull’s-eye in its dual reference: firstly in its thematics and, at a deeper and more significant level, with regard to the close bond that exists between science and the world of the image. As a result of the evolution of scientific discoveries on the threshold of the 20th century, cinema is a science that reflects itself. At one and the same time it is the object and subject of vision. So here are the rare, early 20th century entomological shorts, preserved and restored by the film library for their value as a historic document, thanks to the generous contribution of Milan University Institute of Physics. They are the first examples of a type of cinematography that intended to become a bearer of scientific diffusion and seen through the experienced eyes of a modern spectator: wriggling micro organisms and insects seen under a microscope are reminiscent of cinema research into the origins of images in movement and also the expert use of rhythm and editing in abstract films typical of the avant garde, more than a century later.
Moreover, the attention dedicated by recent and more spectacular cinema to biographies and to discoveries made by men of science not so well-known to the general public as are the ‘classics’ Madame Curie or Edison the man, is a positive signal, which encourages the belief that the time-honoured divide between humanist culture and scientific culture will gradually narrow in a world that cannot do without technology. And which confirms that the vocation of cinema, for the nature of its universal language, is to constitute one of the many forms of communication capable of bridging the gap between two worlds that only seem distant.