Through a Glass Dimly


Just recently I rewatched a videotape that had been sent to me by a childhood friend. About five or six years ago he had transferred some old films we had made as kids onto VHS and he wanted me to have a copy. These were silly, amateur films from the 1970s when we were in junior high and high school. I sat and watched them again, nearly two hours worth of material. I’m not sure why, but there was something ineffably sad about watching these old super eight millimeter films.

It wasn't just looking back on who we were all those years ago, although that’s certainly a part of it. No, it’s something to do with the technology and its limitations. The films are silent, of course, which distances you from the images. Faces soundlessly mug for the camera as if behind heavy glass. And the images are of low quality, often out of focus and poorly lit. This causes you to struggle to see what’s there, so that you not only watch through a glass but, as they say, through a glass dimly. My friend had dubbed in some music to accompany the films. This ocassionally added poignancy, but not as much, I think, as the whirring clatter of an old projector in a darkened suburban basement half a lifetime ago.

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