The Reality of Motion Pictures

Modern Language Notes, Vol. 111, pp. 560-577, 1996

18 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2013

Date Written: Fall 1996


The puzzle of the reality of movies exists since the pictures are moving. Few things seem to cause more trouble than the attempt to capture the reality of something which appears, stays for a while, and then vanishes. If there is any reality in a motion picture, then where has it been before and where will it be afterwards? The article does not claim to have any answers to this question. Instead, it shifts the question to the level of communication, asking how reality is communicated by pictures which are moving. It therefore follows the recommendation of second-order cybernetics to apply Heinz von Foerster's razor whenever ontological questions no longer seem helpful. The razor demands that we refrain from asking what something is, but instead how it is reproduced. The approach may be called an ontogenetical one. A reality communicated by movies is a reality reproduced. There are presumably limitations as to which reality is possible if it is to be communicated by movies. It is in these limitations that this article is concerned with. They are limitations which produce a reality of a certain type.

Keywords: communication, motion pictures, movies, ontogenetics, reality

Suggested Citation

Baecker, Dirk, The Reality of Motion Pictures (Fall 1996). Modern Language Notes, Vol. 111, pp. 560-577, 1996, Available at SSRN:

Dirk Baecker (Contact Author)

Witten/Herdecke University ( email )



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