Ever since I was a young lad I’ve always been awestruck by the moving image. Many enchanted (sometimes petrified) hours were spent in front of glowing screens in the presence of fantastical creatures from far away worlds.
One of my earliest movie memories, from around the age of 6, is my dad explaining to an exhilaratingly terrified, yet morbidly curious young me about how the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts were given the electricity of life via stop motion animation.
Not long afterwards I made my first trip to the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (as it was then known), a place which shares both my age (30, in case you hadn’t noticed) and a fascination with images, stories and the machinations behind them.
The two exhibits which have stuck in my mind most from this time, and indeed seem to be fondly recalled with gleeful nostalgia by my friends of a similar age, were the Magic Carpet and the Beauty and the Beast displays, which featured actual movie cameras which visitors were invited to use to shoot different angles of the fairytale display. By learning how to frame scenes and compose images, the exhibition proved an early introduction to formal film studies for many.
The Magic Carpet provided much amusement and mirth for visitors of all ages as they watched themselves flying over exotic scenes via the wonder of technology. I soon realised, in a bit of a Eureka moment, that this was the same Chroma key technology used in Jason and the Argonauts to place those twisted Ray Harryhausen creations on screen with human actors.
Seeing the technology behind the movies did little to dim the sense of magic for me; in fact the opposite was true—the idea of filmmakers using technology to recreate their imagination in celluloid form has captivated me since.
In 2010 I attended a screening in the Cubby Broccoli cinema of Italian director Guiseppe Tornatore’s magic realist Baaria. The lavish multi-generational tale features one deeply personal sequence where a young boy finds a reel of celluloid which he identifies as being from Jason and the Argonauts.
A Proustian rush reminded me of what it was to view film with un-jaded eyes, and too, of my own ongoing experiences of discovering cinema and its infinite joys; a journey in which this museum plays a leading role.
While I was lucky enough to be around from the museum’s very beginnings, our Moving Stories exhibition, opening in July, will ensure that a new generation of young ones will experience the same journey I have begun.
I am growing up and growing old, yet the museum constantly surprises me by reminding me what it feels to be young and to experience and learn new things. We’re both 30 years old this year, and I can’t wait to see where the next 30 years takes us.