Halfway through Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light, projectionist Norman (Toby Jones) explains the science of movie magic to theater worker Hilary (Olivia Colman). He tells her about the illusion of movement, the number of frames that occur per second (it’s 24!) and, of course, the importance of that beam of light.
Within the context of a film, a scene like this often carries a lot of weight. For Sam in Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, for example, the description of the inner workings of a projector provides a young boy with his life’s purpose. In Giuseppe Tornatore’s beloved Cinema Paradiso, a similar exchange illustrates the palpable weight that a simple dream can hold. Almost all of the time, a “How It Works: The Movies” scene is meant to convey one thing at its core: Cinema is a beautiful, magical thing.
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