Back in ye olden days children used to cut out paper figures, colour them in, and attach them to wires and use them as characters in performances dramatic behind a paper proscenium arch with scenic backdrop. Since the very earliest days of the moving picture directors have been trying to replicate the effect. D.W. Griffiths couldn’t manage it, nor could Cecille B. DeMille. Eistenstein tried, but failed, as did Hitchcock. Not until the arrivial of Peter Jackson could the movie-goer be treated to something on a par with those paper puppet theatres of a century and more ago.

Of course, Jackson’s technique is at an early stage of development: the voyeur has to wear special glasses, unlike the viewers of the Victorian spectacle, and today one needs to keep one’s head still to view the spectacle in its full 3-D glory. In the case of The Hobbit one mustn’t move one’s noggin for 2¾ hours. But still, it’s worth it to see the true cinematic majesty harking back to the technique our Victorian forebears.



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