This video essay by Mariska Graveland dives into several instances of “the man behind the curtain” in films spanning many decades and genres. In a sort of supercut, Graveland shows us all the different ways scenes with projectionists doing their work or in a projection room relate to their greater films and to cinema as a whole. In a lot of the sequences, the movies being projected are somehow related to the projectionist’s real life, such as the projectionist who is struggling to take a drink while an actor is crying out in thirst on the movie screen. Other times, the projectionists exercise power upon the real world through the fantastic world of the movies they are projecting, such as the porn inserts in Pulp Fiction, the fire in Inglourious Basterds, and Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr. It seems like the most fervent and dramatic times in these projectionist’s lives are ironically happening while their movies are playing in the background and no one below in the audience has a clue. The projectionists are an invisible force, forgotten by the average movie-goer, but we get a peak into their intimate moments behind the curtain in this video. There is also a lot of sexual subject matter and violence that unexpectedly occurs in the projection room as well.
The original phrase that the title plays with, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”, is from The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, we find out that the man behind the aforementioned curtain is not who we think he is; not an all-powerful wizard, but a little man like everyone else. As an audience we have certain ideals about who that man is, but usually he is not what we pictured and we’re disappointed. Also of note here is that in almost all of these examples of projectionists in the video essay, only a couple are female. This is perhaps a commentary on the overwhelming number of male voices in the film industry and the scarcity of female perspectives, since the video essay creator is also female.
This video essay adeptly makes use of the videographic form’s ability to be reflexive, in this case, as a video projection referring to examples of itself: cinema talking about cinema.