to be alive!


More than five million people stood and waited, sometimes in the pouring rain, sometimes for as long as two hours. Many of these returned to stand in line again and again. "to be alive!" was universally acclaimed as the outstanding attraction at the New York World's Fair.

The directors, Francis Thompson and Alexander Hammid, had succeeded in capturing the essence of life's magnificent simplicity - a leaf falls, a child laughs - and vividly conveying it to the viewer, creating through lyrical images a sense of joy, a feeling of great exhilaration. And a sense of sharing - the audience is caught up in the sensual experience of seeing, transcending all barriers of language, race, geography. What does the audience see? That the miracle of a spider web, the ecstasy of speed, the rapturous excess of a wedding feast are always truly wonderful, wherever, whenever they happen.

To Be Alive! was made for projection onto three separate screens set side by side and curving slightly around the audience. Most scenes were photographed with three synchronized cameras, producing a single continuous image. For both technical and esthetic reasons narrow gaps were left between the screens. Viewers were surprised to find that the gaps disappeared in the mind when a single, continuous image filled the three screens, and conversely when three diffferent images were projected simultaneously, the gaps emphasized their separateness. This film technique gave us a novel means of expression: we could, at will, unify, break up, contrast, juxtapose or compare various images while maintaining a continuous esthetic whole on the three screens.

The pictures were taken directly from the film. The layout of the page of course follows the graphic requiremnts of a [website], and thus it departs somewhat from the sequence and arrangement of images as they appeared in the film. Nevertheless, the three-screen technique as described above is reflected by the white lines which divide some of the pictures in much the same way as the gaps divided the theatre screens.

SOURCE: Photos & Text: Book: to be alive! © Copyright S.C. Johnson & Sons, Inc. 1966, All Rights Reserved

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