Powers of Ten (1977) dir. Charles and Ray Eames
“This emptiness is normal. The richness of our own neighborhood is the exception.”
I’d have sworn we covered this classic, and maybe it was a part of the primordial version of the Lunch Links feature and thus lost to the vast empty space of disqus.
Regardless, this is one of those trippy films that doesn’t get old for rewatching. A clever illustration of a mathematic principle that presages the kind of pop science explainer videos found on YouTube. Indeed this has been referenced and ripped off numerous times. The opening sequence of Contact and its folding of the vastness of space into a comprehendible package owes something to it. Since then, insane zoom outs from a point on the ground have become somewhat de rigueur – I don’t think you’re allowed to operate a phone company unless you’ve used at least one in your advertising.
Though “Powers of Ten” wouldn’t claim not to have its own predecessors. Filmmaking couple Charles and Ray Eames made an earlier prototype version of the film in 1968 (no better jumping off point than an after-picnic nap was discovered in the nine years between), basing it on the book Cosmic View by Dutch educator Kees Boeke which used illustrations and essays to explore the universe in macro and micro scales. That book was also the basis for another 1968 short film from the Film Board of Canada called “Cosmic Zoom.”
The Eames have a fascinating body of work (Attention Must Be Paid candidates?). In short films and art but also a big hand in influential trends in design and architecture through the Eames Office. Their contribution to lounge chairs alone got them into the Museum of Modern Art. Success in design shouldn’t be surprising – they clearly possess eyes for detail as well as the big picture.