The two preceding quotations are separated by many factors: almost half a
century of history, mode of address, circumstance, and level of formality.1 The
first appears in print, written by prominent film critic and scholar André Bazin
in a 1958 review, and addresses a hypothetical circumstance in a theoretical
mode: if one were to film a human death as it happened, that filming would
be obscene. The second is spoken by an anonymous, off- camera individual in
raw footage taken during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The hy-
pothetical has become actual, the theoretical has become practical, and a man
watching individuals jump to their deaths from a burning skyscraper chastises
a fellow witness who, like many, chooses to record that fearsome sight. In this
moment, a tension becomes starkly apparent between the expanding techno-
logical capability to record death and continued social prohibitions against
The representation of a real death is . . .
an obscenity. . . . We do not die twice.
andré bazin,
“Death Every Afternoon”
Don’t take pictures o’ that. Whattsa matter with you?!?
unidentified spectator of jumpers
from the world trade center on 9/11
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