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Film as an art based on myths


MacLean's concept of the triune brain: logic, instinct, emotion
Walter Murch Film-maker
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There are times when emotion rules the roost, and these two other operating systems have to follow along behind. And there are times when logic rules the roost, and the other two; emotion and instinct, have to take a slightly backseat. And then there are other times when emotion... instinct, reaction rules, and the other two things have to follow along behind.

This is all part of the research that was done by [Paul] MacLean, who was a doctor at the National... a neurologist at the National Institute of Mental Health in the middle of the 20th century. He died only recently. But the concept of the triune brain, that the brain is a nested series of operating systems that are effective at different times in our life, depending on the situation. And it's an efficient way to work. And it also is, kind of, necessary, because it's rare that evolution can afford the expense of reverse engineering something that is already in place. We have five fingers because ancient fish had five fingers. Maybe it would be better for us to have seven, but we don't have the time to work that out. It's just... it works. It's well... it's good enough. And so, in a sense, this is the neurological equivalent of that. Although, obviously, neurology is much more flexible.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: National Institute of Mental Health, Paul MacLean

Duration: 1 minute, 37 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017