Gessler, Nicholas (gessler@ANTHRO.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU)
Thu, 14 Apr 1994 22:52:00 PDT

All this talk of palindromes reminded me of some other time reversals which
I've found cleverly strange, and somewhat more immersive than reversing
letters in written phrases. They might be called palindromic speech and
behaviors. I've seen it twice, and now kick myself for not have noted
the film and television productions that included it. If anyone can provide
the full citations, videotape, or other examples, I'd very much appreciate it.

THE FIRST was a short scene in a firehouse complete with firepole, in
something of an adventure-comedy-spy film. Two actors were walking through a
room gesturing and talking, seemingly fully engaged with one another.
Their behavior seemed a little strange, but grew to a climax when a dog
walked through the scene backwards. The scene was shot in one take - so
there were no editing tricks. How was it done? Have the actors go through
their actions in reverse, the uncooperative dog "acting" forward. Run the
film backwards and dub in forward speech.

THE SECOND was a bit more sophisticated, featured in one of David Lynch's
television episodes of TWIN PEAKS. The sets were all draped in sheets, the
actors clothed similarly. The dialog was difficult to comprehend and the
movements were somehow wrong. It all contributed to a feeling of surrealism
and unreality. How was it done? My guess is that the actors not only went
through their actions in reverse, but rehearsed speaking their lines
phonetically in reverse as well. When the film was shot and itself reversed,
one saw a forward moving world again, but it was a world containing the
artifacts of two time reversals. The tendency towards entropy would of
course run the wrong way. And the acoustic envelopes of speech would of
course be reversed (e.g. plosives would start softly and build quickly to be
abruptly cut off).

Perhaps I should have written this text backwards, but I thought I'd spare

Nick Gessler <>