The telescope allows great conclusions to be drawn at great lengths. Edwin Hubble proved that the universe was expanding. I’ve always been impressed by how much we have been able to surmise, being so far away from the rest of everything.
Observation from a distance is clearly relevant in the life of a filmmaker. It is often a valuable tool in searching for the truth. Stealing a moment, rolling when no one knows that its happening or counts. The wide shot, as we know, is undervalued in the mainstream, but quite alive elsewhere throughout.
There’s also the principle of aesthetic distance – between the viewer and the fantasy. It serves as a fourth or fifth dimensional depth of field to play with. One can draw the distance close or one can pull far away. Consider Brecht, who favored a greater distance. The idea that the more the audience is urged to self-reflection rather than simple empathy for the events depicted leads to a greater form of catharsis – one that can extend beyond the work itself. I tend to agree that emotion, facial expression, relating to characters, can often be irrelevant to a truly powerful cinematic experience. Consider 2001. Perhaps that is why I despise the patronizing term “character piece.”
And finally, there’s distance in mentorship. For a time, I sought a mentor for my craft. But true learning in this career: of the construction, of the tools, of the purpose and of the politics, has come from a great distance. Watching films, reading books, watching others succeed in various ways, and trying to learn from afar. Like the astronomer, I am isolated by my current position but still have the tools to understand the greater picture from where I stand.