Good movies change people’s view of the world all the time, but how many can say a movie has fundamentally altered their vision forever? One person who can is Bruce Bridgeman. In terms of how he sees the world, there is life before Hugo, and life after Hugo.
On 16 February this year, Bridgeman went to the theatre with his wife to see Martin Scorsese’s 3D family adventure. Like everyone else, he paid a surcharge for a pair of glasses, despite thinking they would be a complete waste of money. Bridgeman, a 67-year-old neuroscientist at the University of California in Santa Cruz, grew up nearly stereoblind, that is, without true perception of depth. “When we’d go out and people would look up and start discussing some bird in the tree, I would still be looking for the bird when they were finished,” he says. “For everybody else, the bird jumped out. But to me, it was just part of the background.”
All that changed when the lights went down and the previews finished. Almost as soon as he began to watch the film, the characters leapt from the screen in a way he had never experienced. “It was just literally like a whole new dimension of sight. Exciting,” says Bridgeman.
But this wasn’t just movie magic. When he stepped out of the cinema, the world looked different. For the first time, Bridgeman saw a lamppost standing out from the background. Trees, cars and people looked more alive and more vivid than ever. And, remarkably, he’s seen the world in 3D ever since that day. “Riding to work on my bike, I look into a forest beside the road and see a riot of depth, every tree standing out from all the others,” he says. Something had happened. Some part of his brain had awakened.