Saturday, February 12, 2011

Arnheim - Film as Art

Arnheim, Rudolf. Film As Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.

"Film is a medium...that may, but need not, be used to produce artistic results." (8) Arnheim then proceeds to lay out the various ways this may be accomplished.

Basic Elements of Film (Chapter 1)
Projection of solids (3D) upon a plane (2D) surface - camera can show from various angles
Reduction of depth - make things bigger or smaller, crop an image...the limit of the audience's vision to what the camera chooses to examine
Lighting and absence of color - determines how much or how little is perceived
Delimitation of the image and distance from the object - framing, lens
Absence of the space-time continuum - editing
Absence of the non-visual world of the senses - possible for the mind to create sensory effects in absence, such as smell of incense from image of Catholic church service

Artistic Uses of these Elements (Chapter 2, selected examples)
Projections on plane (44-45)
  1. Unusual angle
  2. Striking artistic effect which draws new observations out of familiar
  3. Attention of the viewer to whether the object is normal or abnormal
  4. Camera interprets the object for the viewer (drawing attention)
Lighting and absence of color - limit of black and white is similar to limit of depth in that it gives artist more potential to create - symbols (light and dark), use of shadows.

Delimitation of picture and distance from object - similar to photography. Close-up. Control of audience's attention.

Absence of space-time - montage (94-98
  1. Cutting - shots, scenes, within a scene
  2. Time Relations - synchronism (simultaneous events), before/after
  3. Space relations - same place, different place
  4. Subject relations - similarity, contrast, combination of similarity and contrast
Absence of nonvisual senses - moving the camera, art of pantomime, power of silence,

Other capacities of film - mobile camera, backward motion (experimental), accelerated, slowed, still photos, fade in/out/dissolve, superimpositions & simultaneous montages, lenses, manipulation of focus, mirror images

Content of the Film (Chapter 3)
Acting - stylized to get point accross to action, but not excessively so
meaning & invention - much more than just language

Other stuff
Basic technical properties of film: 1.) reproduces objects faithfully, 2.) reproduces motion and events faithfully. It is the 2nd feature which has made it a fundamental break from photography. It shows changes in time (whereas the best photography can do is show bluriness.)

1935 essay on television - an improvement on radio as film is an improvement on photography

1938 essay on recorded dialogue - troubled by problems dialogue has introduced to art of film. Distraction from image, distraction from pace of the film.

Interesting Quotes
65 - "An audince demands the greatest possible likeness to reality in the movies and it therefore prefers three-dimensional film to flat colored to black-and-white, talkie to silent. Every step that brings film closer to real life creates a sensation. Each new sensation means full houses. Hence the avid interest f the film industry in these technological developments."
154 - "...sound film is not only destructive [of the forms that the film artists were using] but also offers artistic potentialities of its own." He goes on to ask, "What will the color film have to offer when it reaches technical perfection?"

Key Terms
"partial illusion" - the acceptance of "the screen world as being true to nature" (15) as how the audience is not put off by black and white film. It's only partial, because the camera can, to a varied extent, project reality.

The Morgan Memorial "Deja Vu - You've Seen this Before"
Mast refers to Arnheim and builds explicitly on his ideas throughout Film/Cinema/Movie.

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