Monday, March 14, 2011

Kracauer - Theory of Film

Kracauer, Siegfried. Theory of Film; The Redemption of Physical Reality. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960.

As the subtitle suggests, Kracauer believes the essential aesthetic appeal of film is its ability to record and reveal reality. It thus follows in the fashion of photography, adding the critical aspect of movement to photo's stillness. Kracauer argues for a broad definition of art to allow for media, such as painting, which explores imagination to its fullest extent along with film and photography, which reveal reality to us.

He positions Melies's imagination as the antithesis to Lumiere's thesis, brushing aside Melies's commercial success as appealing to the demands of the public, not necessarily using film to its fullest aesthetic potential.

Kracauer also engages with experimental film from avant-garde. These gravitate toward the spirit of modern painting or literature, which smothers reality. However, he does acknowledge the debt film in general owes to experimental in terms of cinematic devices.

Kracauer compares the film to the novel in terms of their efforts to render life in fullness, as well as their aspiration of a sense of endlessness ( in time beyond the beginning or ending of the story, and in space beyond the world portrayed within the story). He also notes certain novels are easier to adapt: those in which the plot and character development occur through action rather than exposition of mental thoughtlife of characters.

Key term
formative - the aspects of film which the filmmaker can use to adjust the reality of what is being recorded...because the formative aspects of film far exceed those of the photographer, the filmmaker may push the bounds of the art all the way towards abstraction. Kracauer, needless to say, doesn't love this.

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