Thursday, 24 March 2011

Analysis of 'Film Theory' Excerpt

In this analysis, I will be looking at chapter 1, 'Cinema as a Window and Frame', page 22 of 'Film Theory'. I will be outlining the themes and general messages that the Authors, Thoams Elsaesser and Maltie Hagener were trying to convey to the reader.

In the first paragraph the Authors write;

"It is the viewer's aptitude of creating a Gestalt (to assemble a number of disconnected sense impressions into a whole that is larger than the sum of it's parts) that endows film with the status of art."

I view this as part of the reason that film can be made into art is that a viewer can only see severval unrealted things in a film and draw conclusions as to their purpose within the film bringing them together to essentially create a individual and unique perspective in a scene. Much like with paintings, when critics analyse paintings they'll try bring together as many elements in a piece and explain how that the placements of that element or method of it's execution relate to the feeling of a piece. Thus making film comparable to art as each scene in a film is designed to envoke a feeling but often things are placed as props but people could develop their own meanings to the reasons why props are placed as they are or the way a scene is shot.

From there the Authors elabourate on this;

"Put differently: the cognitive act of combining disparate data and sensations from within a shared frame is fundamental premise for our understanding of film."

Here the auhtors are trying to highlight as well as these disconnected aspect being a part of the reason film can be considered art, they're also trying convey that it is this process of joining these componenets to make aspects of the film more than what could have been intended by the Director or writer part of the experience of watching a film. That much like books and music it is a person personal perspective and opinion of scenes and choice made in their construction that makes the experience of viewing a film and understanding the very nature of what a film is.

Next the Authors talk about "The Frame" and it's importance to watching a film;

"Here the frame is more a perceptual constraint and cognitive task then a transparent plane giving access to the world."

Here they draw attention to the frame, the very nature of cinema in that everything the viewer sees occurs in a rectangle field of vision in which they cannot see around in. It focuses their attention on what is happening in a precise spot in the fictional world that the film is taking place. They cannot leave the room that the characters are in and explore whats happening elsewhere, the viewer is confined to the event happening before then. They make the comparison to a real window as when you look at the window in your bedroom you can go out into the world you see, feel it's breeze and hear it's sounds where as in film you cannot.

The next issue to be addressed is the authenticity of films;

"If film were to affect the spectator in the same way as a complete sensory encounter with the world, i.e. spatial, colourful and acoustic, then it could not be distinguished from reality itself and would amount to no more than it's mechanical double."

This is the authors going more indepth into what distinguishes a film from the real world, essentially saying that if a film could mimic the real world whilst telling the story of the character but include things such as the ability for a viewer to move around the realm in which the film is taking place it would be no different to everyday life where a person can sit and watch the stories of people unfold. It's the aspects that are taken away from real life that makes a film what it is, the forced camera angles, swelling soundtracks, this is all part of the magic of the film and espacism, if film was identical to real life noone would be interested and it wouldn't be able to amount to art. Art can be considered an expressionate imitation of life, but if it's a duplicate there no personal expression in there.

The Authors explore deeper into this theme;

"Film as art depends on the creative intervention of an artist, with mechanical duplication serving merely as it's means of production."

Once again they return to the theme of art as film, noting that it's the guiding hand of an artist/director that seperates it from real life. They refer to the "mechanical duplication" as the equpiment used in filming, the cameras, the special effect, the sound management but al of this is guided by the director/producer/artist who has a desired vision of how his take on a story should be done. This point is doubley valid if the setting for the film is contemporary with no fantastical elements that do not belong in our reality (i.e. dragons, spaceships etc). Much like in christianity where an all powerful god has control over the purpose of everything in the world, the artist has control of everything that will happen in his world, when viewers watch nothing has happened by chance but it is all premedatated and each element has it's purpose, without this intervention it wouldn't be art.

The authors begin to draw referance to Rudolf Arheim and the early days of film, citing that the less components that emulate our reality the more artistic the work is;

"The lack and absence (of colour, of naturalistic sound, of three-dimensionality) that posed the artistic challenge of the new Medium...
...This new technological addition was over whelmingly used in a naturalistic way (as it was win the "talkies"), it moved film merely toward a reproduction of reality."

In this section they're reciting the views of Arheim, in that the artists viewed the constraints of filming at the time to add to the challenge of creating art from the work, where as the technological advancements were doing a diservice to the medium of film as an art form. As mentioned previously some view the process of art as imitation of life with an expressionate intervention from the artist. Part of the challenge of creating films in the early days of the medium was getting it to replicate life without duplicating, Arheim clearly felt that with each advancement replication would become less important as duplication was becoming easier, taking away artistic merit from the process of making a film.

The Authors continue to look at Arheim's veiws on technological advancements in film;

"In his view, sound film was the result of an unacceptable compromise between two incompatible art forms (silent film and radio drama)."

Arhein clearly felt that by melding the two together you get something that is too close to a duplication, perhaps too upset at technological advancements Arheim
felt that they only way one or the other could reach artistic merit is if one of the two mediums were lacking in certain elements that seperated them from duplication of reality (i.e. radio has no image so it must use sound effects and lengthy description from the players to build the image in peoples minds, where as film was the opposite). It is possible though unlikely this was the way Arheim felt and could not realise that it's the mere act of directing and presentation of a fil that seperates it from life and reality.

The final quote I'll analyse is this;

"The Frame as an element of abstraction from everyday reality."

This relates back to a previous analysis, here they're highlighting that it is the existence of the frame that seperates it from our reality, it is a window from which we can only see a forced angle from. We cannot pass through or interact, we cannot warm characters of their impending demises nor assist them in times of peril. We can only sit and watch, the barrier stops us from interfering with the artist's world but it also stops the artist's world from reaching out and physically hurting us, instead it can only reach us on an emotional level and it is that which seperates film from reality, it is the artist's choice of content and the way it is presented to envoke an emotion in us. When watching a film we can not be physically touched but emtionally moved and it is the power of an emotional movement that merits a film as art.

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