Film Directors: A Revolution

In ” Film Directors: A Revolution”, Dziga Vertov is very interested in the way cinema interacts with the audience. A main point made throughout the entirety of the essay is that the “cinematic eye” is different than the human eye and has the ability to show an audience much different things than a human eye can. The essay is separated into numbered parts totaling at 5 separate sections. The First section entitled 1 is calling for the ” emancipation of the film-camera, which remains wretchedly enslaved, subordinated to the imperfect, undiscerning human eye”( Vertov 258). The most important thing to Vertov is that the film camera has unlimited potential to be perfected, whereas the human eye has very set boundaries, therefore the film-camera should be treated differently and not try to mimic a human eye. In section labeled 2 Vertov describes essentially how montage fits into this idea of camera eye, deliberately saying that it is the camera’s responsibility to forcefully transfer the spectators eye to the details it wants to be focused them to be focused on. In the third section Vertov addresses cinema’s  ability to play in space and time which results in a constructed reality. Again he hits on the ability of montage to influence this reality, he uses the shot of a room as an example. The room is made of 12 walls filmed in various parts of the world, but the shots are arranged in an order to make a room pleasing to the audience’s eye, even though the room is manufactured and dependent on shot order ( Vertov 260). The fourth section is interesting because he deliberately recognizes the mechanility of the camera, but he believes this mechanility allows the camera to be in perpetual motion and to be able to “contrast any points in the universe”( Vertov 260). The fifth and final section offers a contrast between the cinema-eye and the human-eye, setting it up as if the two are in contrast to each other. Vertov states that the “cinema-eye, which disputes the visual presentation of the world by human eye, and presents its ” I see!” ( Vertov 262). I guess  the question I have for Vertov involves this concept of the separate “cinema-eye.” Vertov suggests that the “cinema-eye” is able to direct attention and focus of an audience and he even personifies it in section 4, ” I creep up on them, I climb onto them, I move alongside the muzzle of a running horse…” ( Vertov 260). Is this  a different form of identification than what Balazs suggested in his essay? Or does Vertov believe identification is not necessarily meaning the camera is our eye and montage is enough to create this identification? How i understood Vertov’s view was that we are sharing the camera’s viewpoint, it is not necessarily sharing ours, so we are essentially the camera, which is why he could have used personification.


Balazs and The Creative Camera

In Bela Balazs first essay on the creative camera, Balazs challenges the notion that film is only a photographic reproduction of a “histrionic performance. “Balazs describes how what we actually see on film is not exactly what we would see if we had witnessed the scene being filmed in studio, there is a certain presence that film does not just ” reproduce but produce, and through which it becomes an independent, basically new art after all”( Balazs 126). A new psychological effect is achieved through the means of changing distance, the detail taken out of the whole, the close-up, the changing angle, and the cutting ( Balazs 126). This new psychological effect is identification, we see through the characters eyes, we feel what the character feels, we essentially become that character for the length of the film. Balazs interestingly points out that the characters on-screen “see with our eyes” which is just a different way to look at identification I believe. To me it means that not only do we see through the characters eyes on screen through the lens of the camera, but the characters are in turn seeing through our eyes because our eye is the camera and that is the only viewpoint they also have. Balazs feels that identification” has never been present in any other art form, so it is film’s ” artistic novelty”( Balazs 127).  Does Balazs believe that the “mechanical” era of cinema is over, or is it implied that it will never be totally over because the mechanical aspects of film must be manipulated and used in order to elicit identification?  He puts a lot of emphasis on cutting, close-up, changing angle, all things that are actual mechanical aspectsa and movements of the camera with the ultimate goal of identification, mentioned in paragraph 3 on page 126.

Germaine Dulac and the Avant-Garde

In the article by Germaine Dulac entitled, ” The Works of the Cinematic Avant-Garde: Their Destiny before the Public and Film Industry”, what avant-garde is to Dulac and how it interacts with what she deems “commercial cinema” is outlined. Dulac gives her working definition of avant-garde as, ” any film whose technique, employed with a view to a renewed expressiveness of image and sound, breaks with established traditions to search out, in the strictly visual and auditory realm, new emotional chords” ( Dulac 653). This seems to be a condensed definition, but Dulac goes on to explain that another fundamental quality contained in avant-garde cinema is that it posses’ the “seeds of the discoveries which are capable of advancing film toward the cinematic form of the future” (Dulac 653). Essentially an essential part of avant-garde cinema is an emphasis on advancing cinema as an art, often times ignoring what a potential audience would desire and even having an outer surface that some may deem “inaccessible” or impossible to interpret. The antagonist to avant-garde cinema( concerned with artistic advancement) is commercial film. Dulac defines commercial film as films whose main concern is to reach the public and turn as large of a profit as possible( Dulac 653). Dulac also gives a timeline of cinema and the stages of development it has gone through. Stage one was cinema was thought of as a photographic means to show literal mechanical movement of life. Stage Two was that a certain accepted rhythm was born out of the pacing of images in order to convey a narrative, less emphasis on mechanical.  The third stage was the birth of the “psychological film” , films that examined thoughts, feelings, etc. of characters. This is when she says avant-garde activity began to take place. Dulac seems to be make a similar point to Epstein, that movement is important to the essence of cinema.She says ” to strip cinema of all those elements which did not properly belong to it, to find its true essence in the understanding of movement and visual values: this was the new esthetic that appeared in the light of a new dawn”( Dulac 655). This to me means that true avant-garde cinema intends to draw out emotions based not on learned narrative rhythms, but on the emotion that can be drawn directly from the images. The idea of cinema as a ” network of sensations to experience and to feel” without regard to story is interesting, but is it possible to have a film that does follow a story, but still envelops the viewer in the sensations of experience and feeling? Or is it not possible because with a story present most viewers will look passed the sensations of the images and attach themselves directly to the events of the story?  

ENG 330- Sample Practice Question

In the Epstein 1 section an excerpt from Jean Epstein’s, Le Cinema et Les Lettres Modernes, is used to compare poetry and cinematic strategy. In the essay Epstein goes through a series of bullet points in which he discusses how both poetry and film each use whatever “aesthetic” the bullet point is referring to. These list of aesthetics includes aesthetic of proximity, suggestion, succession, mental quickness, sensuality, metaphors, and momentary aesthetics ( Epstein 275). Epstein argues that modern literature and modern cinema are hurting the chances of continued success of theater. An interesting thing that Epstein seems to harp on in a few different aesthetic bullet points is that the physicality and visceral rawness that film is what causes it to appeal to more people than theater. In bullet point A, the Aesthetic of Proximity, Epstein says, ” compared to the drama of muscles moving in close-up, how paltry a theatrical performance made of words.” Epstein seems to put great emphasis on the the physicality of film, especially close-ups. In the bullet point aesthetic of sensuality, he again says along the lines of “what is the point of platonic flowers when the audience is looking at a face illuminated by forty arc lamps”( Epstein 275). Epstein seems to be insinuating that some subtly of sensuality can be lost through the images of film. Does Epstein’s argument  implying that film avoids using dialogue and verse as much as theater and literature and instead focuses on the physical side of movement etc ring true today? Proof could be in the existence of the disaster genre where the goal is basically destroy as much and as big of things as possible, basically no dialogue or story needed, all kinetic motion.