The Complete Film by: Rudolf Arnheim

In the essay “The Complete Film” by Rudolf Arnheim, Arnheim examines the effect that color and sound  film is going to have on cinema and how this will effect the film forms he considers to be artistic. In the beginning of the article it seems as though Arnheim outlines his dis-like as well as his disapproval of the sound/color film. He first lays out why the color film came about, why it will be popular, and why he dis-likes it. He discusses when sound film was introduced and the effect it had on the silent film to speculate as to the effect the color film will have on Black-and- white films when it is introduced. ” The introduction of sound film smashed many of the forms that film artists were using in favor of the inartistic demand for the greatest possible “naturalness”( in the most superficial sense of the word) ( Arnheim 212). Arnheim then speculates on what color film will do for limitations, ” Will color film ever allow us to achieve a similar compositional precision, a similar independence of “reality?”( Arnheim 212). Arnheim believes that film’s artistic quality does not lie in that it is able to produce incredibly accurate reproduction of reality, so I believe he is in opposition to this idea of “complete film.” I interpreted complete film to be in reference to color and sound films. Arnheim discusses that “complete film” is necessary due to the fact that the public historically is interested in mediums that can closely replicate reality ( Arnheim 214). Film is economically dependent on the public therefore “complete” films will be the norm, and Arnheim says ” Some work of good quality can be smuggled in but it does not compensate for the more fundamental defeats of film art” ( Arnheim 214). This idea of the public calling for more complete representations of nature leads Arnheim to the conclusion that the “complete” film will supplant all other aesthetic forms of film because it will be considered superior in the capacity of imitating nature (Arnheim 215).    My question would lie in what Arnheim defines reality as when he references an independence from it. In his previous essay it seemed as though reality to him was perception or angle of things shown on screen which changed meaning. In this sense is the independence of reality he is talking about the ability of film to alter the perspective of the viewer which in turn alters meaning? Then would this new meaning be a new “reality” brought to us by perspective? Or is he purely referencing actual breaks from “naturalness” like the obvious lack of color or the lack of sound?


Inherent Affinities by Siegfried Kracauer

In Inherent Affinities by Siegfried Kracauer, Kracauer outlines how film shares four of its five affinities with photography, but the fifth affinity is unique to film as a medium. The first affinity explained by Kracauer is ” The Unstaged.” In this section Kracauer suggests that film, ” notwithstanding its ability to reproduce, indiscriminately, all kinds of visible data, gravitates toward unstaged reality” (Kracauer 300). Kracauer suggests that “staging” makes a film less cinematic when it does not evoke a sense of reality. The second section is ” The Fortuitous” and as I interpreted it Kracauer believes that film relies a lot on pure chance, which he relates to the idea of chance in real life by using the example of the street. ” ..Within the present context of the street, which has already been characterized as a center of fleeting impressions, is of interest as a region where the accidental prevails over the providential, and happenings in the nature of unexpected incidents are all but the rule” (Kracauer 301).  Kracauer associates the unexpectedness of nature with the unexpected and seemingly random events that happen in movies to lead characters down a certain path. the third section is “Endlessness”, this is the idea that “film tends to cover all material phenomena virtually within reach of the camera” ( Kracauer 302). The fourth section is the ” Indeterminate” where Kracauer touches on the pyschophysical correspondences to film and a basic editing principle that requires two considerations and is linked to psychophysical correspondences. The fifth section and the section that Kracauer says belongs purely to cinema is ” The “Flow of Life”.” The idea behind the flow of life is that ” cinematic films point beyond the physical world to the extent that the shots or combinations of shots from which they are built carry multiple meanings. Due to the continuous influx of the psychophysical correspondences thus aroused , they suggest  reality which may fittingly be called “life””( Kracauer 304).   He again uses “the street” to illustrate what he means by this. ” The street” is not necessarily just an actual street, it can be somewhere with a flow of indiscriminate people. The “life” of the street comes from its flow of possibilities and intangible connections made seemingly at random. Kracauer believes that film can picture this uncontrollable flow, ” It remains an unfixable flow which carries fearful uncertainties and alluring excitements” ( Kracauer 306). I guess my question applies to this idea of “flow of life” and how Kracauer seems to be very interested in film showing a heavy bias towards film showing life how it actually is. I might have missed it but does Kracauer “flow of life” theory allow for created flows of life within the a film? Would it be considered “cinematic by Kracauer’s definition to create a realistic flow of life for the screen or does it have to mirror reality? I am thinking in terms of something like Star Wars where a realistic flow of life is created, visiting Mos Eisley Cantina, walking through the city, but it is totally placed in a fantasy world.  The usual trappings of life are there and are believable, it seems like a plausible way of life for the time period the movie has set. Or is this too “staged” and then when not be dictating reality so therefore not show “flow of Life” or even be considered cinematic by Kracauer?

Siegfried Kracauer Basic Concepts

In Siegfried Kracauer’s essay entitled Basic Concepts he gives a brief overview of the history of film and its relation to photography. He also explores how film is evolving, he splits the tendency of film into two categories, Realist and Formative. When comparing film and photography he makes a careful distinction that his ” preceding statements about photography also hold true of the cinematic medium; but they do not apply to it mechanically or go far enough to exhaust its potentialities. Elaborations and extensions are needed” ( Kracauer 291). While recognizing the similarities between photography and film Kracauer seems to put this section in here to head off arguments based around the mechanism’s of either medium and even says that film has further possibilities. Kracaeur explores the different sides of film through two early directors, Lumiere and Melies. Lumies he describes as a “strict realist” and he describes Melies as a director who ” gave free reign to his artistic imagination”( Kracauer 292). He describes the realistic tendency of film of being able to go beyond photography in two aspects. First, ” they picture movement itself, not only one or another of its phases”, Second, ” Films seize upon physical reality with all its manifold movements by means of an intermediary procedure which would seem to be less indispensable in photography-staging”( Kracauer 295). He also goes on to say the formative tendencies of film have a wide array of opportunities way above the amount available to photography. Kracauer seems to lean towards the idea that film should show real life and everyday events. He says they must ” they must record and reveal physical reality” ( Kracaeur 297) . This quote falls under the section entitled ” The Cinematic Approach” and is followed on a subsequent page with the quote ” All these creative efforts are in keeping with the cinematic approach as long as they benefit, in some way or other, the medium’s substantive concern with our visible world”( Kracaeur 298). He declares that that a good balanced is achieved when “the latter( formative) does not try to overwhelm the former but eventually follows its lead”( Kracaeur 298). It seems as though Kracauer puts a lot of emphasis on what makes a film “cinematic” being that it displays real life in some way. Does he not see this as limiting to what film is capable of? Or is he just trying to draw attention to the fact that films like documentaries can be/should be considered art along  avant garde cienema, maybe even be considered more artistic?  I may be mis-reading, but it seems like an attempt to portray the real is a basic part of “cinema” which is a lot different than what previous authors have discussed as being “artistic cinema.”

Eisenstein and the Filmic Fourth Dimension

In the ” Filmic Fourth Dimension” essay by Sergei Eisenstein, Eisenstein outlines and provides evidence for why a fourth dimension exists and can be accessed through film and the correct use of montage. Eisenstein first defines what he considers orthodox montage. He defines orthodox montage as ” montage on the dominante, i.e. the combination of shots according to their dominating indications” ( Eisenstein 64). These dominate indications include tempo, chief tendency within the frame, length of shots, and he further says this is montage “according to the foreground”( Eisenstein 64). He discusses a new form of editing different from orthodox montage in regards to a film called “Old and New.” He declares that the film is the first one edited on the principal of the visual overtone( Eisenstein 68). This “visual overtone”  results in an increased physiological quality due to its use of “collateral vibrations which is nothing less than the filmed material itself”, as I understand it visual overtone seeks to actually have a physical effect on the viewer in the form of increased brain activity( Eisenstein 67). He goes into great detail about the actual physical handling, cutting, and piecing together that happens on the editing table. Eisenstein also says that “visual overtone” is an actual piece, an actual element of -a fourth dimension” ( Eisenstein 69). By using the word element I assume he is applying that the “visual overtone” cannot be broken into smaller parts and that it is a building block of this “fourth dimension.” As far as I can understand this “fourth dimension” as Eisenstein outlines it consists of movement in a space-time continuum through the use of “visual overtone” or physiological sensations, separate from the expressive effect gained from orthodox montage. An emphasis is put on ” I feel” instead of “I See” or ” I hear” , but then Eisenstein says “and from the  contrapuntal conflict between the visual and aural overtones will be born the composition of the Soviet sound film” (Eisenstein 71). Is he implying that this fourth dimension consists of only feeling, both sound wise and visually? If this is the case if a film truly delved into the fourth dimension wouldn’t the aural and visual overtones become one, just an overall sense of “feeling”?