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?

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