What Is A Film? An Observer's Viewpoint

                          Analyzing a film, I think is, perhaps, more difficult than that of any other arts. Since its beginning in the days of the Lumiere brothers, the film has grown, retraced its steps, sprung in different directions at the same time, been hampered and impeded on all sides, in the most remarkable way. No medium of expression calls for a wide variation of technical accomplishment as does the film. Nowadays few facts are actually put on record concerning films that it is quite conceivable that a time may come when such important pictures as Metropolis, M, or even The Godfather will be but names at which future generations will wonder. 

                          Furthermore, even to see a film is not necessarily to observe all its values. Few percent of movie-goers are watching a film from a viewpoint of a observer. The difficulty to observe a movie has started and been intensified way back, when they introduced synchronized dialogue and its accompanying sound. The loss to the visual image whilst the audience is trying to understand the dialogue must be great. The critic himself is inclined to fall under the power of the story, and another and more impartial viewing is necessary in order to appraise the numerous technical values. Furthermore, a critic, sometimes feels totally inadequate to convey the emotions excited by a film. I can approach these emotions from some examples, but it is still beyond the power of my literary descriptions to convey the mental and physical performance of a character. 

Transmutation of Other Arts

                    It has been admitted that the silent film is essentially an independent form of expression, drawing inspiration from other arts. With choreography it shares the power of movement; and with painting, mental communication through eye. The later dialogue films suggests comparison with the stage and its power of speech. Aesthetically, dialogue is in direct opposition to the medium, unless pure sound as distinct from the human voice is utilized from an impressionistic point of view. 

                   But all art, whether painting, sculpture, music, poetry, drama, or film, has at base the same motive, which may be said to be the creation of a work in the presence of which an observer or listener will experience either pleasure or pain as the mood of the work demands. Whether the spectator be highly cultured or not, provided the creator of work has expressed clearly in his medium, the appeal is the same though the power must vary in accordance with the mental receptivity of the spectator.

               For a film, it is this receptive power of the audience as a group, which the Americans or our Indians are trying to calculate, in order to render a work of art a popular success. 

Dissecting The Emotions of A Audience

                      It should be remembered that the resources of the cinema, by which the good directors seek to gain their effect on the minds of the audience, act unconsciously. An average audience is naturally not expected to appreciate or even to become conscious of the montage of shots that appear before him on the screen, but he cannot help himself reacting to their content if they have been employed correctly. 

                    There has not been as yet, however, any scientific inquiry into the emotional effect produced by films on the public. It is well known that the simplest effects on the human mind imply the most subtle causes, being much more difficult to achieve than complex effects.  

                  Charlie Chaplin alone is a superb example of the individual appeal to the public. He has taken the trouble to think how and why audience throughout the world react to his individuality. All Chaplin films are brilliant instances of timing that have been effected only by analysis of the human mind.

                   A film is primarily a dynamic pattern or rhythm (achieved by the editing and cutting) imposed on nature. It is governed pictorially by the creation of visual images. Music and synchronized sound, used in counterpoint, heighten the emotions of the spectator aurally and subconsciously. It is said that "Art is not truth, it is not nature; it is a pattern or rhythm of design imposed on nature." And, I claim, this dynamic mental pictorialism called a film,  is the most expressive art available to-day to a creative artist.


வருணன் said...

" And, I claim, this dynamic mental pictorialism called a film, is the most expressive art available to-day to a creative artist.

Not just today, but forever Cinema will be the most creative art form, just because it embraces every other forms of art.

A nice article on cinema. Hope comments would've poured in if the writing style had been a little more simpler than what it is now. What say you pal?

Ruchi S said...

A great write up!

Tanny said...

Mental receptivity of the spectator definitely matters to any form of art.

Succinct, thoughtful and very well knitted words. Absolutely brilliant !!

Arun Kumar said...

@Joe anna, Thanks for the comment. Yeah, the post is kind of abstract and a bit more complex.

@Ruchi S, Thank you.

@Tanny, Thanks for those fine words. Keep visiting.

Anonymous said...

Well written :)!

Would love to see more of these maybe an entire article dedicated to silent films :)

Anonymous said...

The world exists through the abstraction of our senses. How we experience the world is not controlled by the five senses. It is controlled by how we organize the sense data in our minds. This organization, which can be called poetry, is the only thing that is concrete. Film just has the advantage of appealing to all five senses at once. Poetry on the other hand is organization at a fundamental level. So, the highest praise given to any film is to call it poetry by organizing all the sense data.

Arun Kumar said...

@Divenita, Thanks for the comment. I am right now trying to write something on Silent films.

@Spriglief, Thanks for the comment. Keep visiting.

Anonymous said...

It is a good thing that sound was added later. It allowed the art of moving images to develop independent of words. It is no accident that many of the original actors came from the stage. The elements of the stage translated to silent film. But, film was more emotionally close. For instance, the camera could concentrate on the face or the hands, up close.
In my earlier post, I said film appealed to the five senses. This is not true. Really film appeals to sight and sound. Touch, taste, and smell, are still as much imagined for the film viewer as they are for a reader of poetry. But even for sight and sound, the artist must still give organization to his sense data so it can be translated by the emotional and rational minds of his audience. With computers this is called programing.
Take for instance the smile. Most people have good feelings when they see a smile from their programing. But, I would not recommend smiling in a cage with a gorilla. His programing will see the teeth and view it as a sign of aggression. This is also true in prisons and male dominated military organizations. There, most keep a more neutral and stoic expression when around superiors. Mona Lisa’s smile shows sexual aggression without the teeth. That is artful. An effective film director has to be as artful from frame to frame.

Jerly said...

very well explained!