The word “art” is usually used in at least two senses. In one, it simply means craftsmanship, for example, in cases where we are talking about the art of making clay pots or the art of sewing clothes. In this sense, no one will dispute the legitimacy of the expression “art of cinema”; you can invest a lot of skill in creating even the most stupid movie.
However, the word “art” has a different meaning, for example, when we talk about the art of music or poetry, and when we call the works of art by Shakespeare’s “King Lear” or “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony”. In these cases, it clearly means much more than technical prowess, and it is advisable, before we summarize, to resolve the question of how legitimate cinema is considered art in this sense.
Many would be inclined to completely deny this right to him. They would point out that a movie is basically a photograph and it captures only what already exists besides it; they would emphasize the mechanical nature of cinema. Agreeing that there is an opportunity in editing, manipulating various pieces of film, to place them in a certain relationship, they would argue that the creative possibilities of simple assembly are extremely limited.
None of the artists, they would say, cinema provides the opportunity to create from nothing, to create works that are the product of a pure imagination game, like Cezanne created them on a blank canvas, or Michelangelo who carved from a shapeless block of marble, or Shakespeare who recorded a swap creations on a sheet of blank paper in front of him.
But what exactly does “pure imagination play” mean? Does any artist really create from nothing, from emptiness?
Civilization and culture develop with the growth of human ability to streamline the seeming randomness of the world. A man uses this ability primarily consciously and deliberately, focusing on the objective aspects of our life experience common to all of us and drawing the conclusions that become the basis of science and philosophy. On the contrary, the artist deals not only with the conclusions that can be drawn from the accumulated life experience through conscious reasoning, but also with his personal reaction to this experience – the reaction of a full-fledged human being.
Everything that exists appears before us in a state of continuous movement. There is nothing permanent, sustainable. Everything flows, everything changes, in some cases at a tremendous speed, in others – so slowly that it is barely noticeable; Of course, this is equally true in relation to the mind of man and to the world that he observes.
A person’s life experience is like a continuous stream of different kinds of different kinds of impressions moving in chaos of which a person stares all the time, looking for signs of meaningful relationships. “A man,” wrote Shelley, “is like an aeolian harp: he responds to a number of impressions of the external and internal order, just as the blows of an ever-changing wind, sliding along the strings of an aeolian harp, transmit their impulses to them and extract an ever-changing melody. But man, and maybe all creatures gifted with the ability to feel (unlike the harp), have the ability to organize sounds and movements caused by external impressions, to create not only a melody, but also harmony. ”
A great poet, any great artist is a person full of passionate love for life, armed with enormous life experience. He is not satisfied with what can be obtained by careful analysis using only conscious thinking. With his whole being, he consciously and subconsciously, by thinking, feelings and emotions, disciplined and sharpened, by zealous service to his art rushes into chaos full of movement; and there, catching a fleeting impression of what is full of meaning or beauty, he tries to convey and immortalize them with the means of his art.
But does all of the above have anything to do with the movie?
Yes, a direct relationship! When we talk about the art of cinema, we do not just fool ourselves with a loud phrase, but really mean art. First of all, all the aforementioned refutes the argument that cinema cannot be considered art on the grounds that the possibilities of the creator of the film are reduced to the fact that he arranges fragments of sounds and moving images in a certain order and thereby creates some interconnections. It is in this ordering and arrangement of elements taken from life that the creative process in any art consists.
All that remains to be solved is the question of how diverse and complex are the connections that can be shown? What are the possibilities of this art in depicting the most mild and elusive perceptions of a great artist? If a child is offered to sew bright colored patches on a piece of canvas, he arranges them in the order that seems beautiful to him. The result of his work is a form of self-expression, although extremely limited.
The elements that the composer creates are also simple, but not so: at any given moment he can control the sounds of his work with regard to their pitch, timbre, harmony (separate chord), volume and duration; but by constantly varying these elements, he can create a highly sophisticated and easy-to-hear musical pattern. The word “complex” refers to the degree of its saturation with content.
In this respect, cinema is like music. The image unit of the film – a separate frame – as we already know, carries some possibilities for choosing the shooting point, lighting and length; however, the expressive capabilities of one frame are strictly limited. The situation is completely different when the rows of editing frames successively replace each other.
The Soviet directors in their silent films to some extent showed what impressive and deep results can be achieved by transitions from one frame to another. The range of these experiments expanded with the introduction of sound, which not only brought unlimited possibilities arising from its nature, but also made it possible to create new, precisely calculated connections between visual images and sound.
Is it possible to imagine any visual or auditory impression, real or imaginary, that could not be expressed by means of cinema art? From the poles to the equator, from the Grand Canyon to the smallest crack in a strip of steel, from the whistling flight of a bullet to the slow development of a flower, from a flashed thought on an almost dispassionate face to crazy insane delirium – is there any place in space, the size of an object or the speed of movement that are within the limits of human perception, which could not be shown by means of cinema? But this is not limited to the possibilities of cinema. It has the same freedom in handling its material.
Cinema can interpret it in a naturalistic and objective way, on the one hand, or subjectively on the other, moreover with a realism that is not available to any other means of artistic expression; it is able to adhere to any point of view lying between these two extremes. Based on the murderous experiments that were carried out in the early films (they demonstrated angels with wings and a halo, impressed by double exposure, ghosts, etc.), it could be assumed that there is an area that lies beyond the scope of cinema, namely, the field of dreams and fiction. However, Jean Vigo and others convincingly showed that, relying on editing, on the interconnection of successive frames, as well as replacing the logic of reality with free dream associations, this state can be reproduced with brightness embarrassing the viewer.
Color cinema and television open up new possibilities that remain to be explored; There are also signs that the stereoscopic film is also close to implementation. These improvements will enrich the cinema with new sources of expressive means, although they are unlikely to lead to any significant innovations in the film industry.
The addition of color, for example, was much less important for the movie than the appearance of sound. The interest in television is largely supported by the fact that events can be seen at the very moment when they occur; however, such events, by virtue of their nature, cannot be foreseen or changed in advance, and this is their interest.
But since creative work requires the ability to dispose of the raw material of real life, the producers of television programs, trying to creatively use their expressive means, are especially inclined to resort to the technique of cinema art; and this is the best way to make filmed film.
As for stereoscopic cinema, some expressed concern that it would lead to the loss of existing freedom of editing, since a quick and continuous change of viewpoints would be a serious obstacle to obtaining a complete illusion of reality. The author does not have such fears, and he believes that introducing a new dimension into the cinema will make it possible to achieve even more diverse and exciting forms of motion than can be obtained now.
To what extent are these opportunities used now? The fact that the film is able to tell a story so as to lull the viewer’s distrust of what is happening on the screen is completely obvious. As for the plot, which E. M. Forster defines as “the lowest and simplest kind of literary organism”, interest in it is extremely elementary: it is nothing more than interest in “what will happen next”; and when it becomes known, interest fades immediately. The vast majority of films, including many that are above the average level, have a single goal – to tell a story, which explains why they are not interesting to watch a second time.
However, as history becomes more complex, the question is “what?” begins to give way to the question “why?”. Links to cause and effect are added to a simple alternation of events.
Events begin to cast their shadow on the future; what is shown as happening here is a direct result of what happened elsewhere. The storyline, barely distinguishable at the beginning, develops towards the end with increasing clarity; in short, the intrigue (if you can use this battered stamp in a somewhat new sense) is complicated. The question is “why?” already turned not only to what is happening, but also to those who act and to whom this action is directed – to its participants.
Why does he (she) act or oppose in this way? Considerations regarding the motives of behavior and reactions of the actors are inevitably associated with their characters, and the more questions we ask about the plot, the more open and convincing the characters become; playing puppets, we turn into thinking, sentient living beings. We urge them to express themselves more fully and, while complicating the picture of their relationship, thereby giving greater scope for the use of expressive means of our art, trying to get closer to the limits of its capabilities.
The highest limit in fiction regarding complexity, wealth and significance, I believe, has reached Shakespeare’s plays, especially his greatest tragedies. Using this highest criterion available to us, let us answer bluntly and without compromise to the question:
“Can cinema, since we are able to analyze its capabilities, rise to the level of Shakespeare?”
The author has no doubt that it is able to reach this level and even rise above it. “Now that I have finished Deserter,” Pudovkin wrote in 1933, “I am sure that sound film is potentially the art of the future … it is a synthesis of each and every element – verbal, visual and philosophical; in our ability to convey the world in all its outlines and shades in a new form of art that inherits and survives all other arts, for it is the highest artistic means of expression that we can show today and tomorrow. ”
To this I add the words of Eisenstein: “The prospects for cinema are inexhaustible. And I am firmly convinced that we used only a tiny fraction of these opportunities. ”