April 06, 2006

R. Arnheim - 20 Good Reasons Why Film is Art

According to Rudolf Arnheim,
Film, London: Faber&Faber, 1933.

1. EVERY OBJECT MUST BE PHOTOGRAPHED FROM ONE PARTICULAR VIEWPOINT
Applications:
(a) View which shows the shape of the body most distinctively.
(b) View which emphasises some particular characteristic (e.g., worm's-eye view, indicating weight and forcefulness).
(c) View which rivets the spectator's attention by its unexpectedness.
(d) Surprise effect due to the concealment of what lies behind (Chapling sobbing; no!- - mixing a cocktail!).

2. OBJECTS APPARENTLY PUT BEHİND OR BESİDE ONE ANOTHER BY PERSPECTIVE
Applications:
(a) Unimportant objects are made invisible by being wholly or partly covered, important objects are thereby emphasised.
(b) Surprise effects by the sudden revealing of what had been concealed by something else.
(c) Optical swallowing-up-one object comes in front of another and obliterates it.
(d) Connections indicated by perspectival arrangement (convict and prison bars).
(e) Decorative plane effects.

3. APPARENT SİZE. OBJECTS NEAR THE FRONT ARE LARGE, AND THOSE BEHİND SMALL
Applications:
(a) Emphasizing of individual parts of an object (feet thrust towards the camera come out huge).
(b) Increase and decrease of size to make balance of power visible. Hence - - possibility of altering the relative proportions of size.

4. DISPOSITION OF LIGHT AND SHADE. AB SENCE OF BRIGHT COLOURS

Applications:
(a) Moulding the form of the object at will by the placing of lights and shadows.
(b) Bringing into relief, grouping, arrangement, concealment, by the disposition of light and shade.

5. LIMITATION OF THE SİZE OF THE SCREEN

Applications:
(a) Selection for the theme of the picture.
(b) Detail shots and complete ones.
(c) Surprise effects. Some object suddenly comes into the picture from outside, which was always present, but had been but off by the margins of the screen.
(d) Increase of suspense: the centre of interest lies outside the picture (for example, only the effect of it on someone is seen).

6. DISTANCE FROM THE OBJECT IS VARIABLE AT WILL

Applications:
(a) Long shots; close-ups.
(b) Position can be chosen which will give the best possible view of an episode (or object) (a pin, a mountain).
(c) Relativisation of proportions (doll's house-human house).

7. ABSENCE OF SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM

Applications:
(a) Showing beside (and among) each other, episodes that are separate in time.
(b) Juxtaposition of places those are actually separate.
(c) Giving the characteristic features of a scene by showing selected portions of it.
(d) Combination of things whose connection is not one of time and space but only ideal (symbolic).
(e) Imperceptible montage. Illusion of (fantastic) reality (sudden appearances and disappearances, etc.).
(f) Rhythm of the sequence of shots by 'short' or 'long' montage, etc.

8. ABSENCE OF SPACE ORIENTATION

Applications:
(a) Relativisation of movements: the static moves and vice versa,
(b) Relativisation of space coordinates (vertical, horizontal, etc.).

9. LESSENING OF THE FEELING OF SPACE AND DEPTH

Applications:
(a) Strengthening of perspectival alterations in size (cf. point 3).
(b) Strengthening of perspectival connections in the plane (cf. point 2).

10. ABSENCE OF SOUND

Applications:
(a) Stronger emphasis on what is visible; as, for instance, on miming.
(b) Qualities and effects of unheard sounds specially brought out by their being transposed into the sphere of optics (revolver shots—birds rising).

11. THE CAMERA CAN BE MOVED

Applications:
(a) Representation of subjective impressions such as falling, rising, swaying, staggering, giddiness, etc.
(b) Representation of subjective impressions such as the individual being always the centre of the cosmos (i.e., of the plot).

12. THE FILM CAN BE PROJECTED BACKWARDS

Applications:
(a) Reversal of the direction of movements.
(b) Reversal of processes (fragments join to make a whole object).

13. ACCELERATION

Applications:
(a) Visible acceleration of a movement, or an episode; change in the dynamic character (to symbolise bustle).
(b) Compressing periods of time (the breathing of flowers).

14. SLOW MOTION

Applications:
(a) Visible retarding of a movement or episode; change in dynamic character (laziness, gliding).
(b) Lengthening of periods of time *showing more clearly events that pass very rapidly).

15. INTERPOLATION OF STILL PHOTOGRAPHS

Applications:
Arresting movement with a jerk, rigidity (Lot's wife).

16. FADING IN AND OUT, DISSOLVING

Applications:
(a) To mark breaks in the action.
(b) Subjective impressions: waking up, falling asleep.
(c) Stronger contact and coherence between two pictures by dissolving one into the other.

17. SUPERIMPOSITION

Applications:
(a) Chaos, confusion.
(b) Indication of connections by the position of objects.
(c) Indication of symbolic connections.
(d) Taking liberties with reality (doubles).

18. SPECIAL LENSES

Applications:
Multiplication, distortion.

19. MANIPULATION OF FOCUS

Applications:
(a) Subjective impressions: waking up, going to sleep.
(b) Production of tension by gradual exposition ('appears slowly').
(c) Directing the spectator's gaze to the back or foreground.

20. PHOTOGRAPHING REFLECTING SURFACES

Applications:
Destroying, distorting an object (or the 'world').

From Rudolf Arnheim, Film, London: Faber&Faber, 1933, pp. 129-133.

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