ANALYSIS OF CINEMA AS AN ART FORM: A Case Study


"A filmmaker isn't supposed to say things, he's supposed to show them."
Alfred Hitchcock 
                The most recent of all art forms to develop, cinema has taken the world by storm, captivation the minds of the sophisticated and the gross, the literate and the illiterate alike. It is the most variegated of all artistic forms, an art form in which the hardware is the product of science and the software that of individual and collective sensibilities. The discovery of ‘persistence of vision’, the magic lantern, the film roll of Eastman, the kinetoscope of Edison, the first true cinema projector invented by the Lumiere – brothers in 1895 – are all the products of science, the make – up, the sound tracking the acting and above all the directions requires talent and even artistic genius. This mingled celluloid yarn contains elements of fiction, drama, poetry, music, photography, and a host of other art, major or minor, Satyajit Ray rightly points out:
                "Today, the cinema commands the respect accorded to any other form of creative expression. . . . No matter what goes into the making of it, no matter who uses it and how – a producer for financial profits, a political body for propaganda or an avant-garde intellectual for the satisfaction of an aesthetic urge – the cinema is basically the expression of a concept or concept in aesthetic terms, terms which have crystallized through the incredibly short years of its existence."
                [Our Films Their Films]
                Again, like the other form of art, cinema as an art form has undergone enormous development, developments which correspond with modernist movements in fiction and poetry such as multiple perspective and stream of consciousness, symbolism and imagism. Only in cinema they are known by various other terms, terms sometimes borrowed form painting or photography, such as pasticine, college, montage, flashback, top shot, close-up, long shot, deep focus etc.
                That cinema is more than a mere technical achievement, that it is something more than 24frames a second that is a spectacular art, was revealed very early on. From its earliest days the power of the film to present fantasy and comedy by the use of ingenious camera tricks was recognized. Cinderella was made in 1899 A Trip to the Moon in 1920.
                In 1903 Edwin Porter made The Great Train Robbery, a straight forward story of how a gang of thieves held up and robbed a train. This simple film established the power of the screen to tell in terms of action and expression a strong, simple, dramatic story . this was the era of the silent films. And the most spectacular or silent films were created by Griffith. The Birth of a Nation is the earliest form of grand cinematic spectacle. The wide range of the film about the American Civil War, with its sweeping panoramic scenes, peopled, as a theatre stage could ever be with hundred of actors. No less momentous was Intolerance. The vivid, clear development of the story, the telling use of close-up, the building of suspense, the sweep of the whole affair, in these Griffith proved himself a master Chaplain made a unique blend of tragic comic pantomime through enduring masterpiece as The Gold Rush, ‘a film endearingly familiar and inexhaustibly fresh’, and a host of other films such as those of the Russian Pudovkin and Eisenstein such as Battleship Potemkin and Iron .
                 After this, in the 1930s arrived the era of the talking picture. The coming of sound upset the jigsaw pattern of film making. From the technical and aesthetic of view sound created many problems. The camera becomes immobilized in a sound – proof booth and the essentially mobile nature of screen art was lost for a while. Garbo, who was then the top star was whispered to have a bad speaking voice. Chaplain did not want to talk at all. Keaton retired. The entire school of visual comedy found itself in jeopardy, as Hollywood had no use for pantomime. But one immediate good effect was that it gave films a boost which in turn helped the industry to survive the Depression. The problems, too, were overcome. Lubitsch showed that if one had a story and a song, one could weave the two to have a work of art. Though some still regretted the passing of the silent screen, it was probably more than compensated for in the opportunity given by sound to employ great players from the stage, and great writers and playwrights. These was indeed a time when Sir James Barrie, Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, Somerset Maugham were working in Hollywood in the same studio. Another effect of sound was to take away some of cinema’s universality and replace it by an element of regionalism.
                One of the first masterpieces – other than Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Modern Times - was a mordant satire on the French aristocracy of the time. It is noteworthy for its rare density, its ability to reveal several layers of meaning at once, as well as its use of ‘deep focus’ for the first time. The second to use deep focus extensively was Orson Welles’s classic Citizen Cone in which the director wished to ‘spare no detailed’ in his ruthless study of an American tycoon. Italian cinema came to the forefront with De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, the perceptive study of an ordinary man’s plight. But the real revolution comparable to that of Henry James and Joyce rolled together – occurred with Godard, the veritable new god of film making. Godard’s form and content are a unity presenting some aspect of contemporary. European youth journalist, soldier, prostitute, working girl, intellectual – caught in the whirl of modern living. He is the first director to have dispensed with the plot – line. His is a collage of story tract, newsreel, reportage, quotations, and allusions, commercial short and straight TV interviews – all related to a character pr a set of characters firmly placed in a precise contemporary milieu. Masculine – Feminine opens in a restaurant where a boy and girl, sitting twenty feet apart strike an acquaintance, and continue to talk inaudibly, since there is heavy traffic on the street outside even though a murder is being committed. Although this might at first seen implausible, on second though one realizes this to be moral real. As a recent critics note, ‘The development of language from Griffith to Godard n films is roughly equivalent to that from Chaucer to Joyce in English literature – ‘a matter of 600years as against 60 in the cinema’. The latent cinema has become more permissive and uses ‘fragmentation’, a modish cinematic device which chops up a scene or a statement. The latent technical developments have made scientific films such as Jurassic Park or Hitchcock’s suspense films like Psyche, Spielberg’s horror films such as The Exorcist, or animated films such as Arabian Night a wonder – evoking reality.
                Indian cinema, beginning with Harishchandra, has today attained fame or notoriety as the second largest producer of cinema in the world. But the over all artistic standard has been a subject, since the successful Bollywood films are all make – believe airy – fairy, razzle – dazzle, song and dance sequences, having little contact with imaginative reality. After from a few films such as IPTA’s Dharti ke Lal or Bhuban Shome or Uday Shankar’s Kalpana, very few artistic films existed in the 50’s. Satyajit Ray gave Indian film a new sensitivity and stays with Pather Panchali, the first ‘intimate’ film about rural Bengal, and with such imaginative extravaganza as Gupi Gaine Bhaga Baine, and followed it up with such acclaimed films as Ghare Baire with its open ending and Aguntuk with its mysterious arrival and departure. Other directors, Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghosh etc. followed in his wake, but have not yet succeeded in amalgamating art and commercial success in the manner that Ray did. But the new wave Indian cinema seems to have better days ahead as perceptive view-less are on the increase.

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