Film Theory 341w Blog Journal (Week 2)

Rudolf Arnheim was an early film theorist who much like Munsterberg, was vastly interested in the idea of perception and visualization. Arnheim was greatly opposed to the use of sound and color in the cinema. This was due to the fact that he felt those two properties would cause a distraction to the art form aspect of the film, rendering the visual secondary to the films sound. Arnheim had a strong disliking for films that portray realism. He believed that the only movies worthy of his attention were silent productions in black and white. The visual component of a film is what stood out the most to Arrnheim. He believed film like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis should be viewed and studied because of its artistic prowess.

One of Arnheim’s favorite cinematic stars was Charlie Chaplin. He enjoyed Charlie Chaplin a great deal. Although most of Chaplin’s films would be interpreted as realistic films, he still found Chaplin to be extraordinary. One film that Arnheim discusses is The Gold Rush, starring Chaplin. The film had many features constituting a realistic nature, but Arnheim adored it anyway. Why was this so? Arnheim believed film was art. Not all film, but he did believe film should be viewed as a proper art form. What Charlie Chaplin did on the screen and to the world of cinema was in fact “Art.” He didn’t need sound or color to get his point across. Humor was/is a universal entity. Chaplin was a genius in the eyes of Arnheim. Sound and/or color would have taken something positive out of a Charlie Chaplin film, I’d have to agree.

Arnheim believed that there were several things that make a film unique by the addition of unrealistic aspects. He believed the ability to manipulate lighting, depth, time, the absence of color, projection, and the ability to inhabit effective framing were all key elements to a productive worthwhile film.

Arnheim has some very valid points regarding cinema. From 1900-1929 I could understand how a film theorist would argue the innovative nature of sound and color, and view them as intrusions to a popular art form. Amidst the 21st century we see Arnheim’s early views of cinema as preposterous because of our love for modernized cinema. If the average moviegoer was around to witness the creation of film in the early 1900’s would you have taken the side of sound or silent cinema? This is a topic we as film students will never truly comprehend.

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