Feb 22

“the complete film” well what is the complete film? If you talk about art, I think that there has to be more then just one aspect of the picture that has to be looked at. Arnheim makes three categories for films: silent, black and white with sound, and color and sound. He then says that sound destroys the film. I think that he has completely missed the boat on what art in film is. In class I brought up three examples, one from each era, and how they all can be considered art. The Birth of a Nation made cinema what it is today. The use of the close up, iris and other key tools revolutionized storytelling. My next example would be Citizen Kane, where the deep shot was invented. Here another brand new tool was used to help further the art of cinema. This year we have Avatar, which again has made new achievements in film, with the 3D spectacle. Raging Bull, one of my favorite films, has unique forms of art in it, I would argue, with its camera shots and acting. Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, and Avatar all have sound yet they are all extremely artistic as well.
Arnheim says “The introduction of sound film must be considered as the imposition of a technical novelty that did not lie on the path the best film artists were pursing” I think the message that he is sending is a little over the top. His argument that sound will distract you from viewing the entire mis-en-scene may be valid, but I think sound adds so much to the film. With sound you can learn more about the characters, and the plot of the story. Sound effects make a horror film scarier. Love songs help set the mood in romantic films. I think Arnheim completely misunderstood how sound could be used in an artistic way.

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9 comments so far

  1. 1 lschwartz100
    12:03 pm - 2-23-2010

    Hey Cooper
    I see what you are saying that sound enhances a film. I think that is true for some films. Some films put a lot of emphasis on sound, which definitely draws me into the movie. But, I was thinking of being a devil’s advocate and saying what if sound does ruin a film. Think of someone who is blind. When one of the five senses is gone, it enhances the other senses. A man that can not see, is able to hear and feel much more than the average person. So with no sound in film, there is noting to distract you from the visual art being displayed. There is nothing else on your mind that the picture in front of you.

  2. 2 msbeatty
    2:33 pm - 2-25-2010

    While I can’t say I agree with Arnheim on the merits of the situation, he was right in predicting that the introduction of sound and color to film would mean the end for both black and white and silent films. Which is sad, really. There is, really, (with very few exceptions) no space for black and white or silent films today. The art that was specific to the first quarter-century of filmmaking has been lost. I love sound film, and I am a color fetishist, but the innovations of the film industry soon became mandatory.

    And speaking of Avatar, I wonder if we’re seeing a similar situation nowadays regarding 3D.

  3. 3 David Cooper
    5:27 pm - 2-25-2010

    I’ll have to disagree with you on that one. I have a perfect example. This years The White Ribbon is winning tons of awards. It just won the Golden Globe, won at Cannes, and probably will win an Oscar. And it’s black and white. Also there was Sin City that was mostly black and white and that worked. As for sound, I think those days are gone, we’re much to reliant on it to follow a plot for a film to be without it, so with that I’ll have to agree with you.

  4. 4 msbeatty
    4:23 pm - 2-26-2010

    As much as we all love Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon has hardly torn up the box office. Black and white has been relegated to art house circles, with very few exceptions. Sin City was a mainstream film, but its aesthetic was really its selling point. In a few mainstream films like Shindler’s List, or in flashbacks in others, B&W seems to be used to evoke the past.

  5. 5 David Cooper
    5:27 pm - 2-26-2010

    ok. i hear you.

  6. 6 Stephanie
    1:17 pm - 2-27-2010

    Matt- You refer to the art of the early cinema as being lost– I think you might find Andre Bazin’s article “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema” from What is Cinema? interesting…

    David- What about films that limit their use of sound? Like Antonioni’s L’Avventure or Albert Lamorisse’s Le ballon rouge? Both do employ some sound and dialogue but not like Hollywood films and they’re both easy to follow. The lack of sound is an aesthetic choice…

  7. 7 dana318
    12:46 am - 3-3-2010

    I agree with what you said about not understanding the film from class. It was hard to follow but I feel that as I actually started to pay attention to some of the deeper aspects to it, it came together in a sense. If it is the sense the film maker intended, i’m not so sure. I do also have to agree with you on the argument of stage vs film actors. A live performance has so much emotion compared to certain film performances. Not to say that there arent any valid performances in film, but I find it easier to connect with what an actor is feeling when they are putting their heart and soul into a performance instead of what they editing room has created for them.

  8. 8 jarrodlabine
    11:20 am - 3-6-2010

    Nice article concerning Arnheim. Though I think Arnheim may be a little misunderstood, because when he says “The introduction of sound film must be considered as the imposition of a technical novelty that did not lie on the path the best film artists were pursing.” I think he was afraid of how quickly the technology was being created, and feared that certain artistic ideas would be lost with the ushering in of sound. Also, I think that it is true that directors in a way become a little lazy with sound. Though “sound effects make a horror film scarier”, the absence of sound can play an integral part in manifesting our own notions of fear. Unfortunately, too many directors have relied on sound to tell a story that the director is incapable of telling without a pop song montage. Yes, romantic comedies use songs to describe falling in love or breaking up, but its become so cliche and redundant that it almost seems like directors have found no NEW ways of expressing these ideas. Shooting a film with no sound, forces the director to be creative in the way that he tells a story through a visual medium. I’m by no means insisting that sound does not enhance a film, but that we should be aware that technical progress can move quicker than the realization of the different ways to use that technology in different and clever ways.

  9. 9 strategy
    8:33 pm - 3-5-2014

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