media blog

December 10th, 2010

Arnheim’s Artful Advice

Posted by kwildermuth in

The Gold Rush is a silent, black and white film starring Charlie Chaplin.  He’s stranded in bad weather, the snow and eventually falls upon a log cabin.  Theorist Rudolph Arnheim approved of this film and found it appealing.  This is because, he strongly believes our visual perception is the primary way of thinking, understanding the world, rather than using language. Sound distracts from “visual beauty.”  In this film we can see that the silent laughter in The Gold Rush is much more effective than if sound was used.  The opening of the mouth provides a highly vivid artistic expression, an interpretation of laughter.  Visual arts provide a common ground for studying visual perception.  His book, entitled Film as Art, described this visual field.  Arnheim believed “less is more” and film as an art, represents reality itself.  The Gold Rush is (somewhat) realistic to him because there is the manipulation of lighting effects, slowed motion and editing.  However, film is nothing more than the mechanical reproduction of real life. Ultimately, Arnheim thought the “essence” of cinema was included in silent filmmaking.  We are more focused on the simplistic artistic use in The Gold Rush. Arnheim enjoyed watching Chaplin’s acting abilities on camera.  The plot is understood by the audience because of his actions.  He’s seen carving a boot to eat, and his hallucinations through camera editing.

There is no such thing as “film art,” because it’s not painting although it’s used artistically.  Making something “visual” that is in fact not visual, actually strengthens the effect.  We fill in the gaps and interpret the meaning without sound.

The Sound vs. Silent barrier:

“For if a man is heard speaking, his gestures and facial expressions only appear as an accompaniment to underline the sense of what is said.  But if one does not hear what is said, the moving becomes indirectly clear and is artistically interpreted by muscles of the fact, limbs and body.”  – Arnheim

1. projection
2. depth
3. ability to manipulate lighting
4. absense of color
5. ability to manipulate time
6. reliance of vision to the other senses
7. framing

There is only such thing as art form to Arnheim – if it seperates it’s trying of being reality. His interpretations are old and we see many color and sound films in our day. Arnheim doesn’t like sound nor color in films.

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