Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rudolf Arnheim


Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007) eventually became more famous as a scholar in the fields of art and art history, largely abandoning his theoretical work on cinema. He was a revolutionary figure in film studies, best known for his landmark book on silent cinema Film as Art. However, his later aesthetic theories on form, perception and emotion should play an important role in contemporary film and media studies.
The contributors bring Arnheim’s later work on the visual arts to bear on film and media, while also reassessing the implications of his film theory to help refine our grasp of Film as Art and related texts. The contributors discuss broad range topics including Arnheim’s film writings in relation to modernism, his antipathy to sound as well as color in film, the formation of his early ideas on film against the social and political backdrop of the day, the wider uses of his methodology, and the implications of his work for digital media.Abizarre series of fictitious technical innovations that he had dreamed up. These included: A special camera that filmed scenes in 5 languages at the same time – the camera was equipped with optical filters to select those elements that were compatible with different countries’ tastes; and the film was developed using developing solutions flavoured with tomato sauce for the Italian version, ‘bouillabaisse’ for the French, Bavarian beer for the German, and tea for the English; A technique of recording sound on a thread, for editing by a dress-maker or tailor; The Erotoscope, a telescope that radiated invisible ultraviolet rays, through which aspecial guardian was able to discover any violations of public morality in the cinema during the projection; the guilty had to pay a fine, according to the gravity of the offense;  The discovery of a film bacterium that infected the audience and led to ‘screen-phobia’ – the abhorrence of film screenings – which after further two weeks of incubation becomes ‘screen-mania’, resulting in a considerable weakening of the pa-tent’s cash resources; in the third stage of this disease, the subject experiences an irresistible desire to become an actor, director or production manager; Arnheim also reported the invention of the close-up, or rather, of the conceptual notion of ‘close-up’. The Italian for close-up is ‘primo piano’, which means. Not only ‘foreground’ but also, and literally, ‘first floor’: the ‘primo piano’ was invented by an elderly woman called Emilia Close upper in her old house. Beyond the humorous dimension of this enjoyable article, its sarcastic – even sardonic – tone shows ascertain resistance to innovations and implies a critique of “talkies” (that is, to the introduction of speech), censorship, star-mania, and formalistic style. At the same time, the article extols the “wonders” of technique and implies a challenge to it: technology must be used to achieve a more artistic result, rather than mechanically reproduce reality.

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