The Photoplay eBook

Hugo Münsterberg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 156 pages of information about The Photoplay.

This unity of action involves unity of characters.  It has too often been maintained by those who theorize on the photoplay that the development of character is the special task of the drama, while the photoplay, which lacks words, must be satisfied with types.  Probably this is only a reflection of the crude state which most photoplays of today have not outgrown.  Internally, there is no reason why the means of the photoplay should not allow a rather subtle depicting of complex character.  But the chief demand is that the characters remain consistent, that the action be developed according to inner necessity and that the characters themselves be in harmony with the central idea of the plot.  However, as soon as we insist on unity we have no right to think only of the action which gives the content of the play.  We cannot make light of the form.  As in music the melody and rhythms belong together, as in painting not every color combination suits every subject, and as in poetry not every stanza would agree with every idea, so the photoplay must bring action and pictorial expression into perfect harmony.  But this demand repeats itself in every single picture.  We take it for granted that the painter balances perfectly the forms in his painting, groups them so that an internal symmetry can be felt and that the lines and curves and colors blend into a unity.  Every single picture of the sixteen thousand which are shown to us in one reel ought to be treated with this respect of the pictorial artist for the unity of the forms.

The photoplay shows us a significant conflict of human actions in moving pictures which, freed from the physical forms of space, time, and causality, are adjusted to the free play of our mental experiences and which reach complete isolation from the practical world through the perfect unity of plot and pictorial appearance.



We have found the general formula for the new art of the photoplay.  We may turn our attention to some consequences which are involved in this general principle and to some esthetic demands which result from it.  Naturally the greatest of all of them is the one for which no specific prescription can be given, namely the imaginative talent of the scenario writer and the producer.  The new art is in that respect not different from all the old arts.  A Beethoven writes immortal symphonies; a thousand conductors are writing symphonies after the same pattern and after the same technical rules and yet not one survives the next day.  What the great painter or sculptor, composer or poet, novelist or dramatist, gives from the depth of his artistic personality is interesting and significant; and the unity of form and content is natural and perfect.  What untalented amateurs produce is trivial and flat; the relation of form and content is forced; the unity of the whole is incomplete.  Between these two extremes any possible degree of approach to the ideal is shown in the history of human arts.  It cannot be otherwise with the art of the film.  Even the clearest recognition of the specific demands of the photoplay cannot be sufficient to replace original talent or genius.  The most slavish obedience to esthetic demands cannot make a tiresome plot interesting and a trivial action significant.

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The Photoplay from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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