What You Will

Another Burma Shave billboard on the information superhighway. Random thoughts about arts, faith, culture, music, language, literature, and the shortcomings of the Hegelian dialectic. (OK, just kidding about that last bit.)

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2/20/2005

Theatre vs. Film!

Smackdown, Round 1

My friend Jeff Overstreet, writing in Image, has this to say about film:

[Filmmakers] organize what we see in such a way as to encourage the viewer to explore relationships between character, image, color, music, and camera angle. If they do their job well, the viewer comes away wanting to see the film again, to take a closer look. In this way, film is uniquely qualified to explore spirituality. More than any other art, it mirrors our experience in time and space. Reflecting our world back to us, it gives us the opportunity to reflect and revisit moments, slowly drawing back the veil.
I say that it's precisely this recursive quality of film, its non-ephemerality, that renders it unlike our experience in time and space. Yes, film pins the butterfly to the card so that you may analyze it. But I don't have to tell you what happens to the butterfly in the process. Not to say that film isn't "uniquely qualified to explore spirituality"—I'll give him that, as long as by "uniquely" we don't mean "best" or "most" or "exclusively." I dispute the "more than any other art" bit.

If you want an art form that mirrors our experience in time and space, I nominate theatre, which is not only viewed in real time but created in real time. Not only that, but theatre has the ephemeral quality of real-life experience that film lacks. No two performances of a play are exactly alike, and once the performance is over there's no way of rewinding it to watch it again—except in your own mind. Finally, film is mediated by the camera, the celluloid, the screen. Theatre, on the other hand, is about as immediate as the arts can get.

What do you think?

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael Crowley said...

I would disagree with the statement that film is uniquely qualified to examine life and spirituality. I believe no art form is more or less uniquely qualified to examine our lives than any other art form. Theatre does have the unique quality of being created right in front of an audience, with precious few barriers in between the audience and the experience, but viewing a painting in a gallery has the same immediacy of experience, as does listening to a symphony or other concert. All art, regardless of medium, reflects some part of our experience back to us if we are receptive to it. Film simply has the advantage of being the dominant visual medium, along with television, in modern culture, that's all.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Oh, I agree. That's essentially what I'm trying to get at here. Whatever film's unique qualities might be, they do not make it more unique or more qualified than other art forms. I think we find it easier to attend to film than to other forms, but that hasn't always been the case. I'm sure you've heard the anecdotes about people leaping out of their seats to avoid being struck by the locomotive during screenings of The Great Train Robbery, for example. And there used to be serious debate over whether film was even properly considered an art form.

I pray that film's popularity doesn't kill off the ability to pay attention to other kinds of art.

11:03 PM  

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