Less than two hundred years ago people could only dream of the moving pictures we’ve taken for granted. I found it funny that people expected film to fit the role of a better camera, such as taking still time lapse videos of a flower blooming, focusing mainly on the natural capturing of an event on physical media or the content instead of what form the film presents the content in. They could have never expected the amount of control we express through the properties of film. Kracauer presents two groups of properties pertaining to film; there are basic components that cover film’s role as a means to capture the surrounding world, and there are technical properties to film that concern themselves with our manipulation of the images captured to present another world to audinces that differs from what’s filtered through the lens(Kracauer, pp.144-145). Kracauer believes editing to be an important and distinct technical property of film and I agree, namely because it grants filmmakers the ability to play with the meaning carried behind it. This reminded me of the example discussed in class where the scene of rich, well-dressed oligarchs eating a meal could go from hungry fine dining to voracious and pig-like by cutting to a scene of pigs eating slop from a trough and back to the people gorging on wine and steaks. The properties of film yield two tendencies of the medium, realistic and formative. Early film mainly capitalized on the realistic tendency and focused on the capture of natural movement (Kracauer, pp.145-148). Kracauer gives us the Lumière brothers as an example of this. Their works mainly focused on the capture of movement other than the camera’s, which Kracauer calls “external or ‘objective’, motion” (Kracauer, p.149). Lumière focused little to no effort in telling a story and tunneled into the capture of natural scenes’ movement as his contribution to film (Kracauer, p.146). Lumière’s popularity soon declined, and Méliès brought something quite different to the scene (Kracauer, pp.145-146). Méliès brought the realm of fantasy to film, with various works featuring landscapes that could never occur or an artistic perspective of something similar to reality (Kracauer, pp.146-148). This is where the two tendencies split. The realistic tendency convinces audiences that the scenes they’re seeing come from the natural world, and scenes are staged in such a way that not only conveys an appropriate meaning as intended by the film maker but captures the essence of being real. Opposed to this is the formative tendency, which reaches into dimensions unique to film and the way film makers can bend away from the realistic tendency and present something distinct from what’s possible to see with the naked eye (Kracauer, pp.148,150). I gathered that the realism tendency does not refer only to the capture of real-world elements, and the formative tendency is not only concerned in fantasy and Kracauer supports this as both are often interrelated and cross over each other in various films (p. 151). A shining example of this is James Cameron’s Avatar. Although it presents us an imaginary future where we encroach on the natural resources of blue humanoid aliens who live on a planet home to bizarre creatures, the world is presented in a way that would mimic a camera capturing it if it really existed. In the video down below, we’re presented by these floating rock structures that breathe life through them. Of course, these rocky tendrils are unnatural, but the rocks themselves are jagged and cracked, and the vines clinging all around them look like they took centuries to grow. Through the use of CGI, this imaginary world was made a reality, and no detail was spared in order to create a sense of ‘realism’.
This distinction between content and the form it’s presented in is made apparent also in art. I’ve included two trees down below, one tree lives in the realm of realism, and the other comes from the impressionist style. Notice how the realistic tree focuses detail more on the actual content, such as the light bouncing off the water or the individual blades of grass. The impressionist painting contrasts this, by focusing more on detail such as the density of paint and the type of brushstroke used for different elements of the scene. Although these two images present to us the same basic content, a tree in mid fall overlooking a body of water, how we experience them are entirely different. It’s through form developed from countless years of experimentation that artists and filmmakers alike can make an audience feel their intent.