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The Photoplay

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Title: The Photoplay
       A Psychological Study

Author: Hugo Muensterberg

Release Date: March 16, 2005 [EBook #15383]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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THE PHOTOPLAY

A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY


BY

HUGO MUeNSTERBERG



D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
NEW YORK         LONDON
         1916




CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER                                           PAGE

 1. THE OUTER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES     3
 2. THE INNER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES    21


PART I. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE PHOTOPLAY

 3. DEPTH AND MOVEMENT                              44
 4. ATTENTION                                       72
 5. MEMORY AND IMAGINATION                          92
 6. EMOTIONS                                       112


PART II. THE ESTHETICS OF THE PHOTOPLAY

 7. THE PURPOSE OF ART                             133
 8. THE MEANS OF THE VARIOUS ARTS                  155
 9. THE MEANS OF THE PHOTOPLAY                     170
10. THE DEMANDS OF THE PHOTOPLAY                   191
11. THE FUNCTION OF THE PHOTOPLAY                  215





INTRODUCTION




CHAPTER I

THE OUTER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES


It is arbitrary to say where the development of the moving pictures
began and it is impossible to foresee where it will lead. What invention
marked the beginning? Was it the first device to introduce movement into
the pictures on a screen? Or did the development begin with the first
photographing of various phases of moving objects? Or did it start with
the first presentation of successive pictures at such a speed that the
impression of movement resulted? Or was the birthday of the new art when
the experimenters for the first time succeeded in projecting such
rapidly passing pictures on a wall? If we think of the moving pictures
as a source of entertainment and esthetic enjoyment, we may see the germ
in that camera obscura which allowed one glass slide to pass before
another and thus showed the railway train on one slide moving over the
bridge on the other glass plate. They were popular half a century ago.
On the other hand if the essential feature of the moving pictures is the
combination of various views into one connected impression, we must look
back to the days of the phenakistoscope which had scientific interest
only; it is more than eighty years since it was invented. In America,
which in most recent times has become the classical land of the moving
picture production, the history may be said to begin with the days of
the Chicago Exposition, 1893, when Edison exhibited his kinetoscope. The
visitor dropped his nickel into a slot, the little motor started, and
for half a minute he saw through the magnifying glass a girl dancing or
some street boys fighting. Less than a quarter of a century later twenty
thousand theaters for moving pictures are open daily in the United
States and the millions get for their nickel long hours of enjoyment. In
Edison's small box into which only one at a time could peep through the
hole, nothing but a few trite scenes were exhibited. In those twenty
thousand theaters which grew from it all human passions and emotions
find their stage, and whatever history reports or science demonstrates
or imagination invents comes to life on the screen of the picture
palace.

Yet this development from Edison's half-minute show to the "Birth of a
Nation" did not proceed on American soil. That slot box, after all, had
little chance for popular success. The decisive step was taken when
pictures of the Edison type were for the first time thrown on a screen
and thus made visible to a large audience. That step was taken 1895 in
London. The moving picture theater certainly began in England. But there
was one source of the stream springing up in America, which long
preceded Edison: the photographic efforts of the Englishman Muybridge,
who made his experiments in California as early as 1872. His aim was to
have photographs of various phases of a continuous movement, for
instance of the different positions which a trotting horse is passing
through. His purpose was the analysis of the movement into its component
parts, not the synthesis of a moving picture from such parts. Yet it is
evident that this too was a necessary step which made the later
triumphs possible.

If we combine the scientific and the artistic efforts of the new and the
old world, we may tell the history of the moving pictures by the
following dates and achievements. In the year 1825 a Doctor Roget
described in the "Philosophical Transactions" an interesting optical
illusion of movement, resulting, for instance, when a wheel is moving
along behind a fence of upright bars. The discussion was carried much
further when it was taken up a few years later by a master of the craft,
by Faraday. In the _Journal of the Royal Institute of Great Britain_ he
writes in 1831 "on a peculiar class of optical deceptions." He describes
there a large number of subtle experiments in which cogwheels of
different forms and sizes were revolving with different degrees of
rapidity and in different directions. The eye saw the cogs of the moving
rear wheel through the passing cogs of the front wheel. The result is
the appearance of movement effects which do not correspond to an
objective motion. The impression of backward movement can arise from
forward motions, quick movement from slow, complete rest from
combinations of movements. For the first time the impression of movement
was synthetically produced from different elements. For those who fancy
that the "new psychology" with its experimental analysis of
psychological experiences began only in the second half of the
nineteenth century or perhaps even with the foundation of the
psychological laboratories, it might be enlightening to study those
discussions of the early thirties.

The next step leads us much further. In the fall of 1832 Stampfer in
Germany and Plateau in France, independent of each other, at the same
time designed a device by which pictures of objects in various phases of
movement give the impression of continued motion. Both secured the
effect by cutting fine slits in a black disk in the direction of the
radius. When the disk is revolved around its center, these slits pass
the eye of the observer. If he holds it before a mirror and on the rear
side of the disk pictures are drawn corresponding to the various slits,
the eye will see one picture after another in rapid succession at the
same place. If these little pictures give us the various stages of a
movement, for instance a wheel with its spokes in different positions,
the whole series of impressions will be combined into the perception of
a revolving wheel. Stampfer called them the stroboscopic disks, Plateau
the phenakistoscope. The smaller the slits, the sharper the pictures.
Uchatius in Vienna constructed an apparatus as early as 1853 to throw
these pictures of the stroboscopic disks on the wall. Horner followed
with the daedaleum, in which the disk was replaced by a hollow cylinder
which had the pictures on the inside and holes to watch them from
without while the cylinder was in rotation. From this was developed the
popular toy which as the zooetrope or bioscope became familiar
everywhere. It was a revolving black cylinder with vertical slits, on
the inside of which paper strips with pictures of moving objects in
successive phases were placed. The clowns sprang through the hoop and
repeated this whole movement with every new revolution of the cylinder.
In more complex instruments three sets of slits were arranged above one
another. One set corresponded exactly to the distances of the pictures
and the result was that the moving object appeared to remain on the
same spot. The second brought the slits nearer together; then the
pictures necessarily produced an effect as if the man were really moving
forward while he performed his tricks. In the third set the slits were
further distant from one another than the pictures, and the result was
that the picture moved backward.

The scientific principle which controls the moving picture world of
today was established with these early devices. Isolated pictures
presented to the eye in rapid succession but separated by interruptions
are perceived not as single impressions of different positions, but as a
continuous movement. But the pictures of movements used so far were
drawn by the pen of the artist. Life showed to him everywhere continuous
movements; his imagination had to resolve them into various
instantaneous positions. He drew the horse race for the zooetrope, but
while the horses moved forward, nobody was able to say whether the
various pictures of their legs really corresponded to the stages of the
actual movements. Thus a true development of the stroboscopic effects
appeared dependent upon the fixation of the successive stages. This was
secured in the early seventies, but to make this progress possible the
whole wonderful unfolding of the photographer's art was needed, from the
early daguerreotype, which presupposed hours of exposure, to the
instantaneous photograph which fixes the picture of the outer world in a
small fraction of a second. We are not concerned here with this
technical advance, with the perfection of the sensitive surface of the
photographic plate. In 1872 the photographer's camera had reached a
stage at which it was possible to take snapshot pictures. But this alone
would not have allowed the photographing of a real movement with one
camera, as the plates could not have been exchanged quickly enough to
catch the various phases of a short motion.

Here the work of Muybridge sets in. He had a black horse trot or gallop
or walk before a white wall, passing twenty-four cameras. On the path of
the horse were twenty-four threads which the horse broke one after
another and each one released the spring which opened the shutter of an
instrument. The movement of the horse was thus analyzed into twenty-four
pictures of successive phases; and for the first time the human eye saw
the actual positions of a horse's legs during the gallop or trot. It is
not surprising that these pictures of Muybridge interested the French
painters when he came to Paris, but fascinated still more the great
student of animal movements, the physiologist Marey. He had contributed
to science many an intricate apparatus for the registration of movement
processes. "Marey's tambour" is still the most useful instrument in
every physiological and psychological laboratory, whenever slight
delicate movements are to be recorded. The movement of a bird's wings
interested him especially, and at his suggestion Muybridge turned to the
study of the flight of birds. Flying pigeons were photographed in
different positions, each picture taken in a five-hundredth part of a
second.

But Marey himself improved the method. He made use of an idea which the
astronomer Jannsen had applied to the photographing of astronomical
processes. Jannsen photographed, for instance, the transit of the planet
Venus across the sun in December, 1874, on a circular sensitized plate
which revolved in the camera. The plate moved forward a few degrees
every minute. There was room in this way to have eighteen pictures of
different phases of the transit on the marginal part of the one plate.
Marey constructed the apparatus for the revolving disk so that the
intervals instead of a full minute became only one-twelfth of a second.
On the one revolving disk twenty-five views of the bird in motion could
be taken. This brings us to the time of the early eighties. Marey
remained indefatigable in improving the means for quick successive
snapshots with the same camera. Human beings were photographed by him in
white clothes on a black background. When ten pictures were taken in a
second the subtlest motions in their jumping or running could be
disentangled. The leading aim was still decidedly a scientific
understanding of the motions, and the combination of the pictures into a
unified impression of movement was not the purpose. Least of all was
mere amusement intended.

About that time Anschuetz in Germany followed the Muybridge suggestions
with much success and gave to this art of photographing the movement of
animals and men a new turn. He not only photographed the successive
stages, but printed them on a long strip which was laid around a
horizontal wheel. This wheel is in a dark box and the eye can see the
pictures on the paper strip only at the moment when the light of a
Geissler's tube flashes up. The wheel itself has such electric contacts
that the intervals between two flashes correspond to the time which is
necessary to move the wheel from one picture to the next. However
quickly the wheel may be revolved the lights follow one another with the
same rapidity with which the pictures replace one another. During the
movement when one picture moves away and another approaches the center
of vision all is dark. Hence the eye does not see the changes but gets
an impression as if the picture remained at the same spot, only moving.
The bird flaps its wings and the horse trots. It was really a perfect
kinetoscopic instrument. Yet its limitations were evident. No movements
could be presented but simple rhythmical ones, inasmuch as after one
revolution of the wheel the old pictures returned. The marching men
appeared very lifelike; yet they could not do anything but march on and
on, the circumference of the wheel not allowing more room than was
needed for about forty stages of the moving legs from the beginning to
the end of the step.

If the picture of a motion was to go beyond these simplest rhythmical
movements, if persons in action were really to be shown, it would be
necessary to have a much larger number of pictures in instantaneous
illumination. The wheel principle would have to be given up and a long
strip with pictures would be needed. That presupposed a correspondingly
long set of exposures and this demand could not be realized as long as
the pictures were taken on glass plates. But in that period experiments
were undertaken on many sides to substitute a more flexible transparent
material for the glass. Translucent papers, gelatine, celluloid, and
other substances were tried. It is well known that the invention which
was decisive was the film which Eastman in Rochester produced. With it
came the great mechanical improvement, the use of the two rollers. One
roller holds the long strip of film which is slowly wound over the
second, the device familiar to every amateur photographer today. With
film photography was gained the possibility not only of securing a much
larger number of pictures than Marey or Anschuetz made with their
circular arrangements, but of having these pictures pass before the eye
illumined by quickly succeeding flashlights for any length of time.
Moreover, instead of the quick illumination the passing pictures might
be constantly lighted. In that case slits must pass by in the opposite
direction so that each picture is seen for a moment only, as if it were
at rest. This idea is perfectly realized in Edison's machine.

In Edison's kinetoscope a strip of celluloid film forty-five feet in
length with a series of pictures each three-quarters of an inch long
moved continuously over a series of rolls. The pictures passed a
magnifying lens, but between the lens and the picture was a revolving
shutter which moved with a speed carefully adjusted to the film. The
opening in the shutter was opposite the lens at the moment when the film
had moved on three-quarters of an inch. Hence the eye saw not the
passing of the pictures but one picture after another at the same spot.
Pretty little scenes could now be acted in half a minute's time, as more
than six hundred pictures could be used. The first instrument was built
in 1890, and soon after the Chicago World's Fair it was used for
entertainment all over the world. The wheel of Anschuetz had been
widespread too; yet it was considered only as a half-scientific
apparatus. With Edison's kinetoscope the moving pictures had become a
means for popular amusement and entertainment, and the appetite of
commercialism was whetted. At once efforts to improve on the Edison
machine were starting everywhere, and the adjustment to the needs of the
wide public was in the foreground.

Crowning success came almost at the same time to Lumiere and Son in
Paris and to Paul in London. They recognized clearly that the new scheme
could not become really profitable on a large scale as long as only one
person at a time could see the pictures. Both the well-known French
manufacturers of photographic supplies and the English engineer
considered the next step necessary to be the projection of the films
upon a large screen. Yet this involved another fundamental change. In
the kinetoscope the films passed by continuously. The time of the
exposure through the opening in the revolving shutter had to be
extremely short in order to give distinct pictures. The slightest
lengthening would make the movement of the film itself visible and
produce a blurring effect. This time was sufficient for the seeing of
the picture; it could not be sufficient for the greatly enlarged view on
the wall. Too little light passed through to give a distinct image.
Hence it became essential to transform the continuous movement of the
film into an intermittent one. The strip of film must be drawn before
the lens by jerking movements so that the real motion of the strip would
occur in the periods in which the shutter was closed, while it was at
rest for the fraction of time in which the light of the projection
apparatus passed through.

Both Lumiere and Paul overcame this difficulty and secured an
intermittent pushing forward of the pictures for three-quarters of an
inch, that is for the length of the single photograph. In the spring of
1895 Paul's theatrograph or animatograph was completed, and in the
following year he began his engagement at the Alhambra Theater, where
the novelty was planned as a vaudeville show for a few days but stayed
for many a year, since it proved at once an unprecedented success. The
American field was conquered by the Lumiere camera. The Eden Musee was
the first place where this French kinematograph was installed. The
enjoyment which today one hundred and twenty-five thousand moving
picture theaters all over the globe bring to thirty million people daily
is dependent upon Lumiere's and Paul's invention. The improvements in
the technique of taking the pictures and of projecting them on the
screen are legion, but the fundamental features have not been changed.
Yes; on the whole the development of the last two decades has been a
conservative one. The fact that every producer tries to distribute his
films to every country forces a far-reaching standardization on the
entire moving picture world. The little pictures on the film are still
today exactly the same size as those which Edison used for his
kinetoscope and the long strips of film are still gauged by four round
perforations at the side of each to catch the sprockets which guide the
film.

As soon as the moving picture show had become a feature of the
vaudeville theater, the longing of the crowd for ever new entertainments
and sensations had to be satisfied if the success was to last. The mere
enjoyment of the technical wonder as such necessarily faded away and the
interest could be kept up only if the scenes presented on the screen
became themselves more and more enthralling. The trivial acts played in
less than a minute without any artistic setting and without any
rehearsal or preparation soon became unsatisfactory. The grandmother who
washes the baby and even the street boy who plays a prank had to be
replaced by quick little comedies. Stages were set up; more and more
elaborate scenes were created; the film grew and grew in length.
Competing companies in France and later in the United States, England,
Germany and notably in Italy developed more and more ambitious
productions. As early as 1898 the Eden Musee in New York produced an
elaborate setting of the Passion Play in nearly fifty thousand pictures,
which needed almost an hour for production. The personnel on the stage
increased rapidly, huge establishments in which any scenery could be
built up sprang into being. But the inclosed scene was often not a
sufficient background; the kinematographic camera was brought to
mountains and seashore, and soon to the jungles of Africa or to Central
Asia if the photoplay demanded exciting scenes on picturesque
backgrounds. Thousands of people entered into the battle scenes which
the historical drama demanded. We stand today in the midst of this
external growth of which no one dreamed in the days of the kinetoscope.
Yet this technical progress and this tremendous increase of the
mechanical devices for production have their true meaning in the inner
growth which led from trite episodes to the height of tremendous action,
from trivial routine to a new and most promising art.




CHAPTER II

THE INNER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES


It was indeed not an external technical advance only which led from
Edison's half a minute show of the little boy who turns on the hose to
the "Daughter of Neptune," or "Quo Vadis," or "Cabiria," and many
another performance which fills an evening. The advance was first of all
internal; it was an esthetic idea. Yet even this does not tell the whole
story of the inner growth of the moving pictures, as it points only to
the progress of the photoplay. It leaves out of account the fact that
the moving pictures appeal not merely to the imagination, but that they
bring their message also to the intellect. They aim toward instruction
and information. Just as between the two covers of a magazine artistic
stories stand side by side with instructive essays, scientific
articles, or discussions of the events of the day, the photoplay is
accompanied by a kinematoscopic rendering of reality in all its aspects.
Whatever in nature or in social life interests the human understanding
or human curiosity comes to the mind of the spectator with an
incomparable intensity when not a lifeless photograph but a moving
picture brings it to the screen.

The happenings of the day afford the most convenient material, as they
offer the chance for constantly changing programmes and hence the ideal
conditions for a novelty seeking public. No actors are needed; the
dramatic interest is furnished by the political and social importance of
the events. In the early days when the great stages for the production
of photoplays had not been built, the moving picture industry relied in
a much higher degree than today on this supply from the surrounding
public life. But while the material was abundant, it soon became rather
insipid to see parades and processions and orators, and even where the
immediate interest seemed to give value to the pictures it was for the
most part only a local interest and faded away after a time. The
coronation of the king or the inauguration of the president, the
earthquake in Sicily, the great Derby, come, after all, too seldom.
Moreover through the strong competition only the first comer gained the
profits and only the most sensational dashes of kinematographers with
the reporter's instinct could lead to success in the eyes of the spoiled
moving picture audiences.

Certainly the history of these enterprises is full of adventures worthy
to rank with the most daring feats in the newspaper world. We hear that
when the investiture of the Prince of Wales was performed at Carnarvon
at four o'clock in the afternoon, the public of London at ten o'clock of
the same day saw the ceremony on the screen in a moving picture twelve
minutes in length. The distance between the two places is two hundred
miles. The film was seven hundred and fifty feet long. It had been
developed and printed in a special express train made up of long freight
cars transformed into dark rooms and fitted with tanks for the
developing and washing and with a machine for printing and drying. Yet
on the whole the current events were slowly losing ground even in
Europe, while America had never given such a large share of interest to
this rival of the newspaper. It is claimed that the producers in America
disliked these topical pictures because the accidental character of the
events makes the production irregular and interferes too much with the
steady preparation of the photoplays. Only when the war broke out, the
great wave of excitement swept away this apathy. The pictures from the
trenches, the marches of the troops, the life of the prisoners, the
movements of the leaders, the busy life behind the front, and the action
of the big guns absorbed the popular interest in every corner of the
world. While the picturesque old-time war reporter has almost
disappeared, the moving picture man has inherited all his courage,
patience, sensationalism, and spirit of adventure.

A greater photographic achievement, however, than the picturing of the
social and historic events was the marvelous success of the
kinematograph with the life of nature. No explorer in recent years has
crossed distant lands and seas without a kinematographic outfit. We
suddenly looked into the most intimate life of the African wilderness.
There the elephants and giraffes and monkeys passed to the waterhole,
not knowing that the moving picture man was turning his crank in the top
of a tree. We followed Scott and Shackleton into the regions of eternal
ice, we climbed the Himalayas, we saw the world from the height of the
aeroplane, and every child in Europe knows now the wonders of Niagara.
But the kinematographer has not sought nature only where it is gigantic
or strange; he follows its path with no less admirable effect when it is
idyllic. The brook in the woods, the birds in their nest, the flowers
trembling in the wind have brought their charm to the delighted eye more
and more with the progress of the new art.

But the wonders of nature which the camera unveils to us are not limited
to those which the naked eye can follow. The technical progress led to
the attachment of the microscope. After overcoming tremendous
difficulties, the scientists succeeded in developing a microscope
kinematography which multiplies the dimensions a hundred thousand times.
We may see on the screen the fight of the bacteria with the
microscopically small blood corpuscles in the blood stream of a diseased
animal. Yes, by the miracles of the camera we may trace the life of
nature even in forms which no human observation really finds in the
outer world. Out there it may take weeks for the orchid to bud and
blossom and fade; in the picture the process passes before us in a few
seconds. We see how the caterpillar spins its cocoon and how it breaks
it and how the butterfly unfolds its wings; and all which needed days
and months goes on in a fraction of a minute. New interest for geography
and botany and zooelogy has thus been aroused by these developments,
undreamed of in the early days of the kinematograph, and the scientists
themselves have through this new means of technique gained unexpected
help for their labors.

The last achievement in this universe of photoknowledge is "the magazine
on the screen." It is a bold step which yet seemed necessary in our day
of rapid kinematoscopic progress. The popular printed magazines in
America had their heydey in the muckraking period about ten years ago.
Their hold on the imagination of the public which wants to be informed
and entertained at the same time has steadily decreased, while the power
of the moving picture houses has increased. The picture house ought
therefore to take up the task of the magazines which it has partly
displaced. The magazines give only a small place to the news of the day,
a larger place to articles in which scholars and men of public life
discuss significant problems. Much American history in the last two
decades was deeply influenced by the columns of the illustrated
magazines. Those men who reached the millions by such articles cannot
overlook the fact--they may approve or condemn it--that the masses of
today prefer to be taught by pictures rather than by words. The
audiences are assembled anyhow. Instead of feeding them with mere
entertainment, why not give them food for serious thought? It seemed
therefore a most fertile idea when the "Paramount Pictograph" was
founded to carry intellectual messages and ambitious discussions into
the film houses. Political and economic, social and hygienic, technical
and industrial, esthetic and scientific questions can in no way be
brought nearer to the grasp of millions. The editors will have to take
care that the discussions do not degenerate into one-sided propaganda,
but so must the editors of a printed magazine. Among the scientists the
psychologist may have a particular interest in this latest venture of
the film world. The screen ought to offer a unique opportunity to
interest wide circles in psychological experiments and mental tests and
in this way to spread the knowledge of their importance for vocational
guidance and the practical affairs of life.

Yet that power of the moving pictures to supplement the school room and
the newspaper and the library by spreading information and knowledge is,
after all, secondary to their general task, to bring entertainment and
amusement to the masses. This is the chief road on which the forward
march of the last twenty years has been most rapid. The theater and the
vaudeville and the novel had to yield room and ample room to the play of
the flitting pictures. What was the real principle of the inner
development on this artistic side? The little scenes which the first
pictures offered could hardly have been called plays. They would have
been unable to hold the attention by their own contents. Their only
charm was really the pleasure in the perfection with which the apparatus
rendered the actual movements. But soon touching episodes were staged,
little humorous scenes or melodramatic actions were played before the
camera, and the same emotions stirred which up to that time only the
true theater play had awakened. The aim seemed to be to have a real
substitute for the stage. The most evident gain of this new scheme was
the reduction of expenses. One actor is now able to entertain many
thousand audiences at the same time, one stage setting is sufficient to
give pleasure to millions. The theater can thus be democratized.
Everybody's purse allows him to see the greatest artists and in every
village a stage can be set up and the joy of a true theater performance
can be spread to the remotest corner of the lands. Just as the
graphophone can multiply without limit the music of the concert hall,
the singer, and the orchestra, so, it seemed, would the photoplay
reproduce the theater performance without end.

Of course, the substitute could not be equal to the original. The color
was lacking, the real depth of the objective stage was missing, and
above all the spoken word had been silenced. The few interspersed
descriptive texts, the so-called "leaders," had to hint at that which
in the real drama the speeches of the actors explain and elaborate. It
was thus surely only the shadow of a true theater, different not only as
a photograph is compared with a painting, but different as a photograph
is compared with the original man. And yet, however meager and
shadowlike the moving picture play appeared compared with the
performance of living actors, the advantage of the cheap multiplication
was so great that the ambition of the producers was natural, to go
forward from the little playlets to great dramas which held the
attention for hours. The kinematographic theater soon had its
Shakespeare repertoire; Ibsen has been played and the dramatized novels
on the screen became legion. Victor Hugo and Dickens scored new
triumphs. In a few years the way from the silly trite practical joke to
Hamlet and Peer Gynt was covered with such thoroughness that the
possibility of giving a photographic rendering of any thinkable theater
performance was proven for all time.

But while this movement to reproduce stage performances went on,
elements were superadded which the technique of the camera allowed but
which would hardly be possible in a theater. Hence the development led
slowly to a certain deviation from the path of the drama. The difference
which strikes the observer first results from the chance of the camera
man to set his scene in the real backgrounds of nature and culture. The
stage manager of the theater can paint the ocean and, if need be, can
move some colored cloth to look like rolling waves; and yet how far is
his effect surpassed by the superb ocean pictures when the scene is
played on the real cliffs and the waves are thundering at their foot and
the surf is foaming about the actors. The theater has its painted
villages and vistas, its city streets and its foreign landscape
backgrounds. But here the theater, in spite of the reality of the
actors, appears thoroughly unreal compared with the throbbing life of
the street scenes and of the foreign crowds in which the camera man
finds his local color.

But still more characteristic is the rapidity with which the whole
background can be changed in the moving pictures. Reinhardt's revolving
stage had brought wonderful surprises to the theater-goer and had
shifted the scene with a quickness which was unknown before. Yet how
slow and clumsy does it remain compared with the routine changes of the
photoplays. This changing of background is so easy for the camera that
at a very early date this new feature of the plays was introduced. At
first it served mostly humorous purposes. The public of the crude early
shows enjoyed the flashlike quickness with which it could follow the
eloper over the roofs of the town, upstairs and down, into cellar and
attic, and jump into the auto and race over the country roads until the
culprit fell over a bridge into the water and was caught by the police.
This slapstick humor has by no means disappeared, but the rapid change
of scenes has meanwhile been put into the service of much higher aims.
The development of an artistic plot has been brought to possibilities
which the real drama does not know, by allowing the eye to follow the
hero and heroine continuously from place to place. Now he leaves his
room, now we see him passing along the street, now he enters the house
of his beloved, now he is led into the parlor, now she is hurrying to
the library of her father, now they all go to the garden: ever new
stage settings sliding into one another. Technical difficulties do not
stand in the way. A set of pictures taken by the camera man a thousand
miles away can be inserted for a few feet in the film, and the audience
sees now the clubroom in New York, and now the snows of Alaska and now
the tropics, near each other in the same reel.

Moreover the ease with which the scenes are altered allows us not only
to hurry on to ever new spots, but to be at the same time in two or
three places. The scenes become intertwined. We see the soldier on the
battlefield, and his beloved one at home, in such steady alternation
that we are simultaneously here and there. We see the man speaking into
the telephone in New York and at the same time the woman who receives
his message in Washington. It is no difficulty at all for the photoplay
to have the two alternate a score of times in the few minutes of the
long distance conversation.

But with the quick change of background the photoartists also gained a
rapidity of motion which leaves actual men behind. He needs only to turn
the crank of the apparatus more quickly and the whole rhythm of the
performance can be brought to a speed which may strikingly aid the
farcical humor of the scene. And from here it was only a step to the
performance of actions which could not be carried out in nature at all.
At first this idea was made serviceable to rather rough comic effects.
The policeman climbed up the solid stone front of a high building. The
camera man had no difficulty in securing the effects, as it was only
necessary to have the actor creep over a flat picture of the building
spread on the floor. Every day brought us new tricks. We see how the
magician breaks one egg after another and takes out of each egg a little
fairy and puts one after another on his hand where they begin to dance a
minuet. No theater could ever try to match such wonders, but for the
camera they are not difficult; the little dancers were simply at a much
further distance from the camera and therefore appeared in their
Lilliputian size. Rich artistic effects have been secured, and while on
the stage every fairy play is clumsy and hardly able to create an
illusion, in the film we really see the man transformed into a beast and
the flower into a girl. There is no limit to the trick pictures which
the skill of the experts invent. The divers jump, feet first, out of
the water to the springboard. It looks magical, and yet the camera man
has simply to reverse his film and to run it from the end to the
beginning of the action. Every dream becomes real, uncanny ghosts appear
from nothing and disappear into nothing, mermaids swim through the waves
and little elves climb out of the Easter lilies.

As the crank of the camera which takes the pictures can be stopped at
any moment and the turning renewed only after some complete change has
been made on the stage any substitution can be carried out without the
public knowing of the break in the events. We see a man walking to the
edge of a steep rock, leaving no doubt that it is a real person, and
then by a slip he is hurled down into the abyss below. The film does not
indicate that at the instant before the fall the camera has been stopped
and the actor replaced by a stuffed dummy which begins to tumble when
the movement of the film is started again. But not only dummies of the
same size can be introduced. A little model brought quite near to the
camera may take the place of the large real object at a far distance. We
see at first the real big ship and can convince ourselves of its
reality by seeing actual men climbing up the rigging. But when it comes
to the final shipwreck, the movement of the film is stopped and the
camera brought near to a little tank where a miniature model of the ship
takes up the role of the original and explodes and really sinks to its
two-feet-deep watery grave.

While, through this power to make impossible actions possible, unheard
of effects could be reached, all still remained in the outer framework
of the stage. The photoplay showed a performance, however rapid or
unusual, as it would go on in the outer world. An entirely new
perspective was opened when the managers of the film play introduced the
"close-up" and similar new methods. As every friend of the film knows,
the close-up is a scheme by which a particular part of the picture,
perhaps only the face of the hero or his hand or only a ring on his
finger, is greatly enlarged and replaces for an instant the whole stage.
Even the most wonderful creations, the great historical plays where
thousands fill the battlefields or the most fantastic caprices where
fairies fly over the stage, could perhaps be performed in a theater,
but this close-up leaves all stagecraft behind. Suddenly we see not
Booth himself as he seeks to assassinate the president, but only his
hand holding the revolver and the play of his excited fingers filling
the whole field of vision. We no longer see at his desk the banker who
opens the telegram, but the opened telegraphic message itself takes his
place on the screen for a few seconds, and we read it over his shoulder.

It is not necessary to enumerate still more changes which the
development of the art of the film has brought since the days of the
kinetoscope. The use of natural backgrounds, the rapid change of scenes,
the intertwining of the actions in different scenes, the changes of the
rhythms of action, the passing through physically impossible
experiences, the linking of disconnected movements, the realization of
supernatural effects, the gigantic enlargement of small details: these
may be sufficient as characteristic illustrations of the essential
trend. They show that the progress of the photoplay did not lead to a
more and more perfect photographic reproduction of the theater stage,
but led away from the theater altogether. Superficial impressions
suggest the opposite and still leave the esthetically careless observer
in the belief that the photoplay is a cheap substitute for the real
drama, a theater performance as good or as bad as a photographic
reproduction allows. But this traditional idea has become utterly
untrue. _The art of the photoplay has developed so many new features of
its own, features which have not even any similarity to the technique of
the stage that the question arises: is it not really a new art which
long since left behind the mere film reproduction of the theater and
which ought to be acknowledged in its own esthetic independence?_ This
right to independent recognition has so far been ignored. Practically
everybody who judged the photoplays from the esthetic point of view
remained at the old comparison between the film and the graphophone. The
photoplay is still something which simply imitates the true art of the
drama on the stage. May it not be, on the contrary, that it does not
imitate or replace anything, but is in itself an art as different from
that of the theater as the painter's art is different from that of the
sculptor? And may it not be high time, in the interest of theory and of
practice, to examine the esthetic conditions which would give
independent rights to the new art? If this is really the situation, it
must be a truly fascinating problem, as it would give the chance to
watch the art in its first unfolding. A new esthetic cocoon is broken;
where will the butterfly's wings carry him?

We have at last reached the real problem of this little book. We want to
study the right of the photoplay, hitherto ignored by esthetics, to be
classed as an art in itself under entirely new mental life conditions.
What we need for this study is evidently, first, an insight into the
means by which the moving pictures impress us and appeal to us. Not the
physical means and technical devices are in question, but the mental
means. What psychological factors are involved when we watch the
happenings on the screen? But secondly, we must ask what characterizes
the independence of an art, what constitutes the conditions under which
the works of a special art stand. The first inquiry is psychological,
the second esthetic; the two belong intimately together. Hence we turn
first to the psychological aspect of the moving pictures and later to
the artistic one.





PART I

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE PHOTOPLAY




CHAPTER III[1]

DEPTH AND MOVEMENT


[1] Readers who have no technical interest in physiological
    psychology may omit Chapter III and turn directly to Chapter IV on
    Attention.

The problem is now quite clear before us. Do the photoplays furnish us
only a photographic reproduction of a stage performance; is their aim
thus simply to be an inexpensive substitute for the real theater, and is
their esthetic standing accordingly far below that of the true dramatic
art, related to it as the photograph of a painting to the original
canvas of the master? Or do the moving pictures bring us an independent
art, controlled by esthetic laws of its own, working with mental appeals
which are fundamentally different from those of the theater, with a
sphere of its own and with ideal aims of its own? If this so far
neglected problem is ours, we evidently need not ask in our further
discussions about all which books on moving pictures have so far put
into the foreground, namely the physical technique of producing the
pictures on the film or of projecting the pictures on the screen, or
anything else which belongs to the technical or physical or economic
aspect of the photoplay industry. Moreover it is then evidently not our
concern to deal with those moving pictures which serve mere curiosity or
the higher desires for information and instruction. Those educational
pictures may give us delight, and certainly much esthetic enjoyment may
be combined with the intellectual satisfaction, when the wonders of
distant lands are unveiled to us. The landscape setting of such a travel
film may be a thing of beauty, but the pictures are not taken for art's
sake. The aim is to serve the spread of knowledge.

Our esthetic interest turns to the means by which the photoplay
influences the mind of the spectator. If we try to understand and to
explain the means by which music exerts its powerful effects, we do not
reach our goal by describing the structure of the piano and of the
violin, or by explaining the physical laws of sound. We must proceed to
the psychology and ask for the mental processes of the hearing of tones
and of chords, of harmonies and disharmonies, of tone qualities and tone
intensities, of rhythms and phrases, and must trace how these elements
are combined in the melodies and compositions. In this way we turn to
the photoplay, at first with a purely psychological interest, and ask
for the elementary excitements of the mind which enter into our
experience of the moving pictures. We now disregard entirely the idea of
the theater performance. We should block our way if we were to start
from the theater and were to ask how much is left out in the mere
photographic substitute. We approach the art of the film theater as if
it stood entirely on its own ground, and extinguish all memory of the
world of actors. We analyze the mental processes which this specific
form of artistic endeavor produces in us.

To begin at the beginning, the photoplay consists of a series of flat
pictures in contrast to the plastic objects of the real world which
surrounds us. But we may stop at once: what does it mean to say that the
surroundings appear to the mind plastic and the moving pictures flat?
The psychology of this difference is easily misunderstood. Of course,
when we are sitting in the picture palace we know that we see a flat
screen and that the object which we see has only two dimensions,
right-left, and up-down, but not the third dimension of depth, of
distance toward us or away from us. It is flat like a picture and never
plastic like a work of sculpture or architecture or like a stage. Yet
this is knowledge and not immediate impression. We have no right
whatever to say that the scenes which we see on the screen appear to us
as flat pictures.

We may become more strongly conscious of this difference between an
object of our knowledge and an object of our impression, if we remember
a well-known instrument, the stereoscope. The stereoscope, which was
quite familiar to the parlor of a former generation, consists of two
prisms through which the two eyes look toward two photographic views of
a landscape. But the two photographic views are not identical. The
landscape is taken from two different points of view, once from the
right and once from the left. As soon as these two views are put into
the stereoscope the right eye sees through the prism only the view from
the right, the left eye only the view from the left. We know very well
that only two flat pictures are before us; yet we cannot help seeing the
landscape in strongly plastic forms. The two different views are
combined in one presentation of the landscape in which the distant
objects appear much further away from us than the foreground. We feel
immediately the depth of things. It is as if we were looking at a small
plastic model of the landscape and in spite of our objective knowledge
cannot recognize the flat pictures in the solid forms which we perceive.
It cannot be otherwise, because whenever in practical life we see an
object, a vase on our table, as a solid body, we get the impression of
its plastic character first of all by seeing it with our two eyes from
two different points of view. The perspective in which our right eye
sees the things on our table is different from the perspective for the
left eye. Our plastic seeing therefore depends upon this combination of
two different perspective views, and whenever we offer to the two eyes
two such one-sided views, they must be combined into the impression of
the substantial thing. The stereoscope thus illustrates clearly that the
knowledge of the flat character of pictures by no means excludes the
actual perception of depth, and the question arises whether the moving
pictures of the photoplay, in spite of our knowledge concerning the
flatness of the screen, do not give us after all the impression of
actual depth.

It may be said offhand that even the complete appearance of depth such
as the stereoscope offers would be in no way contradictory to the idea
of moving pictures. Then the photoplay would give the same plastic
impression which the real stage offers. All that would be needed is
this. When the actors play the scenes, not a single but a double camera
would have to take the pictures. Such a double camera focuses the scene
from two different points of view, corresponding to the position of the
two eyes. Both films are then to be projected on the screen at the same
time by a double projection apparatus which secures complete
correspondence of the two pictures so that in every instance the left
and the right view are overlapping on the screen. This would give, of
course, a chaotic, blurring image. But if the apparatus which projects
the left side view has a green glass in front of the lens and the one
which projects the right side view a red glass, and every person in the
audience has a pair of spectacles with the left glass green and the
right glass red--a cardboard lorgnette with red and green gelatine paper
would do the same service and costs only a few cents--the left eye would
see only the left view, the right eye only the right view. We could not
see the red lines through the green glass nor the green lines through
the red glass. In the moment the left eye gets the left side view only
and the right eye the right side view, the whole chaos of lines on the
screen is organized and we see the pictured room on the screen with the
same depth as if it were really a solid room set on the stage and as if
the rear wall in the room were actually ten or twenty feet behind the
furniture in the front. The effect is so striking that no one can
overcome the feeling of depth under these conditions.

But while the regular motion pictures certainly do not offer us this
complete plastic impression, it would simply be the usual confusion
between knowledge about the picture and its real appearance if we were
to deny that we get a certain impression of depth. If several persons
move in a room, we gain distinctly the feeling that one moves behind
another in the film picture. They move toward us and from us just as
much as they move to the right and left. We actually perceive the chairs
or the rear wall of the room as further away from us than the persons in
the foreground. This is not surprising if we stop to think how we
perceive the depth, for instance, of a real stage. Let us fancy that we
sit in the orchestra of a real theater and see before us the stage set
as a room with furniture and persons in it. We now see the different
objects on the stage at different distances, some near, some far. One of
the causes was just mentioned. We see everything with our right or our
left eye from different points of view. But if now we close one eye and
look at the stage with the right eye only, the plastic effect does not
disappear. The psychological causes for this perception of depth with
one eye are essentially the differences of apparent size, the
perspective relations, the shadows, and the actions performed in the
space. Now all these factors which help us to grasp the furniture on
the stage as solid and substantial play their role no less in the room
which is projected on the screen.

We are too readily inclined to imagine that our eye can directly grasp
the different distances in our surroundings. Yet we need only imagine
that a large glass plate is put in the place of the curtain covering the
whole stage. Now we see the stage through the glass; and if we look at
it with one eye only it is evident that every single spot on the stage
must throw its light to our eye by light rays which cross the glass
plate at a particular point. For our seeing it would make no difference
whether the stage is actually behind that glass plate or whether all the
light rays which pass through the plate come from the plate itself. If
those rays with all their different shades of light and dark started
from the surface of the glass plate, the effect on the one eye would
necessarily be the same as if they originated at different distances
behind the glass. This is exactly the case of the screen. If the
pictures are well taken and the projection is sharp and we sit at the
right distance from the picture, we must have the same impression as if
we looked through a glass plate into a real space.

The photoplay is therefore poorly characterized if the flatness of the
pictorial view is presented as an essential feature. That flatness is an
objective part of the technical physical arrangements, but not a feature
of that which we really see in the performance of the photoplay. We are
there in the midst of a three-dimensional world, and the movements of
the persons or of the animals or even of the lifeless things, like the
streaming of the water in the brook or the movements of the leaves in
the wind, strongly maintain our immediate impression of depth. Many
secondary features characteristic of the motion picture may help. For
instance, by a well-known optical illusion the feeling of depth is
strengthened if the foreground is at rest and the background moving.
Thus the ship passing in front of the motionless background of the
harbor by no means suggests depth to the same degree as the picture
taken on the gliding ship itself so that the ship appears to be at rest
and the harbor itself passing by.

The depth effect is so undeniable that some minds are struck by it as
the chief power in the impressions from the screen. Vachel Lindsay, the
poet, feels the plastic character of the persons in the foreground so
fully that he interprets those plays with much individual action as a
kind of sculpture in motion. He says: "The little far off people on the
oldfashioned speaking stage do not appeal to the plastic sense in this
way. They are by comparison mere bits of pasteboard with sweet voices,
while on the other hand the photoplay foreground is full of dumb giants.
The bodies of these giants are in high sculptural relief." Others have
emphasized that this strong feeling of depth touches them most when
persons in the foreground stand with a far distant landscape as
background--much more than when they are seen in a room. Psychologically
this is not surprising either. If the scene were a real room, every
detail in it would appear differently to the two eyes. In the room on
the screen both eyes receive the same impression, and the result is that
the consciousness of depth is inhibited. But when a far distant
landscape is the only background, the impression from the picture and
life is indeed the same. The trees or mountains which are several
hundred feet distant from the eye give to both eyes exactly the same
impression, inasmuch as the small difference of position between the two
eyeballs has no influence compared with the distance of the objects from
our face. We would see the mountains with both eyes alike in reality,
and therefore we feel unhampered in our subjective interpretation of far
distant vision when the screen offers exactly the same picture of the
mountains to our two eyes. Hence in such cases we believe that we see
the persons really in the foreground and the landscape far away.

_Nevertheless we are never deceived; we are fully conscious of the
depth, and yet we do not take it for real depth._ Too much stands in the
way. Some unfavorable conditions are still deficiencies of the
technique; for instance, the camera picture in some respects exaggerates
the distances. If we see through the open door of the rear wall into one
or two other rooms, they appear like a distant corridor. Moreover we
have ideal conditions for vision in the right perspective only when we
sit in front of the screen at a definite distance. We ought to sit
where we see the objects in the picture at the same angle at which the
camera photographed the originals. If we are too near or too far or too
much to one side, we perceive the plastic scene from a viewpoint which
would demand an entirely different perspective than that which the
camera fixated. In motionless pictures this is less disturbing; in
moving pictures every new movement to or from the background must remind
us of the apparent distortion. Moreover, the size and the frame and the
whole setting strongly remind us of the unreality of the perceived
space. But the chief point remains that we see the whole picture with
both eyes and not with only one, and that we are constantly reminded of
the flatness of the picture because the two eyes receive identical
impressions. And we may add an argument nearly related to it, namely,
that the screen as such is an object of our perception and demands an
adaptation of the eye and an independent localization. We are drawn into
this conflict of perception even when we look into a mirror. If we stand
three feet from a large mirror on the wall, we see our reflection three
feet from our eyes in the plate glass and we see it at the same time six
feet from our eye behind the glass. Both localizations take hold of our
mind and produce a peculiar interference. We all have learned to ignore
it, but characteristic illusions remain which indicate the reality of
this doubleness.

In the case of the picture on the screen this conflict is much stronger.
_We certainly see the depth, and yet we cannot accept it._ There is too
much which inhibits belief and interferes with the interpretation of the
people and landscape before us as truly plastic. They are surely not
simply pictures. The persons can move toward us and away from us, and
the river flows into a distant valley. And yet the distance in which the
people move is not the distance of our real space, such as the theater
shows, and the persons themselves are not flesh and blood. It is a
unique inner experience, which is characteristic of the perception of
the photoplays. _We have reality with all its true dimensions; and yet
it keeps the fleeting, passing surface suggestion without true depth and
fullness, as different from a mere picture as from a mere stage
performance._ It brings our mind into a peculiar complex state; and we
shall see that this plays a not unimportant part in the mental make-up
of the whole photoplay.

While the problem of depth in the film picture is easily ignored, the
problem of movement forces itself on every spectator. It seems as if
here the really essential trait of the film performance is to be found,
and that the explanation of the motion in the pictures is the chief task
which the psychologist must meet. We know that any single picture which
the film of the photographer has fixed is immovable. We know,
furthermore, that we do not see the passing by of the long strip of
film. We know that it is rolled from one roll and rolled up on another,
but that this movement from picture to picture is not visible. It goes
on while the field is darkened. What objectively reaches our eye is one
motionless picture after another, but the replacing of one by another
through a forward movement of the film cannot reach our eye at all. Why
do we, nevertheless, see a continuous movement? The problem did not
arise with the kinetoscope only but had interested the preceding
generations who amused themselves with the phenakistoscope and the
stroboscopic disks or the magic cylinder of the zooetrope and bioscope.
The child who made his zooetrope revolve and looked through the slits of
the black cover in the drum saw through every slit the drawing of a dog
in one particular position. Yet as the twenty-four slits passed the eye,
the twenty-four different positions blended into one continuous jumping
movement of the poodle.

But this so-called stroboscopic phenomenon, however interesting it was,
seemed to offer hardly any difficulty. The friends of the zooetrope
surely knew another little plaything, the thaumatrope. Dr. Paris had
invented it in 1827. It shows two pictures, one on the front, one on the
rear side of a card. As soon as the card is quickly revolved about a
central axis, the two pictures fuse into one. If a horse is on one side
and a rider on the other, if a cage is on one and a bird on the other,
we see the rider on the horse and the bird in the cage. It cannot be
otherwise. It is simply the result of the positive afterimages. If at
dark we twirl a glowing joss stick in a circle, we do not see one point
moving from place to place, but we see a continuous circular line. It is
nowhere broken because, if the movement is quick, the positive
afterimage of the light in its first position is still effective in our
eye when the glowing point has passed through the whole circle and has
reached the first position again.

We speak of this effect as a positive afterimage, because it is a real
continuation of the first impression and stands in contrast to the
so-called negative afterimage in which the aftereffect is opposite to
the original stimulus. In the case of a negative afterimage the light
impression leaves a dark spot, the dark impression gives a light
afterimage. Black becomes white and white becomes black; in the world of
colors red leaves a green and green a red afterimage, yellow a blue and
blue a yellow afterimage. If we look at the crimson sinking sun and then
at a white wall, we do not see red light spots but green dark spots.
Compared with these negative pictures, the positive afterimages are
short and they last through any noticeable time only with rather intense
illumination. Yet they are evidently sufficient to bridge the interval
between the two slits in the stroboscopic disk or in the zooetrope, the
interval in which the black paper passes the eye and in which
accordingly no new stimulus reaches the nerves. The routine explanation
of the appearance of movement was accordingly: that every picture of a
particular position left in the eye an afterimage until the next picture
with the slightly changed position of the jumping animal or of the
marching men was in sight, and the afterimage of this again lasted until
the third came. The afterimages were responsible for the fact that no
interruptions were noticeable, while the movement itself resulted simply
from the passing of one position into another. What else is the
perception of movement but the seeing of a long series of different
positions? If instead of looking through the zooetrope we watch a real
trotting horse on a real street, we see its whole body in ever new
progressing positions and its legs in all phases of motion; and this
continuous series is our perception of the movement itself.

This seems very simple. Yet it was slowly discovered that the
explanation is far too simple and that it does not in the least do
justice to the true experiences. With the advance of modern laboratory
psychology the experimental investigations frequently turned to the
analysis of our perception of movement. In the last thirty years many
researches, notably those of Stricker, Exner, Hall, James, Fischer,
Stern, Marbe, Lincke, Wertheimer, and Korte have thrown new light on the
problem by carefully devised experiments. One result of them came
quickly into the foreground of the newer view: the perception of
movement is an independent experience which cannot be reduced to a
simple seeing of a series of different positions. A characteristic
content of consciousness must be added to such a series of visual
impressions. The mere idea of succeeding phases of movement is not at
all the original movement idea. This is suggested first by the various
illusions of movement. We may believe that we perceive a movement where
no actual changes of visual impressions occur. This, to be sure, may
result from a mere misinterpretation of the impression: for instance
when in the railway train at the station we look out of the window and
believe suddenly that our train is moving, while in reality the train on
the neighboring track has started. It is the same when we see the moon
floating quickly through the motionless clouds. We are inclined to
consider as being at rest that which we fixate and to interpret the
relative changes in the field of vision as movements of those parts
which we do not fixate.

But it is different when we come, for instance, to those illusions in
which movement is forced on our perception by contrast and aftereffect.
We look from a bridge into the flowing water and if we turn our eyes
toward the land the motionless shore seems to swim in the opposite
direction. It is not sufficient in such cases to refer to contrasting
eye movements. It can easily be shown by experiments that these
movements and counter-movements in the field of vision can proceed in
opposite directions at the same time and no eye, of course, is able to
move upward and downward, or right and left, in the same moment. A very
characteristic experiment can be performed with a black spiral line on a
white disk. If we revolve such a disk slowly around its center, the
spiral line produces the impression of a continuous enlargement of
concentric curves. The lines start at the center and expand until they
disappear in the periphery. If we look for a minute or two into this
play of the expanding curves and then turn our eyes to the face of a
neighbor, we see at once how the features of the face begin to shrink.
It looks as if the whole face were elastically drawn toward its center.
If we revolve the disk in the opposite direction, the curves seem to
move from the edge of the disk toward the center, becoming smaller and
smaller, and if then we look toward a face, the person seems to swell up
and every point in the face seems to move from the nose toward the chin
or forehead or ears. Our eye which watches such an aftereffect cannot
really move at the same time from the center of the face toward both
ears and the hair and the chin. The impression of movement must
therefore have other conditions than the actual performance of the
movements, and above all it is clear from such tests that the seeing of
the movements is a unique experience which can be entirely independent
from the actual seeing of successive positions. The eye itself gets the
impression of a face at rest, and yet we see the face in the one case
shrinking, in the other case swelling; in the one case every point
apparently moving toward the center, in the other case apparently moving
away from the center. The experience of movement is here evidently
produced by the spectator's mind and not excited from without.

We may approach the same result also from experiments of very different
kind. If a flash of light at one point is followed by a flash at another
point after a very short time, about a twentieth of a second, the two
lights appear to us simultaneous. The first light is still fully visible
when the second flashes, and it cannot be noticed that the second comes
later than the first. If now in the same short time interval the first
light moves toward the second point, we should expect that we would see
the whole process as a lighted line at rest, inasmuch as the beginning
and the end point appear simultaneous, if the end is reached less than a
twentieth of a second after the starting point. But the experiment shows
the opposite result. Instead of the expected lighted line, we see in
this case an actual movement from one point to the other. Again we must
conclude that the movement is more than the mere seeing of successive
positions, as in this case we see the movement, while the isolated
positions do not appear as successive but as simultaneous.

Another group of interesting phenomena of movement may be formed from
those cases in which the moving object is more easily noticed than the
impressions of the whole field through which the movement is carried
out. We may overlook an area in our visual field, especially when it
lies far to one side from our fixation point, but as soon as anything
moves in that area our attention is drawn. We notice the movement more
quickly than the whole background in which the movement is executed. The
fluttering of kerchiefs at a far distance or the waving of flags for
signaling is characteristic. All indicate that the movement is to us
something different from merely seeing an object first at one and
afterward at another place. We can easily find the analogy in other
senses. If we touch our forehead or the back of our hand with two blunt
compass points so that the two points are about a third of an inch
distant from each other, we do not discriminate the two points as two,
but we perceive the impression as that of one point. We cannot
discriminate the one pressure point from the other. But if we move the
point of a pencil to and fro from one point to the other we perceive
distinctly the movement in spite of the fact that it is a movement
between two end points which could not be discriminated. It is wholly
characteristic that the experimenter in every field of sensations,
visual or acoustical or tactual, often finds himself before the
experience of having noticed a movement while he is unable to say in
which direction the movement occurred.

We are familiar with the illusions in which we believe that we see
something which only our imagination supplies. If an unfamiliar printed
word is exposed to our eye for the twentieth part of a second, we
readily substitute a familiar word with similar letters. Everybody knows
how difficult it is to read proofs. We overlook the misprints, that is,
we replace the wrong letters which are actually in our field of vision
by imaginary right letters which correspond to our expectations. Are we
not also familiar with the experience of supplying by our fancy the
associative image of a movement when only the starting point and the end
point are given, if a skillful suggestion influences our mind. The
prestidigitator stands on one side of the stage when he apparently
throws the costly watch against the mirror on the other side of the
stage; the audience sees his suggestive hand movement and the
disappearance of the watch and sees twenty feet away the shattering of
the mirror. The suggestible spectator cannot help seeing the flight of
the watch across the stage.

The recent experiments by Wertheimer and Korte have gone into still
subtler details. Both experimenters worked with a delicate instrument in
which two light lines on a dark ground could be exposed in very quick
succession and in which it was possible to vary the position of the
lines, the distance of the lines, the intensity of their light, the time
exposure of each, and the time between the appearance of the first and
of the second. They studied all these factors, and moreover the
influence of differently directed attention and suggestive attitude. If
a vertical line is immediately followed by a horizontal, the two
together may give the impression of one right angle. If the time between
the vertical and the horizontal line is long, first one and then the
other is seen. But at a certain length of the time interval, a new
effect is reached. We see the vertical line falling over and lying flat
like the horizontal line. If the eyes are fixed on the point in the
midst of the angle, we might expect that this movement phenomenon would
stop, but the opposite is the case. The apparent movement from the
vertical to the horizontal has to pass our fixation point and it seems
that we ought now to recognize clearly that there is nothing between
those two positions, that the intermediate phases of the movement are
lacking; and yet the experiment shows that under these circumstances we
frequently get the strongest impression of motion. If we use two
horizontal lines, the one above the other, we see, if the right time
interval is chosen, that the upper one moves downward toward the lower.
But we can introduce there a very interesting variation. If we make the
lower line, which appears objectively after the upper one, more intense,
the total impression is one which begins with the lower. We see first
the lower line moving toward the upper one which also approaches the
lower; and then follows the second phase in which both appear to fall
down to the position of the lower one. It is not necessary to go further
into details in order to demonstrate that the apparent movement is in no
way the mere result of an afterimage and that the impression of motion
is surely more than the mere perception of successive phases of
movement. The movement is in these cases not really seen from without,
but is superadded, by the action of the mind, to motionless pictures.

The statement that our impression of movement does not result simply
from the seeing of successive stages but includes a higher mental act
into which the successive visual impressions enter merely as factors is
in itself not really an explanation. We have not settled by it the
nature of that higher central process. But it is enough for us to see
that the impression of the continuity of the motion results from a
complex mental process by which the various pictures are held together
in the unity of a higher act. Nothing can characterize the situation
more clearly than the fact which has been demonstrated by many
experiments, namely, that this feeling of movement is in no way
interfered with by the distinct consciousness that important phases of
the movement are lacking. On the contrary, under certain circumstances
we become still more fully aware of this apparent motion created by our
inner activity when we are conscious of the interruptions between the
various phases of movement.

We come to the consequences. What is then the difference between seeing
motion in the photoplay and seeing it on the real stage? There on the
stage where the actors move the eye really receives a continuous series.
Each position goes over into the next without any interruption. The
spectator receives everything from without and the whole movement which
he sees is actually going on in the world of space without and
accordingly in his eye. But if he faces the film world, _the motion
which he sees appears to be a true motion, and yet is created by his own
mind_. The afterimages of the successive pictures are not sufficient to
produce a substitute for the continuous outer stimulation; the essential
condition is rather the inner mental activity which unites the separate
phases in the idea of connected action. Thus we have reached the exact
counterpart of our results when we analyzed the perception of depth. We
see actual depth in the pictures, and yet we are every instant aware
that it is not real depth and that the persons are not really plastic.
It is only a suggestion of depth, a depth created by our own activity,
but not actually seen, because essential conditions for the true
perception of depth are lacking. Now we find that the movement too is
perceived but that the eye does not receive the impressions of true
movement. It is only a suggestion of movement, and the idea of motion is
to a high degree the product of our own reaction. _Depth and movement
alike come to us in the moving picture world, not as hard facts but as a
mixture of fact and symbol. They are present and yet they are not in the
things. We invest the impressions with them._ The theater has both depth
and motion, without any subjective help; the screen has them and yet
lacks them. We see things distant and moving, but we furnish to them
more than we receive; we create the depth and the continuity through our
mental mechanism.




CHAPTER IV

ATTENTION


The mere perception of the men and women and of the background, with all
their depth and their motion, furnishes only the material. The scene
which keeps our interest alive certainly involves much more than the
simple impression of moving and distant objects. We must accompany those
sights with a wealth of ideas. They must have a meaning for us, they
must be enriched by our own imagination, they must awaken the remnants
of earlier experiences, they must stir up our feelings and emotions,
they must play on our suggestibility, they must start ideas and
thoughts, they must be linked in our mind with the continuous chain of
the play, and they must draw our attention constantly to the important
and essential element of the action. An abundance of such inner
processes must meet the world of impressions and the psychological
analysis has only started when perception of depth and movement alone
are considered. If we hear Chinese, we perceive the sounds, but there is
no inner response to the words; they are meaningless and dead for us; we
have no interest in them. If we hear the same thoughts expressed in our
mother tongue, every syllable carries its meaning and message. Then we
are readily inclined to fancy that this additional significance which
belongs to the familiar language and which is absent from the foreign
one is something which comes to us in the perception itself as if the
meaning too were passing through the channels of our ears. But
psychologically the meaning is ours. In learning the language we have
learned to add associations and reactions of our own to the sounds which
we perceive. It is not different with the optical perceptions. The best
does not come from without.

Of all internal functions which create the meaning of the world around
us, the most central is the attention. The chaos of the surrounding
impressions is organized into a real cosmos of experience by our
selection of that which is significant and of consequence. This is true
for life and stage alike. Our attention must be drawn now here, now
there, if we want to bind together that which is scattered in the space
before us. Everything must be shaded by attention and inattention.
Whatever is focused by our attention wins emphasis and irradiates
meaning over the course of events. In practical life we discriminate
between voluntary and involuntary attention. We call it voluntary if we
approach the impressions with an idea in our mind as to what we want to
focus our attention on. We carry our personal interest, our own idea
into the observation of the objects. Our attention has chosen its aim
beforehand, and we ignore all that does not fulfil this specific
interest. All our working is controlled by such voluntary attention. We
have the idea of the goal which we want to reach in our mind beforehand
and subordinate all which we meet to this selective energy. Through our
voluntary attention we seek something and accept the offering of the
surroundings only in so far as it brings us what we are seeking.

It is quite different with the involuntary attention. The guiding
influence here comes from without. The cue for the focusing of our
attention lies in the events which we perceive. What is loud and shining
and unusual attracts our involuntary attention. We must turn our mind to
a place where an explosion occurs, we must read the glaring electric
signs which flash up. To be sure, the perceptions which force themselves
on our involuntary attention may get their motive power from our own
reactions. Everything which appeals to our natural instincts, everything
which stirs up hope or fear, enthusiasm or indignation, or any strong
emotional excitement will get control of our attention. But in spite of
this circuit through our emotional responses the starting point lies
without and our attention is accordingly of the involuntary type. In our
daily activity voluntary and involuntary attention are always
intertwined. Our life is a great compromise between that which our
voluntary attention aims at and that which the aims of the surrounding
world force on our involuntary attention.

How does the theater performance differ in this respect from life? Might
we not say that voluntary attention is eliminated from the sphere of
art and that the audience is necessarily following the lead of an
attention which receives all its cues from the work of art itself and
which therefore acts involuntarily? To be sure, we may approach a
theater performance with a voluntary purpose of our own. For instance,
we may be interested in a particular actor and may watch him with our
opera glass all the time whenever he is on the stage, even in scenes in
which his role is insignificant and in which the artistic interest ought
to belong to the other actors. But such voluntary selection has
evidently nothing to do with the theater performance as such. By such
behavior we break the spell in which the artistic drama ought to hold
us. We disregard the real shadings of the play and by mere personal side
interests put emphasis where it does not belong. If we really enter into
the spirit of the play, our attention is constantly drawn in accordance
with the intentions of the producers.

Surely the theater has no lack of means to draw this involuntary
attention to any important point. To begin with, the actor who speaks
holds our attention more strongly than the actors who at that time are
silent. Yet the contents of the words may direct our interest to anybody
else on the stage. We watch him whom the words accuse, or betray or
delight. But the mere interest springing from words cannot in the least
explain that constantly shifting action of our involuntary attention
during a theater performance. The movements of the actors are essential.
The pantomime without words can take the place of the drama and still
appeal to us with overwhelming power. The actor who comes to the
foreground of the stage is at once in the foreground of our
consciousness. He who lifts his arm while the others stand quiet has
gained our attention. Above all, every gesture, every play of the
features, brings order and rhythm into the manifoldness of the
impressions and organizes them for our mind. Again, the quick action,
the unusual action, the repeated action, the unexpected action, the
action with strong outer effect, will force itself on our mind and
unbalance the mental equilibrium.

The question arises: how does the photoplay secure the needed shifting
of attention? Here, too, involuntary attention alone can be expected.
An attention which undertakes its explorations guided by preconceived
ideas instead of yielding to the demands of the play would lack
adjustment to its task. We might sit through the photoplay with the
voluntary intention of watching the pictures with a scientific interest
in order to detect some mechanical traits of the camera, or with a
practical interest, in order to look up some new fashions, or with a
professional interest, in order to find out in what New England scenery
these pictures of Palestine might have been photographed. But none of
these aspects has anything to do with the photoplay. If we follow the
play in a genuine attitude of theatrical interest, we must accept those
cues for our attention which the playwright and the producers have
prepared for us. But there is surely no lack of means by which our mind
can be influenced and directed in the rapid play of the pictures.

Of course the spoken word is lacking. We know how often the words on the
screen serve as substitutes for the speech of the actors. They appear
sometimes as so-called "leaders" between the pictures, sometimes even
thrown into the picture itself, sometimes as content of a written
letter or of a telegram or of a newspaper clipping which is projected
like a picture, strongly enlarged, on the screen. In all these cases the
words themselves prescribe the line in which the attention must move and
force the interest of the spectator toward the new goal. But such help
by the writing on the wall is, after all, extraneous to the original
character of the photoplay. As long as we study the psychological effect
of the moving pictures themselves, we must concentrate our inquiry on
the moving pictures as such and not on that which the playwright does
for the interpretation of the pictures. It may be granted that the
letters and newspaper articles take a middle place. They are a part of
the picture, but their influence on the spectator is, nevertheless, very
similar to that of the leaders. We are here concerned only with what the
pictorial offering contains. We must therefore also disregard the
accompanying music or the imitative noises which belong to the technique
of the full-fledged photoplay nowadays. They do not a little to push the
attention hither and thither. Yet they are accessory, while the primary
power must lie in the content of the pictures themselves.

But it is evident that with the exception of the words, no means for
drawing attention which is effective on the theater stage is lost in the
photoplay. All the directing influences which the movements of the
actors exert can be felt no less when they are pictured in the films.
More than that, the absence of the words brings the movements which we
see to still greater prominence in our mind. Our whole attention can now
be focused on the play of the face and of the hands. Every gesture and
every mimic excitement stirs us now much more than if it were only the
accompaniment of speech. Moreover, the technical conditions of the
kinematograph show favor the importance of the movement. First the play
on the screen is acted more rapidly than that on the stage. By the
absence of speech everything is condensed, the whole rhythm is
quickened, a greater pressure of time is applied, and through that the
accents become sharper and the emphasis more powerful for the attention.
But secondly the form of the stage intensifies the impression made by
those who move toward the foreground. The theater stage is broadest near
the footlights and becomes narrower toward the background; the moving
picture stage is narrowest in front and becomes wider toward the
background. This is necessary because its width is controlled by the
angle at which the camera takes the picture. The camera is the apex of
an angle which encloses a breadth of only a few feet in the nearest
photographic distance, while it may include a width of miles in the far
distant landscape. Whatever comes to the foreground therefore gains
strongly in relative importance over its surroundings. Moving away from
the camera means a reduction much greater than a mere stepping to the
background on the theater stage. Furthermore lifeless things have much
more chance for movements in the moving pictures than on the stage and
their motions, too, can contribute toward the right setting of the
attention.

But we know from the theater that movement is not the only condition
which makes us focus our interest on a particular element of the play.
An unusual face, a queer dress, a gorgeous costume or a surprising lack
of costume, a quaint piece of decoration, may attract our mind and even
hold it spellbound for a while. Such means can not only be used but can
be carried to a much stronger climax of efficiency by the unlimited
means of the moving pictures. This is still more true of the power of
setting or background. The painted landscape of the stage can hardly
compete with the wonders of nature and culture when the scene of the
photoplay is laid in the supreme landscapes of the world. Wide vistas
are opened, the woods and the streams, the mountain valleys and the
ocean, are before us with the whole strength of reality; and yet in
rapid change which does not allow the attention to become fatigued.

Finally the mere formal arrangement of the succeeding pictures may keep
our attention in control, and here again are possibilities which are
superior to those of the solid theater stage. At the theater no effect
of formal arrangement can give exactly the same impression to the
spectators in every part of the house. The perspective of the wings and
the other settings and their relation to the persons and to the
background can never appear alike from the front and from the rear, from
the left and from the right side, from the orchestra and from the
balcony, while the picture which the camera has fixated is the same
from every corner of the picture palace. The greatest skill and
refinement can be applied to make the composition serviceable to the
needs of attention. The spectator may not and ought not to be aware that
the lines of the background, the hangings of the room, the curves of the
furniture, the branches of the trees, the forms of the mountains, help
to point toward the figure of the woman who is to hold his mind. The
shading of the lights, the patches of dark shadows, the vagueness of
some parts, the sharp outlines of others, the quietness of some parts of
the picture as against the vehement movement of others all play on the
keyboard of our mind and secure the desired effect on our involuntary
attention.

But if all is admitted, we still have not touched on the most important
and most characteristic relation of the photoplay pictures to the
attention of the audience; and here we reach a sphere in which any
comparison with the stage of the theater would be in vain. What is
attention? What are the essential processes in the mind when we turn our
attention to one face in the crowd, to one little flower in the wide
landscape? It would be wrong to describe the process in the mind by
reference to one change alone. If we have to give an account of the act
of attention, as seen by the modern psychologist, we ought to point to
several cooerdinated features. They are not independent of one another
but are closely interrelated. We may say that whatever attracts our
attention in the sphere of any sense, sight or sound, touch or smell,
surely becomes more vivid and more clear in our consciousness. This does
not at all mean that it becomes more intense. A faint light to which we
turn our attention does not become the strong light of an incandescent
lamp. No, it remains the faint, just perceptible streak of lightness,
but it has grown more impressive, more distinct, more clear in its
details, more vivid. It has taken a stronger hold of us or, as we may
say by a metaphor, it has come into the center of our consciousness.

But this involves a second aspect which is surely no less important.
While the attended impression becomes more vivid, all the other
impressions become less vivid, less clear, less distinct, less detailed.
They fade away. We no longer notice them. They have no hold on our
mind, they disappear. If we are fully absorbed in our book, we do not
hear at all what is said around us and we do not see the room; we forget
everything. Our attention to the page of the book brings with it our
lack of attention to everything else. We may add a third factor. We feel
that our body adjusts itself to the perception. Our head enters into the
movement of listening for the sound, our eyes are fixating the point in
the outer world. We hold all our muscles in tension in order to receive
the fullest possible impression with our sense organs. The lens in our
eye is accommodated exactly to the correct distance. In short our bodily
personality works toward the fullest possible impression. But this is
supplemented by a fourth factor. Our ideas and feelings and impulses
group themselves around the attended object. It becomes the starting
point for our actions while all the other objects in the sphere of our
senses lose their grip on our ideas and feelings. These four factors are
intimately related to one another. As we are passing along the street we
see something in the shop window and as soon as it stirs up our
interest, our body adjusts itself, we stop, we fixate it, we get more
of the detail in it, the lines become sharper, and while it impresses us
more vividly than before the street around us has lost its vividness and
clearness.

If on the stage the hand movements of the actor catch our interest, we
no longer look at the whole large scene, we see only the fingers of the
hero clutching the revolver with which he is to commit his crime. Our
attention is entirely given up to the passionate play of his hand. It
becomes the central point for all our emotional responses. We do not see
the hands of any other actor in the scene. Everything else sinks into a
general vague background, while that one hand shows more and more
details. The more we fixate it, the more its clearness and distinctness
increase. From this one point wells our emotion, and our emotion again
concentrates our senses on this one point. It is as if this one hand
were during this pulse beat of events the whole scene, and everything
else had faded away. On the stage this is impossible; there nothing can
really fade away. That dramatic hand must remain, after all, only the
ten thousandth part of the space of the whole stage; it must remain a
little detail. The whole body of the hero and the other men and the
whole room and every indifferent chair and table in it must go on
obtruding themselves on our senses. What we do not attend cannot be
suddenly removed from the stage. Every change which is needed must be
secured by our own mind. In our consciousness the attended hand must
grow and the surrounding room must blur. But the stage cannot help us.
The art of the theater has there its limits.

Here begins the art of the photoplay. That one nervous hand which
feverishly grasps the deadly weapon can suddenly for the space of a
breath or two become enlarged and be alone visible on the screen, while
everything else has really faded into darkness. The act of attention
which goes on in our mind has remodeled the surrounding itself. The
detail which is being watched has suddenly become the whole content of
the performance, and everything which our mind wants to disregard has
been suddenly banished from our sight and has disappeared. The events
without have become obedient to the demands of our consciousness. In the
language of the photoplay producers it is a "close-up." _The close-up
has objectified in our world of perception our mental act of attention
and by it has furnished art with a means which far transcends the power
of any theater stage._

The scheme of the close-up was introduced into the technique of the film
play rather late, but it has quickly gained a secure position. The more
elaborate the production, the more frequent and the more skillful the
use of this new and artistic means. The melodrama can hardly be played
without it, unless a most inartistic use of printed words is made. The
close-up has to furnish the explanations. If a little locket is hung on
the neck of the stolen or exchanged infant, it is not necessary to tell
us in words that everything will hinge on this locket twenty years later
when the girl is grown up. If the ornament at the child's throat is at
once shown in a close-up where everything has disappeared and only its
quaint form appears much enlarged on the screen, we fix it in our
imagination and know that we must give our fullest attention to it, as
it will play a decisive part in the next reel. The gentleman criminal
who draws his handkerchief from his pocket and with it a little bit of
paper which falls down on the rug unnoticed by him has no power to draw
our attention to that incriminating scrap. The device hardly belongs in
the theater because the audience would not notice it any more than would
the scoundrel himself. It would not be able to draw the attention. But
in the film it is a favorite trick. At the moment the bit of paper
falls, we see it greatly enlarged on the rug, while everything else has
faded away, and we read on it that it is a ticket from the railway
station at which the great crime was committed. Our attention is focused
on it and we know that it will be decisive for the development of the
action.

A clerk buys a newspaper on the street, glances at it and is shocked.
Suddenly we see that piece of news with our own eyes. The close-up
magnifies the headlines of the paper so that they fill the whole screen.
But it is not necessary that this focusing of the attention should refer
to levers in the plot. Any subtle detail, any significant gesture which
heightens the meaning of the action may enter into the center of our
consciousness by monopolizing the stage for a few seconds. There is love
in her smiling face, and yet we overlook it as they stand in a crowded
room. But suddenly, only for three seconds, all the others in the room
have disappeared, the bodies of the lovers themselves have faded away,
and only his look of longing and her smile of yielding reach out to us.
The close-up has done what no theater could have offered by its own
means, though we might have approached the effect in the theater
performance if we had taken our opera glass and had directed it only to
those two heads. But by doing so we should have emancipated ourselves
from the offering of the stage picture, that is, the concentration and
focusing were secured by us and not by the performance. In the photoplay
it is the opposite.

Have we not reached by this analysis of the close-up a point very near
to that to which the study of depth perception and movement perception
was leading? We saw that the moving pictures give us the plastic world
and the moving world, and that nevertheless the depth and the motion in
it are not real, unlike the depth and motion of the stage. We find now
that the reality of the action in the photoplay in still another respect
lacks objective independence, because it yields to our subjective play
of attention. Wherever our attention becomes focused on a special
feature, the surrounding adjusts itself, eliminates everything in which
we are not interested, and by the close-up heightens the vividness of
that on which our mind is concentrated. It is as if that outer world
were woven into our mind and were shaped not through its own laws but by
the acts of our attention.




CHAPTER V

MEMORY AND IMAGINATION


When we sit in a real theater and see the stage with its depth and watch
the actors moving and turn our attention hither and thither, we feel
that those impressions from behind the footlights have objective
character, while the action of our attention is subjective. Those men
and things come from without but the play of the attention starts from
within. Yet our attention, as we have seen, does not really add anything
to the impressions of the stage. It makes some more vivid and clear
while others become vague or fade away, but through the attention alone
no content enters our consciousness. Wherever our attention may wander
on the stage, whatever we experience comes to us through the channels of
our senses. The spectator in the audience, however, does experience more
than merely the light and sound sensations which fall on the eye and
ear at that moment. He may be entirely fascinated by the actions on the
stage and yet his mind may be overflooded with other ideas. Only one of
their sources, but not the least important one, is the memory.

Indeed the action of the memory brings to the mind of the audience ever
so much which gives fuller meaning and ampler setting to every
scene--yes, to every word and movement on the stage. To think of the
most trivial case, at every point of the drama we must remember what
happened in the previous scenes. The first act is no longer on the stage
when we see the second. The second alone is now our sense impression.
Yet this second act is in itself meaningless if it is not supported by
the first. Hence the first must somehow be in our consciousness. At
least in every important scene we must remember those situations of the
preceding act which can throw light on the new developments. We see the
young missionary in his adventures on his perilous journey and we
remember how in the preceding act we saw him in his peaceful cottage
surrounded by the love of his parents and sisters and how they mourned
when he left them behind. The more exciting the dangers he passes
through in the far distant land, the more strongly does our memory carry
us back to the home scenes which we witnessed before. The theater cannot
do more than suggest to our memory this looking backward. The young hero
may call this reminiscence back to our consciousness by his speech and
his prayer, and when he fights his way through the jungles of Africa and
the savages attack him, the melodrama may put words into his mouth which
force us to think fervently of those whom he has left behind. But, after
all, it is our own material of memory ideas which supplies the picture.
The theater cannot go further. The photoplay can. We see the jungle, we
see the hero at the height of his danger; and suddenly there flashes
upon the screen a picture of the past. For not more than two seconds
does the idyllic New England scene slip into the exciting African
events. When one deep breath is over we are stirred again by the event
of the present. That home scene of the past flitted by just as a hasty
thought of bygone days darts through the mind.

The modern photoartist makes use of this technical device in an
abundance of forms. In his slang any going back to an earlier scene is
called a "cut-back." The cut-back may have many variations and serve
many purposes. But the one which we face here is psychologically the
most interesting. We have really an objectivation of our memory
function. The case of the cut-back is there quite parallel to that of
the close-up. In the one we recognize the mental act of attending, in
the other we must recognize the mental act of remembering. _In both
cases the act which in the ordinary theater would go on in our mind
alone is here in the photoplay projected into the pictures themselves.
It is as if reality has lost its own continuous connection and become
shaped by the demands of our soul._ It is as if the outer world itself
became molded in accordance with our fleeting turns of attention or with
our passing memory ideas.

It is only another version of the same principle when the course of
events is interrupted by forward glances. The mental function involved
is that of expectation or, when the expectation is controlled by our
feelings, we may class it under the mental function of imagination. The
melodrama shows us how the young millionaire wastes his nights in a
dissipated life, and when he drinks his blasphemous toast at a champagne
feast with shameless women, we suddenly see on the screen the vision of
twenty years later when the bartender of a most miserable saloon pushes
the penniless tramp out into the gutter. The last act in the theater may
bring us to such an ending, but there it can come only in the regular
succession of events. That pitiful ending cannot be shown to us when
life is still blooming and when a twenty years' downward course is still
to be interpreted. There only our own imagination can anticipate how the
mill of life may grind. In the photoplay our imagination is projected on
the screen. With an uncanny contrast that ultimate picture of defeat
breaks in where victory seems most glorious; and five seconds later the
story of youth and rapture streams on. Again we see the course of the
natural events remolded by the power of the mind. The theater can
picture only how the real occurrences might follow one another; the
photoplay can overcome the interval of the future as well as the
interval of the past and slip the day twenty years hence between this
minute and the next. In short, it can act as our imagination acts. It
has the mobility of our ideas which are not controlled by the physical
necessity of outer events but by the psychological laws for the
association of ideas. In our mind past and future become intertwined
with the present. The photoplay obeys the laws of the mind rather than
those of the outer world.

But the play of memory and imagination can have a still richer
significance in the art of the film. The screen may produce not only
what we remember or imagine but what the persons in the play see in
their own minds. The technique of the camera stage has successfully
introduced a distinct form for this kind of picturing. If a person in
the scene remembers the past, a past which may be entirely unknown to
the spectator but which is living in the memory of the hero or heroine,
then the former events are not thrown on the screen as an entirely new
set of pictures, but they are connected with the present scene by a slow
transition. He sits at the fireplace in his study and receives the
letter with the news of her wedding. The close-up picture which shows
us the enlargement of the engraved wedding announcement appears as an
entirely new picture. The room suddenly disappears and the hand which
holds the card flashes up. Again when we have read the card, it suddenly
disappears and we are in the room again. But when he has dreamily
stirred the fire and sits down and gazes into the flames, then the room
seems to dissolve, the lines blur, the details fade away, and while the
walls and the whole room slowly melt, with the same slow transition the
flower garden blossoms out, the flower garden where he and she sat
together under the lilac bush and he confessed to her his boyish love.
And then the garden slowly vanishes and through the flowers we see once
more the dim outlines of the room and they become sharper and sharper
until we are in the midst of the study again and nothing is left of the
vision of the past.

The technique of manufacturing such gradual transitions from one picture
into another and back again demands much patience and is more difficult
than the sudden change, as two exactly corresponding sets of views have
to be produced and finally combined. But this cumbersome method has been
fully accepted in moving picture making and the effect indeed somewhat
symbolizes the appearance and disappearance of a reminiscence.

This scheme naturally opens wide perspectives. The skilful
photoplaywright can communicate to us long scenes and complicated
developments of the past in the form of such retrospective pictures. The
man who shot his best friend has not offered an explanation in the court
trial which we witness. It remains a perfect secret to the town and a
mystery to the spectator; and now as the jail door closes behind him the
walls of the prison fuse and melt away and we witness the scene in the
little cottage where his friend secretly met his wife and how he broke
in and how it all came about and how he rejected every excuse which
would dishonor his home. The whole murder story becomes embedded in the
reappearance of his memory ideas. The effect is much less artistic when
the photoplay, as not seldom happens, uses this pattern as a mere
substitute for words. In the picturization of a Gaboriau story the woman
declines to tell before the court her life story which ended in a
crime. She finally yields, she begins under oath to describe her whole
past; and at the moment when she opens her mouth the courtroom
disappears and fades into the scene in which the love adventure began.
Then we pass through a long set of scenes which lead to the critical
point, and at that moment we slide back into the courtroom and the woman
finishes her confession. That is an external substitution of the
pictures for the words, esthetically on a much lower level than the
other case where the past was living only in the memory of the witness.
Yet it is again an embodiment of past events which the genuine theater
could offer to the ear but never to the eye.

Just as we can follow the reminiscences of the hero, we may share the
fancies of his imagination. Once more the case is distinctly different
from the one in which we, the spectators, had our imaginative ideas
realized on the screen. Here we are passive witnesses to the wonders
which are unveiled through the imagination of the persons in the play.
We see the boy who is to enter the navy and who sleeps on shipboard the
first night; the walls disappear and his imagination flutters from port
to port. All he has seen in the pictures of foreign lands and has heard
from his comrades becomes the background of his jubilant adventures. Now
he stands in the rigging while the proud vessel sails into the harbor of
Rio de Janeiro and now into Manila Bay; now he enjoys himself in
Japanese ports and now by the shores of India; now he glides through the
Suez Canal and now he returns to the skyscrapers of New York. Not more
than one minute was needed for his world travel in beautiful fantastic
pictures; and yet we lived through all the boy's hopes and ecstasies
with him. If we had seen the young sailor in his hammock on the theater
stage, he might have hinted to us whatever passed through his mind by a
kind of monologue or by some enthusiastic speech to a friend. But then
we should have seen before our inner eye only that which the names of
foreign places awake in ourselves. We should not really have seen the
wonders of the world through the eyes of his soul and with the glow of
his hope. The drama would have given dead names to our ear; the
photoplay gives ravishing scenery to our eye and shows the fancy of the
young fellow in the scene really living.

From here we see the perspective to the fantastic dreams which the
camera can fixate. Whenever the theater introduces an imagined setting
and the stage clouds sink over the sleeper and the angels fill the
stage, the beauty of the verses must excuse the shortcomings of the
visual appeal. The photoplay artist can gain his triumphs here. Even the
vulgar effects become softened by this setting. The ragged tramp who
climbs a tree and falls asleep in the shady branches and then lives
through a reversed world in which he and his kind feast and glory and
live in palaces and sail in yachts, and, when the boiler of the yacht
explodes, falls from the tree to the ground, becomes a tolerable
spectacle because all is merged in the unreal pictures. Or, to think of
the other extreme, gigantic visions of mankind crushed by the Juggernaut
of war and then blessed by the angel of peace may arise before our eyes
with all their spiritual meaning.

Even the whole play may find its frame in a setting which offers a
five-reel performance as one great imaginative dream. In the pretty
play, "When Broadway was a Trail," the hero and heroine stand on the
Metropolitan Tower and bend over its railing. They see the turmoil of
New York of the present day and ships passing the Statue of Liberty. He
begins to tell her of the past when in the seventeenth century Broadway
was a trail; and suddenly the time which his imagination awakens is with
us. Through two hours we follow the happenings of three hundred years
ago. From New Amsterdam it leads to the New England shores, all the
early colonial life shows us its intimate charm, and when the hero has
found his way back over the Broadway trail, we awake and see the last
gestures with which the young narrator shows to the girl the Broadway
buildings of today.

Memory looks toward the past, expectation and imagination toward the
future. But in the midst of the perception of our surroundings our mind
turns not only to that which has happened before and which may happen
later; it is interested in happenings at the same time in other places.
The theater can show us only the events at one spot. Our mind craves
more. Life does not move forward on one single pathway. The whole
manifoldness of parallel currents with their endless interconnections
is the true substance of our understanding. It may be the task of a
particular art to force all into one steady development between the
walls of one room, but every letter and every telephone call to the room
remind us even then that other developments with other settings are
proceeding in the same instant. The soul longs for this whole interplay,
and the richer it is in contrasts, the more satisfaction may be drawn
from our simultaneous presence in many quarters. The photoplay alone
gives us our chance for such omnipresence. We see the banker, who had
told his young wife that he has a directors' meeting, at a late hour in
a cabaret feasting with a stenographer from his office. She had promised
her poor old parents to be home early. We see the gorgeous roof garden
and the tango dances, but our dramatic interest is divided among the
frivolous pair, the jealous young woman in the suburban cottage, and the
anxious old people in the attic. Our mind wavers among the three scenes.
The photoplay shows one after another. Yet it can hardly be said that we
think of them as successive. It is as if we were really at all three
places at once. We see the joyous dance which is of central dramatic
interest for twenty seconds, then for three seconds the wife in her
luxurious boudoir looking at the dial of the clock, for three seconds
again the grieved parents eagerly listening for any sound on the stairs,
and anew for twenty seconds the turbulent festival. The frenzy reaches a
climax, and in that moment we are suddenly again with his unhappy wife;
it is only a flash, and the next instant we see the tears of the girl's
poor mother. The three scenes proceed almost as if no one were
interrupted at all. It is as if we saw one through another, as if three
tones blended into one chord.

There is no limit to the number of threads which may be interwoven. A
complex intrigue may demand cooeperation at half a dozen spots, and we
look now into one, now into another, and never have the impression that
they come one after another. The temporal element has disappeared, the
one action irradiates in all directions. Of course, this can easily be
exaggerated, and the result must be a certain restlessness. If the scene
changes too often and no movement is carried on without a break, the
play may irritate us by its nervous jerking from place to place. Near
the end of the Theda Bara edition of Carmen the scene changes one
hundred and seventy times in ten minutes, an average of a little more
than three seconds for each scene. We follow Don Jose and Carmen and the
toreador in ever new phases of the dramatic action and are constantly
carried back to Don Jose's home village where his mother waits for him.
There indeed the dramatic tension has an element of nervousness, in
contrast to the Geraldine Farrar version of Carmen which allows a more
unbroken development of the single action.

But whether it is used with artistic reserve or with a certain dangerous
exaggeration, in any case its psychological meaning is obvious. It
demonstrates to us in a new form the same principle which the perception
of depth and of movement, the acts of attention and of memory and of
imagination have shown. _The objective world is molded by the interests
of the mind. Events which are far distant from one another so that we
could not be physically present at all of them at the same time are
fusing in our field of vision, just as they are brought together in our
own consciousness._ Psychologists are still debating whether the mind
can ever devote itself to several groups of ideas at the same time. Some
claim that any so-called division of attention is really a rapid
alteration. Yet in any case subjectively we experience it as an actual
division. Our mind is split and can be here and there apparently in one
mental act. This inner division, this awareness of contrasting
situations, this interchange of diverging experiences in the soul, can
never be embodied except in the photoplay.

An interesting side light falls on this relation between the mind and
the pictured scenes, if we turn to a mental process which is quite
nearly related to those which we have considered, namely, suggestion. It
is similar in that a suggested idea which awakes in our consciousness is
built up from the same material as the memory ideas or the imaginative
ideas. The play of associations controls the suggestions, as it does the
reminiscences and fancies. Yet in an essential point it is quite
different. All the other associative ideas find merely their starting
point in those outer impressions. We see a landscape on the stage or on
the screen or in life and this visual perception is the cue which stirs
up in our memory or imagination any fitting ideas. The choice of them,
however, is completely controlled by our own interest and attitude and
by our previous experiences. Those memories and fancies are therefore
felt as our subjective supplements. We do not believe in their objective
reality. A suggestion, on the other hand, is forced on us. The outer
perception is not only a starting point but a controlling influence. The
associated idea is not felt as our creation but as something to which we
have to submit. The extreme case is, of course, that of the hypnotizer
whose word awakens in the mind of the hypnotized person ideas which he
cannot resist. He must accept them as real, he must believe that the
dreary room is a beautiful garden in which he picks flowers.

The spellbound audience in a theater or in a picture house is certainly
in a state of heightened suggestibility and is ready to receive
suggestions. One great and fundamental suggestion is working in both
cases, inasmuch as the drama as well as the photoplay suggests to the
mind of the spectator that this is more than mere play, that it is life
which we witness. But if we go further and ask for the application of
suggestions in the detailed action, we cannot overlook the fact that the
theater is extremely limited in its means. A series of events on the
stage may strongly force on the mind the prediction of something which
must follow, but inasmuch as the stage has to do with real physical
beings who must behave according to the laws of nature, it cannot avoid
offering us the actual events for which we were waiting. To be sure,
even on the stage the hero may talk, the revolver in his hand, until it
is fully suggested to us that the suicidal shot will end his life in the
next instant; and yet just then the curtain may fall, and only the
suggestion of his death may work in our mind. But this is evidently a
very exceptional case as a fall of the curtain means the ending of the
scene. In the act itself every series of events must come to its natural
ending. If two men begin to fight on the stage, nothing remains to be
suggested; we must simply witness the fight. And if two lovers embrace
each other, we have to see their caresses.

The photoplay can not only "cut back" in the service of memories, but
it can cut off in the service of suggestion. Even if the police did not
demand that actual crimes and suicides should never be shown on the
screen, for mere artistic reasons it would be wiser to leave the climax
to the suggestion to which the whole scene has led. There is no need of
bringing the series of pictures to its logical end, because they are
pictures only and not the real objects. At any instant the man may
disappear from the scene, and no automobile can race over the ground so
rapidly that it cannot be stopped just as it is to crash into the
rushing express train. The horseback rider jumps into the abyss; we see
him fall, and yet at the moment when he crashes to the ground we are
already in the midst of a far distant scene. Again and again with
doubtful taste the sensuality of the nickel audiences has been stirred
up by suggestive pictures of a girl undressing, and when in the intimate
chamber the last garment was touched, the spectators were suddenly in
the marketplace among crowds of people or in a sailing vessel on the
river. The whole technique of the rapid changes of scenes which we have
recognized as so characteristic of the photoplay involves at every end
point elements of suggestion which to a certain degree link the separate
scenes as the afterimages link the separate pictures.




CHAPTER VI

EMOTIONS


To picture emotions must be the central aim of the photoplay. In the
drama words of wisdom may be spoken and we may listen to the
conversations with interest even if they have only intellectual and not
emotional character. But the actor whom we see on the screen can hold
our attention only by what he is doing and his actions gain meaning and
unity for us through the feelings and emotions which control them. More
than in the drama the persons in the photoplay are to us first of all
subjects of emotional experiences. Their joy and pain, their hope and
fear, their love and hate, their gratitude and envy, their sympathy and
malice, give meaning and value to the play. What are the chances of the
photoartist to bring these feelings to a convincing expression?

No doubt, an emotion which is deprived of its discharge by words has
lost a strong element, and yet gestures, actions, and facial play are so
interwoven with the psychical process of an intense emotion that every
shade can find its characteristic delivery. The face alone with its
tensions around the mouth, with its play of the eye, with its cast of
the forehead, and even with the motions of the nostrils and the setting
of the jaw, may bring numberless shades into the feeling tone. Here
again the close-up can strongly heighten the impression. It is at the
climax of emotion on the stage that the theatergoer likes to use his
opera glass in order not to overlook the subtle excitement of the lips
and the passion of the eyeballs and the ghastly pupil and the quivering
cheeks. The enlargement by the close-up on the screen brings this
emotional action of the face to sharpest relief. Or it may show us
enlarged a play of the hands in which anger and rage or tender love or
jealousy speak in unmistakable language. In humorous scenes even the
flirting of amorous feet may in the close-up tell the story of their
possessors' hearts. Nevertheless there are narrow limits. Many emotional
symptoms like blushing or growing pale would be lost in the mere
photographic rendering, and, above all, these and many other signs of
feeling are not under voluntary control. The photoactors may carefully
go through the movements and imitate the contractions and relaxations of
the muscles, and yet may be unable to produce those processes which are
most essential for the true life emotion, namely those in the glands,
blood vessels, and involuntary muscles.

Certainly the going through the motions will shade consciousness
sufficiently so that some of these involuntary and instinctive responses
may set in. The actor really experiences something of the inner
excitement which he imitates and with the excitement the automatic
reactions appear. Yet only a few can actually shed tears, however much
they move the muscles of the face into the semblance of crying. The
pupil of the eye is somewhat more obedient, as the involuntary muscles
of the iris respond to the cue which a strong imagination can give, and
the mimic presentation of terror or astonishment or hatred may actually
lead to the enlargement or contraction of the pupil, which the close-up
may show. Yet there remains too much which mere art cannot render and
which life alone produces, because the consciousness of the unreality of
the situation works as a psychological inhibition on the automatic
instinctive responses. The actor may artificially tremble, or breathe
heavily, but the strong pulsation of the carotid artery or the moistness
of the skin from perspiration will not come with an imitated emotion. Of
course, that is true of the actor on the stage, too. But the content of
the words and the modulation of the voice can help so much that the
shortcomings of the visual impression are forgotten.

To the actor of the moving pictures, on the other hand, the temptation
offers itself to overcome the deficiency by a heightening of the
gestures and of the facial play, with the result that the emotional
expression becomes exaggerated. No friend of the photoplay can deny that
much of the photoart suffers from this almost unavoidable tendency. The
quick marchlike rhythm of the drama of the reel favors this artificial
overdoing, too. The rapid alternation of the scenes often seems to
demand a jumping from one emotional climax to another, or rather the
appearance of such extreme expressions where the content of the play
hardly suggests such heights and depths of emotion. The soft lights are
lost and the mental eye becomes adjusted to glaring flashes. This
undeniable defect is felt with the American actors still more than with
the European, especially with the French and Italian ones with whom
excited gestures and highly accentuated expressions of the face are
natural. A New England temperament forced into Neapolitan expressions of
hatred or jealousy or adoration too easily appears a caricature. It is
not by chance that so many strong actors of the stage are such more or
less decided failures on the screen. They have been dragged into an art
which is foreign to them, and their achievement has not seldom remained
far below that of the specializing photoactor. The habitual reliance on
the magic of the voice deprives them of the natural means of expression
when they are to render emotions without words. They give too little or
too much; they are not expressive, or they become grotesque.

Of course, the photoartist profits from one advantage. He is not obliged
to find the most expressive gesture in one decisive moment of the stage
performance. He can not only rehearse, but he can repeat the scene
before the camera until exactly the right inspiration comes, and the
manager who takes the close-up visage may discard many a poor pose
before he strikes that one expression in which the whole content of the
feeling of the scene is concentrated. In one other respect the producer
of the photoplay has a technical advantage. More easily than the stage
manager of the real theater he can choose actors whose natural build and
physiognomy fit the role and predispose them for the desired expression.
The drama depends upon professional actors; the photoplay can pick
players among any group of people for specific roles. They need no art
of speaking and no training in delivery. The artificial make-up of the
stage actors in order to give them special character is therefore less
needed for the screen. The expression of the faces and the gestures must
gain through such natural fitness of the man for the particular role. If
the photoplay needs a brutal boxer in a mining camp, the producer will
not, like the stage manager, try to transform a clean, neat,
professional actor into a vulgar brute, but he will sift the Bowery
until he has found some creature who looks as if he came from that
mining camp and who has at least the prizefighter's cauliflower ear
which results from the smashing of the ear cartilage. If he needs the
fat bartender with his smug smile, or the humble Jewish peddler, or the
Italian organ grinder, he does not rely on wigs and paint; he finds them
all ready-made on the East Side. With the right body and countenance the
emotion is distinctly more credible. The emotional expression in the
photoplays is therefore often more natural in the small roles which the
outsiders play than in the chief parts of the professionals who feel
that they must outdo nature.

But our whole consideration so far has been onesided and narrow. We have
asked only about the means by which the photoactor expresses his
emotion, and we were naturally confined to the analysis of his bodily
reactions. But while the human individual in our surroundings has hardly
any other means than the bodily expressions to show his emotions and
moods, the photoplaywright is certainly not bound by these limits. Yet
even in life the emotional tone may radiate beyond the body. A person
expresses his mourning by his black clothes and his joy by gay attire,
or he may make the piano or violin ring forth in happiness or moan in
sadness. Even his whole room or house may be penetrated by his spirit of
welcoming cordiality or his emotional setting of forbidding harshness.
The feeling of the soul emanates into the surroundings and the
impression which we get of our neighbor's emotional attitude may be
derived from this external frame of the personality as much as from the
gestures and the face.

This effect of the surrounding surely can and must be much heightened in
the artistic theater play. All the stage settings of the scene ought to
be in harmony with the fundamental emotions of the play, and many an act
owes its success to the unity of emotional impression which results from
the perfect painting of the background; it reverberates to the passions
of the mind. From the highest artistic color and form effects of the
stage in the Reinhardt style down to the cheapest melodrama with soft
blue lights and tender music for the closing scene, the stage
arrangements tell the story of the intimate emotion. But just this
additional expression of the feeling through the medium of the
surrounding scene, through background and setting, through lines and
forms and movements, is very much more at the disposal of the
photoartist. He alone can change the background and all the surroundings
of the acting person from instant to instant. He is not bound to one
setting, he has no technical difficulty in altering the whole scene with
every smile and every frown. To be sure, the theater can give us
changing sunshine and thunderclouds too. But it must go on at the slow
pace and with the clumsiness with which the events in nature pass. The
photoplay can flit from one to the other. Not more than one sixteenth of
a second is needed to carry us from one corner of the globe to the
other, from a jubilant setting to a mourning scene. The whole keyboard
of the imagination may be used to serve this emotionalizing of nature.

There is a girl in her little room, and she opens a letter and reads it.
There is no need of showing us in a close-up the letter page with the
male handwriting and the words of love and the request for her hand. We
see it in her radiant visage, we read it from her fascinated arms and
hands; and yet how much more can the photoartist tell us about the storm
of emotions in her soul. The walls of her little room fade away.
Beautiful hedges of hawthorn blossom around her, rose bushes in
wonderful glory arise and the whole ground is alive with exotic flowers.
Or the young artist sits in his attic playing his violin; we see the bow
moving over the strings but the dreamy face of the player does not
change with his music. Under the spell of his tones his features are
immovable as if they were staring at a vision. They do not speak of the
changing emotions which his melodies awake. We cannot hear those tones.
And yet we do hear them: a lovely spring landscape widens behind his
head, we see the valleys of May and the bubbling brooks and the young
wild beeches. And slowly it changes into the sadness of the autumn, the
sere leaves are falling around the player, heavy clouds hang low over
his head. Suddenly at a sharp accent of his bow the storm breaks, we are
carried to the wildness of rugged rocks or to the raging sea; and again
comes tranquillity over the world, the little country village of his
youth fills the background, the harvest is brought from the fields, the
sun sets upon a scene of happiness, and while the bow slowly sinks, the
walls and ceiling of his attic close in again. No shade, no tint, no hue
of his emotions has escaped us; we followed them as if we had heard the
rejoicing and the sadness, the storm and the peace of his melodious
tones. Such imaginative settings can be only the extreme; they would not
be fit for the routine play. But, however much weaker and fainter the
echo of the surroundings may be in the realistic pictures of the
standard photoplay, the chances are abundant everywhere and no skillful
playwright will ever disregard them entirely. Not the portrait of the
man but the picture as a whole has to be filled with emotional
exuberance.

Everything so far has referred to the emotions of the persons in the
play, but this cannot be sufficient. When we were interested in
attention and memory we did not ask about the act of attention and
memory in the persons of the play, but in the spectator, and we
recognized that these mental activities and excitements in the audience
were projected into the moving pictures. Just here was the center of
our interest, because it showed that uniqueness of the means with which
the photoplaywright can work. If we want to shape the question now in
the same way, we ought to ask how it is with the emotions of the
spectator. But then two different groups of cases must be distinguished.
On the one side we have those emotions in which the feelings of the
persons in the play are transmitted to our own soul. On the other side,
we find those feelings with which we respond to the scenes in the play,
feelings which may be entirely different, perhaps exactly opposite to
those which the figures in the play express.

The first group is by far the larger one. Our imitation of the emotions
which we see expressed brings vividness and affective tone into our
grasping of the play's action. We sympathize with the sufferer and that
means that the pain which he expresses becomes our own pain. We share
the joy of the happy lover and the grief of the despondent mourner, we
feel the indignation of the betrayed wife and the fear of the man in
danger. The visual perception of the various forms of expression of
these emotions fuses in our mind with the conscious awareness of the
emotion expressed; we feel as if we were directly seeing and observing
the emotion itself. Moreover the idea awakens in us the appropriate
reactions. The horror which we see makes us really shrink, the happiness
which we witness makes us relax, the pain which we observe brings
contractions in our muscles; and all the resulting sensations from
muscles, joints, tendons, from skin and viscera, from blood circulation
and breathing, give the color of living experience to the emotional
reflection in our mind. It is obvious that for this leading group of
emotions the relation of the pictures to the feelings of the persons in
the play and to the feelings of the spectator is exactly the same. If we
start from the emotions of the audience, we can say that the pain and
the joy which the spectator feels are really projected to the screen,
projected both into the portraits of the persons and into the pictures
of the scenery and background into which the personal emotions radiate.
The fundamental principle which we recognized for all the other mental
states is accordingly no less efficient in the case of the spectator's
emotions.

The analysis of the mind of the audience must lead, however, to that
second group of emotions, those in which the spectator responds to the
scenes on the film from the standpoint of his independent affective
life. We see an overbearing pompous person who is filled with the
emotion of solemnity, and yet he awakens in us the emotion of humor. We
answer by our ridicule. We see the scoundrel who in the melodramatic
photoplay is filled with fiendish malice, and yet we do not respond by
imitating his emotion; we feel moral indignation toward his personality.
We see the laughing, rejoicing child who, while he picks the berries
from the edge of the precipice, is not aware that he must fall down if
the hero does not snatch him back at the last moment. Of course, we feel
the child's joy with him. Otherwise we should not even understand his
behaviour, but we feel more strongly the fear and the horror of which
the child himself does not know anything. The photoplaywrights have so
far hardly ventured to project this second class of emotion, which the
spectator superadds to the events, into the show on the screen. Only
tentative suggestions can be found. The enthusiasm or the disapproval
or indignation of the spectator is sometimes released in the lights and
shades and in the setting of the landscape. There are still rich
possibilities along this line. The photoplay has hardly come to its own
with regard to these secondary emotions. Here it has not emancipated
itself sufficiently from the model of the stage. Those emotions arise,
of course, in the audience of a theater too, but the dramatic stage
cannot embody them. In the opera the orchestra may symbolize them. For
the photoplay, which is not bound to the physical succession of events
but gives us only the pictorial reflection, there is an unlimited field
for the expression of these attitudes in ourselves.

But the wide expansion of this field and of the whole manifoldness of
emotional possibilities in the moving pictures is not sufficiently
characterized as long as we think only of the optical representation in
the actual outer world. The camera men of the moving pictures have
photographed the happenings of the world and all its wonders, have gone
to the bottom of the sea and up to the clouds; they have surprised the
beasts in the jungles and in the Arctic ice; they have dwelt with the
lowest races and have captured the greatest men of our time: and they
are always haunted by the fear that the supply of new sensations may be
exhausted. Curiously enough, they have so far ignored the fact that an
inexhaustible wealth of new impressions is at their disposal, which has
hardly been touched as yet. There is a material and a formal side to the
pictures which we see in their rapid succession. The material side is
controlled by the content of what is shown to us. But the formal side
depends upon the outer conditions under which this content is exhibited.
Even with ordinary photographs we are accustomed to discriminate between
those in which every detail is very sharp and others, often much more
artistic, in which everything looks somewhat misty and blurring and in
which sharp outlines are avoided. We have this formal aspect, of course,
still more prominently if we see the same landscape or the same person
painted by a dozen different artists. Each one has his own style. Or, to
point to another elementary factor, the same series of moving pictures
may be given to us with a very slow or with a rapid turning of the
crank. It is the same street scene, and yet in the one case everyone on
the street seems leisurely to saunter along, while in the other case
there is a general rush and hurry. Nothing is changed but the temporal
form; and in going over from the sharp image to the blurring one,
nothing is changed but a certain spatial form: the content remains the
same.

As soon as we give any interest to this formal aspect of the
presentation, we must recognize that the photoplaywright has here
possibilities to which nothing corresponds in the world of the stage.
Take the case that we want to produce an effect of trembling. We might
use the pictures as the camera has taken them, sixteen in a second. But
in reproducing them on the screen we change their order. After giving
the first four pictures we go back to picture 3, then give 4, 5, 6, and
return to 5, then 6, 7, 8, and go back to 7, and so on. Any other
rhythm, of course, is equally possible. The effect is one which never
occurs in nature and which could not be produced on the stage. The
events for a moment go backward. A certain vibration goes through the
world like the tremolo of the orchestra. Or we demand from our camera a
still more complex service. We put the camera itself on a slightly
rocking support and then every point must move in strange curves and
every motion takes an uncanny whirling character. The content still
remains the same as under normal conditions, but the changes in the
formal presentation give to the mind of the spectator unusual sensations
which produce a new shading of the emotional background.

Of course, impressions which come to our eye can at first awaken only
sensations, and a sensation is not an emotion. But it is well known that
in the view of modern physiological psychology our consciousness of the
emotion itself is shaped and marked by the sensations which arise from
our bodily organs. As soon as such abnormal visual impressions stream
into our consciousness, our whole background of fusing bodily sensations
becomes altered and new emotions seem to take hold of us. If we see on
the screen a man hypnotized in the doctor's office, the patient himself
may lie there with closed eyes, nothing in his features expressing his
emotional setting and nothing radiating to us. But if now only the
doctor and the patient remain unchanged and steady, while everything in
the whole room begins at first to tremble and then to wave and to change
its form more and more rapidly so that a feeling of dizziness comes over
us and an uncanny, ghastly unnaturalness overcomes the whole surrounding
of the hypnotized person, we ourselves become seized by the strange
emotion. It is not worth while to go into further illustrations here, as
this possibility of the camera work still belongs entirely to the
future. It could not be otherwise as we remember that the whole moving
picture play arose from the slavish imitation of the drama and began
only slowly to find its own artistic methods. But there is no doubt that
the formal changes of the pictorial presentation will be legion as soon
as the photoartists give their attention to this neglected aspect.

The value of these formal changes for the expression of the emotions may
become remarkable. The characteristic features of many an attitude and
feeling which cannot be expressed without words today will then be
aroused in the mind of the spectator through the subtle art of the
camera.





PART II

THE ESTHETICS OF THE PHOTOPLAY




CHAPTER VII

THE PURPOSE OF ART


We have analyzed the mental functions which are most powerful in the
audience of the photoplay. We studied the mere act of perceiving the
pictures on the screen, of perceiving their apparently plastic
character, their depth, and their apparent movements. We turned then to
those psychical acts by which we respond to the perceived impressions.
In the foreground stood the act of attention, but then we followed the
play of associations, of memory, of imagination, of suggestion, and,
most important of all, we traced the distribution of interest. Finally
we spoke of the feelings and emotions with which we accompany the play.
Certainly all this does not exhaust the mental reactions which arise in
our mind when we witness a drama of the film. We have not spoken, for
instance, of the action which the plot of the story or its social
background may start in our soul. The suffering of the poor, the
injustice by which the weak may be forced into the path of crime, and a
hundred other social motives may be impressed on us by the photoplay;
thoughts about human society, about laws and reforms, about human
differences and human fates, may fill our mind. Yet this is not one of
the characteristic functions of the moving pictures. It is a side effect
which may set in just as it may result from reading the newspapers or
from hearing of practical affairs in life. But in all our discussions we
have also left out another mental process, namely, esthetic emotion. We
did speak about the emotions which the plot of the play stirs up. We
discussed the feelings in which we sympathize with the characters of the
scene, in which we share their suffering and their joy; and we also
spoke about that other group of emotions by which we take a mental
attitude toward the behaviour of the persons in the play. But there is
surely a third group of feelings and emotions which we have not yet
considered, namely, those of our joy in the play, our esthetic
satisfaction or dissatisfaction. We have omitted them intentionally,
because the study of this group of feelings involves a discussion of the
esthetic process as such, and we have left all the esthetic problems for
this second part of our investigation.

If we disregard this pleasure or displeasure in the beauty of the
photoplay and reflect only on the processes of perception, attention,
interest, memory, imagination, suggestion, and emotion which we have
analyzed, we see that we everywhere come to the same result. One general
principle seemed to control the whole mental mechanism of the spectator,
or rather the relation between the mental mechanism and the pictures on
the screen. We recognized that in every case the objective world of
outer events had been shaped and molded until it became adjusted to the
subjective movements of the mind. The mind develops memory ideas and
imaginative ideas; in the moving pictures they become reality. The mind
concentrates itself on a special detail in its act of attention; and in
the close-up of the moving pictures this inner state is objectified. The
mind is filled with emotions; and by means of the camera the whole
scenery echoes them. Even in the most objective factor of the mind, the
perception, we find this peculiar oscillation. We perceive the movement;
and yet we perceive it as something which has not its independent
character as an outer world process, because our mind has built it up
from single pictures rapidly following one another. We perceive things
in their plastic depth; and yet again the depth is not that of the outer
world. We are aware of its unreality and of the pictorial flatness of
the impressions.

In every one of these features the contrast to the mental impressions
from the real stage is obvious. There in the theater we know at every
moment that we see real plastic men before us, that they are really in
motion when they walk and talk and that, on the other hand, it is our
own doing and not a part of the play when our attention turns to this or
that detail, when our memory brings back events of the past, when our
imagination surrounds them with fancies and emotions. And here, it
seems, we have a definite starting point for an esthetic comparison. If
we raise the unavoidable question--how does the photoplay compare with
the drama?--we seem to have sufficient material on hand to form an
esthetic judgment. The verdict, it appears, can hardly be doubtful. Must
we not say art is imitation of nature? The drama can show us on the
stage a true imitation of real life. The scenes proceed just as they
would happen anywhere in the outer world. Men of flesh and blood with
really plastic bodies stand before us. They move like any moving body in
our surroundings. Moreover those happenings on the stage, just like the
events in life, are independent of our subjective attention and memory
and imagination. They go their objective course. Thus the theater comes
so near to its purpose of imitating the world of men that the comparison
with the photoplay suggests almost a disastrous failure of the art of
the film. The color of the world has disappeared, the persons are dumb,
no sound reaches our ear. The depth of the scene appears unreal, the
motion has lost its natural character. Worst of all, the objective
course of events is falsified; our own attention and memory and
imagination have shifted and remodeled the events until they look as
nature could never show them. What we really see can hardly be called
any longer an imitation of the world, such as the theater gives us.

When the graphophone repeats a Beethoven symphony, the voluminousness of
the orchestra is reduced to a thin feeble surface sound, and no one
would accept this product of the disk and the diaphragm as a full
substitute for the performance of the real orchestra. But, after all,
every instrument is actually represented, and we can still discriminate
the violins and the celli and the flutes in exactly the same order and
tonal and rhythmic relation in which they appear in the original. The
graphophone music appears, therefore, much better fitted for replacing
the orchestra than the moving pictures are to be a substitute for the
theater. There all the essential elements seem conserved; here just the
essentials seem to be lost and the aim of the drama to imitate life with
the greatest possible reality seems hopelessly beyond the flat,
colorless pictures of the photoplay. Still more might we say that the
plaster of Paris cast is a fair substitute for the marble statue. It
shares with the beautiful marble work the same form and imitates the
body of the living man just as well as the marble statue. Moreover,
this product of the mechanical process has the same white color which
the original work of the sculptor possesses. Hence we must acknowledge
it as a fair approach to the plastic work of art. In the same way the
chromo print gives the essentials of the oil painting. Everywhere the
technical process has secured a reproduction of the work of art which
sounds or looks almost like the work of the great artist, and only the
technique of the moving pictures, which so clearly tries to reproduce
the theater performance, stands so utterly far behind the art of the
actor. Is not an esthetic judgment of rejection demanded by good taste
and sober criticism? We may tolerate the photoplay because, by the
inexpensive technical method which allows an unlimited multiplication of
the performances, it brings at least a shadow of the theater to the
masses who cannot afford to see real actors. But the cultivated mind
might better enjoy plaster of Paris casts and chromo prints and
graphophone music than the moving pictures with their complete failure
to give us the essentials of the real stage.

We have heard this message, or if it was not expressed in clear words it
surely lingered for a long while in the minds of all those who had a
serious relation to art. It probably still prevails today among many,
even if they appreciate the more ambitious efforts of the
photoplaywrights in the most recent years. The philanthropic pleasure in
the furnishing of cheap entertainment and the recognition that a certain
advance has recently been made seem to alleviate the esthetic situation,
but the core of public opinion remains the same; the moving pictures are
no real art.

And yet all this arguing and all this hasty settling of a most complex
problem is fundamentally wrong. It is based on entirely mistaken ideas
concerning the aims and purposes of art. If those errors were given up
and if the right understanding of the moving pictures were to take hold
of the community, nobody would doubt that the chromo print and the
graphophone and the plaster cast are indeed nothing but inexpensive
substitutes for art with many essential artistic elements left out, and
therefore ultimately unsatisfactory to a truly artistic taste. But
everybody would recognize at the same time that the relation of the
photoplay to the theater is a completely different one and that the
difference counts entirely in favor of the moving pictures. _They are
not and ought never to be imitations of the theater. They can never give
the esthetic values of the theater; but no more can the theater give the
esthetic values of the photoplay._ With the rise of the moving pictures
has come an entirely new independent art which must develop its own life
conditions. The moving pictures would indeed be a complete failure if
that popular theory of art which we suggested were right. But that
theory is wrong from beginning to end, and it must not obstruct the way
to a better insight which recognizes that the stage and the screen are
as fundamentally different as sculpture and painting, or as lyrics and
music. _The drama and the photoplay are two cooerdinated arts, each
perfectly valuable in itself._ The one cannot replace the other; and the
shortcomings of the one as against the other reflect only the fact that
the one has a history of fifteen years while the other has one of five
thousand. This is the thesis which we want to prove, and the first step
to it must be to ask: what is the aim of art if not the imitation of
reality?

But can the claim that art imitates nature or rather that imitation is
the essence of art be upheld if we seriously look over the field of
artistic creations? Would it not involve the expectation that the
artistic value would be the greater, the more the ideal of imitation is
approached? A perfect imitation which looks exactly like the original
would give us the highest art. Yet every page in the history of art
tells us the opposite. We admire the marble statue and we despise as
inartistic the colored wax figures. There is no difficulty in producing
colored wax figures which look so completely like real persons that the
visitor at an exhibit may easily be deceived and may ask information
from the wax man leaning over the railing. On the other hand what a
tremendous distance between reality and the marble statue with its
uniform white surface! It could never deceive us and as an imitation it
would certainly be a failure. Is it different with a painting? Here the
color may be quite similar to the original, but unlike the marble it has
lost its depth and shows us nature on a flat surface. Again we could
never be deceived, and it is not the painter's ambition to make us
believe for a moment that reality is before us. Moreover neither the
sculptor nor the painter gives us less valuable work when they offer us
a bust or a painted head only instead of the whole figure; and yet we
have never seen in reality a human body ending at the chest. We admire a
fine etching hardly less than a painting. Here we have neither the
plastic effect of the sculpture nor the color of the painting. The
essential features of the real model are left out. As an imitation it
would fail disastrously. What is imitated in a lyric poem? Through more
than two thousand years we have appreciated the works of the great
dramatists who had their personages speak in the rhythms of metrical
language. Every iambic verse is a deviation from reality. If they had
tried to imitate nature Antigone and Hamlet would have spoken the prose
of daily life. Does a beautiful arch or dome or tower of a building
imitate any part of reality? Is its architectural value dependent upon
the similarity to nature? Or does the melody or harmony in music offer
an imitation of the surrounding world?

Wherever we examine without prejudice the mental effects of true works
of art in literature or music, in painting or sculpture, in decorative
arts or architecture, we find that the central esthetic value is
directly opposed to the spirit of imitation. A work of art may and must
start from something which awakens in us the interests of reality and
which contains traits of reality, and to that extent it cannot avoid
some imitation. But _it becomes art just in so far as it overcomes
reality, stops imitating and leaves the imitated reality behind it_. It
is artistic just in so far as it does not imitate reality but changes
the world, selects from it special features for new purposes, remodels
the world and is through this truly creative. To imitate the world is a
mechanical process; to transform the world so that it becomes a thing of
beauty is the purpose of art. The highest art may be furthest removed
from reality.

We have not even the right to say that this process of selection from
reality means that we keep the beautiful elements of it and simply omit
and eliminate the ugly ones. This again is not in the least
characteristic of art, however often the popular mind may couple this
superficial idea with that other one, that art consists of imitation. It
is not true that the esthetic value depends upon the beauty of the
selected material. The men and women whom Rembrandt painted were not
beautiful persons. The ugliest woman may be the subject of a most
beautiful painting. The so-called beautiful landscape may, of course, be
material for a beautiful landscape painting, but the chances are great
that such a pretty vista will attract the dilettante and not the real
artist who knows that the true value of his painting is independent of
the prettiness of the model. He knows that a muddy country road or a
dirty city street or a trivial little pond may be the material for
immortal pictures. He who writes literature does not select scenes of
life which are beautiful in themselves, scenes which we would have liked
to live through, full of radiant happiness and joy; he does not
eliminate from his picture of life that which is disturbing to the peace
of the soul, repellant and ugly and immoral. On the contrary, all the
great works of literature have shown us dark shades of life beside the
light ones. They have spoken of unhappiness and pain as often as of joy.
We have suffered with our poets, and in so far as the musical composer
expresses the emotions of life the great symphonies have been full of
pathos and tragedy. True art has always been selection, but never
selection of the beautiful elements in outer reality.

But if the esthetic value is independent of the imitative approach to
reality and independent of the elimination of unpleasant elements or of
the collection and addition of pleasant traits, what does the artist
really select and combine in his creation? How does he shape the world?
How does nature look when it has been remolded by the artistic
temperament and imagination? What is left of the real landscape when the
engraver's needle has sketched it? What is left of the tragic events in
real life when the lyric poet has reshaped them in a few rhymed stanzas?
Perhaps we may bring the characteristic features of the process most
easily to recognition if we contrast them with another kind of reshaping
process. The same landscape which the artist sketches, the same historic
event which the lyric poet interprets in his verses, may be grasped by
the human mind in a wholly different way. We need only think of the
scientific work of the scholar. He too may have the greatest interest in
the landscape which the engraver has rendered: the tree on the edge of
the rock, torn by the storm, and at the foot of the cliff the sea with
its whitecapped waves. He too is absorbed by the tragic death of a
Lincoln. But what is the scholar's attitude? Is it his aim to reproduce
the landscape or the historic event? Certainly not. The meaning of
science and scholarship and of knowledge in general would be completely
misunderstood if their aim were thought to be simply the repeating of
the special facts in reality. The scientist tries to explain the facts,
and even his description is meant to serve his explanation. He turns to
that tree on the cliff with the interest of studying its anatomical
structure. He examines with a microscope the cells of those tissues in
the branches and leaves in order that he may explain the growth of the
tree and its development from the germ. The storm which whips its
branches is to him a physical process for which he seeks the causes, far
removed. The sea is to him a substance which he resolves in his
laboratory into its chemical elements and which he explains by tracing
the geological changes on the surface of the earth.

In short, the scientist is not interested in that particular object
only, but in its connections with the total universe. He explains the
event by a reference to general laws which are effective everywhere.
Every single growth and movement is linked by him with the endless chain
of causes and effects. He surely reshapes the experience in connecting
every single impression with the totality of events, in finding the
general in the particular, in transforming the given facts into the
scientific scheme of an atomistic universe. It is not different from the
historical event. To the scholarly historian the death of Lincoln is
meaningless if it is not seen in its relation to and connection with the
whole history of the Civil War and if this again is not understood as
the result of the total development of the United States. And who can
understand the growth of the United States, unless the whole of modern
history is seen as a background and unless the ideas of state philosophy
which have built up the American democracy are grasped in their
connection with the whole story of European political thought in
preceding centuries? The scholar may turn to natural or to social
events, to waves or trees or men: every process and action in the world
gains interest for him only by being connected with other things and
events. Every point which he marks is the nodal point for numberless
relations. To grasp a fact in the sense of scholarly knowledge means to
see it in all its connections, and the work of the scholar is not simply
to hold the fact as he becomes aware of it but to trace the connections
and to supplement them by his thought until a completed system of
interrelated facts in science or in history is established.

Now we are better prepared to recognize the characteristic function of
the artist. He is doing exactly the opposite of what the scholar is
aiming at. Both are changing and remolding the given thing or event in
the interest of their ideal aims. But the ideal aim of beauty and art is
in complete contrast to the ideal aim of scholarly knowledge. The
scholar, we see, establishes connections by which the special thing
loses all character of separateness. He binds it to all the remainder of
the physical and social universe. The artist, on the contrary, cuts off
every possible connection. He puts his landscape into a frame so that
every possible link with the surrounding world is severed. He places
his statue on a pedestal so that it cannot possibly step into the room
around it. He makes his persons speak in verse so that they cannot
possibly be connected with the intercourse of the day. He tells his
story so that nothing can happen after the last chapter. _The work of
art shows us the things and events perfectly complete in themselves,
freed from all connections which lead beyond their own limits, that is,
in perfect isolation._

Both the truth which the scholar discovers and the beauty which the
artist creates are valuable; but it is now clear that the value in both
cases lies not in the mere repetition of the offerings of reality. There
is no reason whatever for appreciating a mere imitation or repetition of
that which exists in the world. Neither the scholar nor the artist could
do better than nature or history. The value in both cases lies just in
the deviation from reality in the service of human desires and ideals.
The desire and ideal of the scholar is to give us an interconnected
world in which we understand everything by its being linked with
everything else; and the desire and ideal of the artist in every
possible art is to give us things which are freed from the connection
of the world and which stand before us complete in themselves. The
things of the outer world have thousandfold ties with nature and
history. An object becomes beautiful when it is delivered from these
ties, and in order to secure this result we must take it away from the
background of reality and reproduce it in such a form that it is
unmistakably different from the real things which are enchained by the
causes and effects of nature.

Why does this satisfy us? Why is it valuable to have a part of nature or
life liberated from all connection with the world? Why does it make us
happy to see anything in its perfect isolation, an isolation which real
life seldom offers and which only art can give in complete perfection?
The motives which lead us to value the product of the scholar are easily
recognized. He aims toward connection. He reshapes the world until it
appears connected, because that helps us to foresee the effects of every
event and teaches us to master nature so that we can use it for our
practical achievements. But why do we appreciate no less the opposite
work which the artist is doing? Might we not answer that this enjoyment
of the artistic work results from the fact that only in contact with an
isolated experience can we feel perfectly happy? Whatever we meet in
life or nature awakes in us desires, impulses to action, suggestions and
questions which must be answered. Life is a continuous striving. Nothing
is an end in itself and therefore nothing is a source of complete rest.
Everything is a stimulus to new wishes, a source of new uneasiness which
longs for new satisfaction in the next and again the next thing. Life
pushes us forward. Yet sometimes a touch of nature comes to us; we are
stirred by a thrill of life which awakens plenty of impulses but which
offers satisfaction to all these impulses in itself. It does not lead
beyond itself but contains in its own midst everything which answers the
questions, which brings the desires to rest.

Wherever we meet such an offering of nature, we call it beautiful. We
speak of the beautiful landscape, of the beautiful face. And wherever we
meet it in life, we speak of love, of friendship, of peace, of harmony.
The word harmony may even cover both nature and life. Wherever it
happens that every line and every curve and every color and every
movement in the landscape is so harmonious with all the others that
every suggestion which one stirs up is satisfied by another, there it is
perfect and we are completely happy in it. In the life relations of love
and friendship and peace, there is again this complete harmony of
thought and feeling and will, in which every desire is satisfied. If our
own mind is in such flawless harmony, we feel the true happiness which
crowns our life. Such harmony, in which every part is the complete
fulfillment of that which the other parts demand, when nothing is
suggested which is not fulfilled in the midst of the same experience,
where nothing points beyond and everything is complete in the offering
itself, must be a source of inexhaustible happiness. To remold nature
and life so that it offers such complete harmony in itself that it does
not point beyond its own limits but is an ultimate unity through the
harmony of its parts: this is the aim of the isolation which the artist
alone achieves. That restful happiness which the beautiful landscape or
the harmonious life relation can furnish us in blessed instants of our
struggling life is secured as a joy forever when the painter or the
sculptor, the dramatist or the poet, the composer or the
photoplaywright, recomposes nature and life and shows us a unity which
does not lead beyond itself but is in itself perfectly harmonious.




CHAPTER VIII

THE MEANS OF THE VARIOUS ARTS


We have sought the aim which underlies all artistic creation and were
led in this search to paths which seem far away from our special
problem, the art of the photoplay. Yet we have steadily come nearer to
it. We had to go the longer way because there can be no other method to
reach a decision concerning the esthetic value and significance of the
photoplay. We must clearly see what art in general aims at if we want to
recognize the relative standing of the film art and the art of the
theater. If we superficially accept the popular idea that the value of
the photoplay is to be measured by the nearness with which it approaches
the standards of the real theater and that the task of the theater is to
imitate life as closely as possible, the esthetic condemnation of the
photoplay is necessary. The pictures on the screen then stand far
behind the actual playing on the stage in every respect. But if we find
that the aim of art, including the dramatic art, is not to imitate life
but to reset it in a way which is totally different from reality, then
an entirely new perspective is opened. The dramatic way may then be only
one of the artistic possibilities. The kinematoscopic way may be
another, which may have entirely different methods and yet may be just
as valuable and esthetically pure as the art of the theater. The drama
and the photoplay may serve the purpose of art with equal sincerity and
perfection and may reach the same goal with sharply contrasting means.
Our next step, which brings us directly to the threshold of the
photoplayhouse, is, accordingly, to study the difference of the various
methods which the different arts use for their common purpose. What
characterizes a particular art as such? When we have recognized the
special traits of the traditional arts we shall be better prepared to
ask whether the methods of the photoplay do not characterize this film
creation also as a full-fledged art, cooerdinated with the older forms of
beauty.

We saw that the aim of every art is to isolate some object of experience
in nature or social life in such a way that it becomes complete in
itself, and satisfies by itself every demand which it awakens. If every
desire which it stimulates is completely fulfilled by its own parts,
that is, if it is a complete harmony, we, the spectators, the listeners,
the readers, are perfectly satisfied, and this complete satisfaction is
the characteristic esthetic joy. The first demand which is involved in
this characterization of art is that the offering of the artist shall
really awaken interests, as only a constant stirring up of desires
together with their constant fulfillment keeps the flame of esthetic
enjoyment alive. When nothing stirs us, when nothing interests us, we
are in a state of indifference outside the realm of art. This also
separates the esthetic pleasure from the ordinary selfish pleasures of
life. They are based on the satisfaction of desires, too, but a kind of
satisfaction through which the desire itself disappears. The pleasure in
a meal, to be sure, can have its esthetic side, as often the harmony of
the tastes and odors and sights of a rich feast may be brought to a
certain artistic perfection. But mere pleasure in eating has no
esthetic value, as the object is destroyed by the partaking and not only
the cake disappears but also our desire for the cake when the desire is
fulfilled and we are satiated. The work of art aims to keep both the
demand and its fulfillment forever awake.

But then this stirring up of interests demands more than anything else a
careful selection of those features in reality which ought to be
admitted into the work of art. A thousand traits of the landscape are
trivial and insignificant and most of what happens in the social life
around us, even where a great action is going on, is in itself
commonplace and dull and without consequences for the event which stirs
us. The very first requirement for the artistic creation is therefore
the elimination of the indifferent, the selection of those features of
the complex offering of nature or social life which tell the real story,
which express the true emotional values and which suggest the interest
for everything which is involved in this particular episode of the
world. But this leads on to the natural consequence, that the artist
must not only select the important traits, but must artificially
heighten their power and increase their strength. We spoke of the
landscape with the tree on the rock and the roaring surf, and we saw how
the scientist studies its smallest elements, the cells of the tree, the
molecules of the seawater and of the rock. How differently does the
artist proceed! He does not care even for the single leaves which the
photographer might reproduce. If a painter renders such a landscape with
his masterly brush, he gives us only the leading movements of those
branches which the storm tears, and the great swing in the curve of the
wave. But those forceful lines of the billows, those sharp contours of
the rock, contain everything which expresses their spirit.

It is not different with the author who writes a historical novel or
drama. Every man's life is crowded with the trivialities of the day. The
scholarly historian may have to look into them; the artist selects those
events in his hero's life which truly express his personality and which
are fit to sustain the significant plot. The more he brings those few
elements out of the many into sharp relief, the more he stimulates our
interest and makes us really feel with the persons of his novel or
drama. The sculptor even selects one single position. He cannot, like
the painter, give us any background, he cannot make his hero move as on
the theater stage. The marble statue makes the one position of the hero
everlasting, but this is so selected that all the chance aspects and
fleeting gestures of the real man appear insignificant compared with the
one most expressive and most characteristic position which is chosen.

However far this selection of the essential traits removes the artistic
creation from the mere imitative reproduction of the world, a much
greater distance from reality results from a second need if the work is
to fulfill the purposes of art. We saw that we have art only when the
work is isolated, that is, when it fulfills every demand in itself and
does not point beyond itself. This can be done only if it is sharply set
off from the sphere of our practical interests. Whatever enters into our
practical sphere links itself with our impulses to real action and the
action would involve a change, an intrusion, an influence from without.
As long as we have the desire to change anything, the work is not
complete in itself. The relation of the work to us as persons must not
enter into our awareness of it at all. As soon as it does, that complete
restfulness of the esthetic enjoyment is lost. Then the object becomes
simply a part of our practical surroundings. The fundamental condition
of art, therefore, is that we shall be distinctly conscious of the
unreality of the artistic production, and that means that it must be
absolutely separated from the real things and men, that it must be
isolated and kept in its own sphere. As soon as a work of art tempts us
to take it as a piece of reality, it has been dragged into the sphere of
our practical action, which means our desire to put ourselves into
connection with it. Its completeness in itself is lost and its value for
our esthetic enjoyment has faded away.

Now we understand why it is necessary that each art should have its
particular method for fundamentally changing reality. Now we recognize
that it is by no means a weakness of sculpture that the marble statue
has not the colors of life but a whiteness unlike any human being. Nor
does it appear a deficiency in the painting or the drawing that it can
offer two dimensions only and has no means to show us the depth of real
nature. Now we grasp why the poet expresses his feelings and thoughts in
the entirely unnatural language of rhythms and rhymes. Now we see why
every work of art has its frame or its base or its stage. Everything
serves that central purpose, the separation of the offered experience
from the background of our real life. When we have a painted garden
before us, we do not want to pick the flowers from the beds and break
the fruit from the branches. The flatness of the picture tells us that
this is no reality, in spite of the fact that the size of the painting
may not be different from that of the windowpane through which we see a
real garden. We have no thought of bringing a chair or a warm coat for
the woman in marble. The work which the sculptor created stands before
us in a space into which we cannot enter, and because it is entirely
removed from the reality toward which our actions are directed we become
esthetic spectators only. The smile of the marble girl wins us as if it
came from a living one, but we do not respond to her welcome. Just as
she appears in her marble form she is complete in herself without any
relation to us or to anyone else. The very difference from reality has
given her that self-sustained perfect life.

If we read in a police report about burglaries, we may lock our house
more securely; if we read about a flood, we may send our mite; if we
read about an elopement, we may try to find out what happened later. But
if we read about all these in a short story, we have esthetic enjoyment
only if the author somehow makes it perfectly clear to us by the form of
the description that this burglary and flood and elopement do not belong
to our real surroundings and exist only in the world of imagination. The
extreme case comes to us in the theater performance. We see there real
human beings a few feet from us; we see in the melodrama how the villain
approaches his victim from behind with a dagger; we feel indignation and
anger: and yet we have not the slightest desire to jump up on the stage
and stay his arm. The artificial setting of the stage, the lighted
proscenium before the dark house, have removed the whole action from the
world which is connected with our own deeds. The consciousness of
unreality, which the theater has forced on us, is the condition for our
dramatic interest in the events presented. If we were really deceived
and only for a moment took the stage quarrel and stage crime to be real,
we would at once be removed from the height of esthetic joy to the level
of common experience.

We must take one step more. We need not only the complete separation
from reality by the changed forms of experience, but we must demand also
that this unreal thing or event shall be complete in itself. The artist,
therefore, must do whatever is needed to satisfy the demands which any
part awakens. If one line in the painting suggests a certain mood and
movement, the other lines must take it up and the colors must sympathize
with it and they all must agree with the pictured content. The tension
which one scene in the drama awakens must be relieved by another.
Nothing must remain unexplained and nothing unfinished. We do not want
to know what is going on behind the hills of the landscape painting or
what the couple in the comedy will do after the engagement in the last
act. On the other hand, if the artist adds elements which are in harmony
with the demands of the other parts, they are esthetically valuable,
however much they may differ from the actual happenings in the outer
world. In the painting the mermaid may have her tail and the sculptured
child may have his angel wings and fairies may appear on the stage. In
short, every demand which is made by the purpose of true art removes us
from reality and is contrary to the superficial claim that art ought to
rest on skillful imitation. The true victory of art lies in the
overcoming of the real appearance and every art is genuine which
fulfills this esthetic desire for history or for nature, in its own way.

The number of ways cannot be determined beforehand. By the study of
painting and etching and drawing merely, we could not foresee that there
is also possible an art like sculpture, and by studying epic and lyric
poetry we could not construct beforehand the forms of the drama. The
genius of mankind had to discover ever new forms in which the interest
in reality is conserved and yet the things and events are so completely
changed that they are separated from all possible reality, isolated from
all connections and made complete in themselves. We have not yet spoken
about the one art which gives us this perfect satisfaction in the
isolated material, satisfies every demand which it awakens, and yet
which is further removed from the reality we know than any other
artistic creation, music. Those tones with which the composer builds up
his melodies and harmonies are not parts of the world in which we live
at all. None of our actions in practical life is related to tones from
musical instruments, and yet the tones of a symphony may arouse in us
the deepest emotions, the most solemn feelings and the most joyful ones.
They are symbols of our world which bring with them its sadness and its
happiness. We feel the rhythm of the tones, fugitive, light and joyful,
or quiet, heavy and sustained, and they impress us as energies which
awaken our own impulses, our own tensions and relaxations.

We enter into the play of those tones which with their intervals and
their instrumental tone color appear like a wonderful mosaic of
agreements and disagreements. Yet each disagreement resolves itself into
a new agreement. Those tones seek one another. They have a life of their
own, complete in itself. We do not want to change it. Our mind simply
echoes their desires and their satisfaction. We feel with them and are
happy in their ultimate agreement without which no musical melody would
be beautiful. Bound by the inner law which is proclaimed by the first
tones every coming tone is prepared. The whole tone movement points
toward the next one. It is a world of inner self-agreement like that of
the colors in a painting, of the curves in a work of sculpture, like the
rhythms and rhymes in a stanza. But beyond the mere self-agreement of
the tones and rhythms as such, the musical piece as a whole unveils to
us a world of emotion. Music does not depict the physical nature which
fine arts bring to us, nor the social world which literature embraces,
but the inner world with its abundance of feelings and excitements. It
isolates our inner experience and within its limits brings it to that
perfect self-agreement which is the characteristic of every art.

We might easily trace further the various means by which each particular
art overcomes the chaos of the world and renders a part of it in a
perfectly isolated form in which all elements are in mutual agreement.
We might develop out of this fundamental demand of art all the special
forms which are characteristic in its various fields. We might also
turn to the applied arts, to architecture, to arts and crafts, and so on
and see how new rules must arise from the combination of purely artistic
demands and those of practical utility. But this would lead us too far
into esthetic theory, while our aim is to push forward toward the
problem of the photoplay. Of painting, of drama, and of music we had to
speak because with them the photoplay does share certain important
conditions and accordingly certain essential forms of rendering the
world. Each element of the photoplay is a picture, flat like that which
the painter creates, and the pictorial character is fundamental for the
art of the film. But surely the photoplay shares many conditions with
the drama on the stage. The presentation of conflicting action among men
in dramatic scenes is the content, on the stage as on the screen. Our
chief claim, however, was that we falsify the meaning of the photoplay
if we simply subordinate it to the esthetic conditions of the drama. It
is different from mere pictures and it is different from the drama, too,
however much relation it has to both. But we come nearer to the
understanding of its true position in the esthetic world, if we think
at the same time of that other art upon which we touched, the art of the
musical tones. They have overcome the outer world and the social world
entirely, they unfold our inner life, our mental play, with its feelings
and emotions, its memories and fancies, in a material which seems exempt
from the laws of the world of substance and material, tones which are
fluttering and fleeting like our own mental states. Of course, a
photoplay is not a piece of music. Its material is not sound but light.
But the photoplay is not music in the same sense in which it is not
drama and not pictures. It shares something with all of them. It stands
somewhere among and apart from them and just for this reason it is an
art of a particular type which must be understood through its own
conditions and for which its own esthetic rules must be traced instead
of drawing them simply from the rules of the theater.




CHAPTER IX

THE MEANS OF THE PHOTOPLAY


We have now reached the point at which we can knot together all our
threads, the psychological and the esthetic ones. If we do so, we come
to the true thesis of this whole book. Our esthetic discussion showed us
that it is the aim of art to isolate a significant part of our
experience in such a way that it is separate from our practical life and
is in complete agreement within itself. Our esthetic satisfaction
results from this inner agreement and harmony, but in order that we may
feel such agreement of the parts we must enter with our own impulses
into the will of every element, into the meaning of every line and color
and form, every word and tone and note. Only if everything is full of
such inner movement can we really enjoy the harmonious cooeperation of
the parts. The means of the various arts, we saw, are the forms and
methods by which this aim is fulfilled. They must be different for every
material. Moreover the same material may allow very different methods of
isolation and elimination of the insignificant and reenforcement of that
which contributes to the harmony. If we ask now what are the
characteristic means by which the photoplay succeeds in overcoming
reality, in isolating a significant dramatic story and in presenting it
so that we enter into it and yet keep it away from our practical life
and enjoy the harmony of the parts, we must remember all the results to
which our psychological discussion in the first part of the book has led
us.

We recognized there that the photoplay, incomparable in this respect
with the drama, gave us a view of dramatic events which was completely
shaped by the inner movements of the mind. To be sure, the events in the
photoplay happen in the real space with its depth. But the spectator
feels that they are not presented in the three dimensions of the outer
world, that they are flat pictures which only the mind molds into
plastic things. Again the events are seen in continuous movement; and
yet the pictures break up the movement into a rapid succession of
instantaneous impressions. We do not see the objective reality, but a
product of our own mind which binds the pictures together. But much
stronger differences came to light when we turned to the processes of
attention, of memory, of imagination, of suggestion, of division of
interest and of emotion. The attention turns to detailed points in the
outer world and ignores everything else: the photoplay is doing exactly
this when in the close-up a detail is enlarged and everything else
disappears. Memory breaks into present events by bringing up pictures of
the past: the photoplay is doing this by its frequent cut-backs, when
pictures of events long past flit between those of the present. The
imagination anticipates the future or overcomes reality by fancies and
dreams; the photoplay is doing all this more richly than any chance
imagination would succeed in doing. But chiefly, through our division of
interest our mind is drawn hither and thither. We think of events which
run parallel in different places. The photoplay can show in intertwined
scenes everything which our mind embraces. Events in three or four or
five regions of the world can be woven together into one complex action.
Finally, we saw that every shade of feeling and emotion which fills the
spectator's mind can mold the scenes in the photoplay until they appear
the embodiment of our feelings. In every one of these aspects the
photoplay succeeds in doing what the drama of the theater does not
attempt.

If this is the outcome of esthetic analysis on the one side, of
psychological research on the other, we need only combine the results of
both into a unified principle: _the photoplay tells us the human story
by overcoming the forms of the outer world, namely, space, time, and
causality, and by adjusting the events to the forms of the inner world,
namely, attention, memory, imagination, and emotion._

We shall gain our orientation most directly if once more, under this
point of view, we compare the photoplay with the performance on the
theater stage. We shall not enter into a discussion of the character of
the regular theater and its drama. We take this for granted. Everybody
knows that highest art form which the Greeks created and which from
Greece has spread over Asia, Europe, and America. In tragedy and in
comedy from ancient times to Ibsen, Rostand, Hauptmann, and Shaw we
recognize one common purpose and one common form for which no further
commentary is needed. How does the photoplay differ from a theater
performance? We insisted that every work of art must be somehow
separated from our sphere of practical interests. The theater is no
exception. The structure of the theater itself, the framelike form of
the stage, the difference of light between stage and house, the stage
setting and costuming, all inhibit in the audience the possibility of
taking the action on the stage to be real life. Stage managers have
sometimes tried the experiment of reducing those differences, for
instance, keeping the audience also in a fully lighted hall, and they
always had to discover how much the dramatic effect was reduced because
the feeling of distance from reality was weakened. The photoplay and the
theater in this respect are evidently alike. The screen too suggests
from the very start the complete unreality of the events.

But each further step leads us to remarkable differences between the
stage play and the film play. In every respect the film play is further
away from the physical reality than the drama and in every respect this
greater distance from the physical world brings it nearer to the mental
world. The stage shows us living men. It is not the real Romeo and not
the real Juliet; and yet the actor and the actress have the ringing
voices of true people, breathe like them, have living colors like them,
and fill physical space like them. What is left in the photoplay? The
voice has been stilled: the photoplay is a dumb show. Yet we must not
forget that this alone is a step away from reality which has often been
taken in the midst of the dramatic world. Whoever knows the history of
the theater is aware of the tremendous role which the pantomime has
played in the development of mankind. From the old half-religious
pantomimic and suggestive dances out of which the beginnings of the real
drama grew to the fully religious pantomimes of medieval ages and,
further on, to many silent mimic elements in modern performances, we
find a continuity of conventions which make the pantomime almost the
real background of all dramatic development. We know how popular the
pantomimes were among the Greeks, and how they stood in the foreground
in the imperial period of Rome. Old Rome cherished the mimic clowns, but
still more the tragic pantomimics. "Their very nod speaks, their hands
talk and their fingers have a voice." After the fall of the Roman empire
the church used the pantomime for the portrayal of sacred history, and
later centuries enjoyed very unsacred histories in the pantomimes of
their ballets. Even complex artistic tragedies without words have
triumphed on our present-day stage. "L'Enfant Prodigue" which came from
Paris, "Sumurun" which came from Berlin, "Petroushka" which came from
Petrograd, conquered the American stage; and surely the loss of speech,
while it increased the remoteness from reality, by no means destroyed
the continuous consciousness of the bodily existence of the actors.

Moreover the student of a modern pantomime cannot overlook a
characteristic difference between the speechless performance on the
stage and that of the actors of a photoplay. The expression of the inner
states, the whole system of gestures, is decidedly different: and here
we might say that the photoplay stands nearer to life than the
pantomime. Of course, the photoplayer must somewhat exaggerate the
natural expression. The whole rhythm and intensity of his gestures must
be more marked than it would be with actors who accompany their
movements by spoken words and who express the meaning of their thoughts
and feelings by the content of what they say. Nevertheless the
photoplayer uses the regular channels of mental discharge. He acts
simply as a very emotional person might act. But the actor who plays in
a pantomime cannot be satisfied with that. He is expected to add
something which is entirely unnatural, namely a kind of artificial
demonstration of his emotions. He must not only behave like an angry
man, but he must behave like a man who is consciously interested in his
anger and wants to demonstrate it to others. He exhibits his emotions
for the spectators. He really acts theatrically for the benefit of the
bystanders. If he did not try to do so, his means of conveying a rich
story and a real conflict of human passions would be too meager. The
photoplayer, with the rapid changes of scenes, has other possibilities
of conveying his intentions. He must not yield to the temptation to play
a pantomime on the screen, or he will seriously injure the artistic
quality of the reel.

The really decisive distance from bodily reality, however, is created by
the substitution of the actor's picture for the actor himself. Lights
and shades replace the manifoldness of color effects and mere
perspective must furnish the suggestion of depth. We traced it when we
discussed the psychology of kinematoscopic perception. But we must not
put the emphasis on the wrong point. The natural tendency might be to
lay the chief stress on the fact that those people in the photoplay do
not stand before us in flesh and blood. The essential point is rather
that we are conscious of the flatness of the picture. If we were to see
the actors of the stage in a mirror, it would also be a reflected image
which we perceive. We should not really have the actors themselves in
our straight line of vision; and yet this image would appear to us
equivalent to the actors themselves, because it would contain all the
depth of the real stage. The film picture is such a reflected rendering
of the actors. The process which leads from the living men to the screen
is more complex than a mere reflection in a mirror, but in spite of the
complexity in the transmission we do, after all, see the real actor in
the picture. The photograph is absolutely different from those pictures
which a clever draughtsman has sketched. In the photoplay we see the
actors themselves and the decisive factor which makes the impression
different from seeing real men is not that we see the living persons
through the medium of photographic reproduction but that this
reproduction shows them in a flat form. The bodily space has been
eliminated. We said once before that stereoscopic arrangements could
reproduce somewhat this plastic form also. Yet this would seriously
interfere with the character of the photoplay. We need there this
overcoming of the depth, we want to have it as a picture only and yet as
a picture which strongly suggests to us the actual depth of the real
world. We want to keep the interest in the plastic world and want to be
aware of the depth in which the persons move, but our direct object of
perception must be without the depth. That idea of space which forces
on us most strongly the idea of heaviness, solidity and substantiality
must be replaced by the light flitting immateriality.

But the photoplay sacrifices not only the space values of the real
theater; it disregards no less its order of time. The theater presents
its plot in the time order of reality. It may interrupt the continuous
flow of time without neglecting the conditions of the dramatic art.
There may be twenty years between the third and the fourth act, inasmuch
as the dramatic writer must select those elements spread over space and
time which are significant for the development of his story. But he is
bound by the fundamental principle of real time, that it can move only
forward and not backward. Whatever the theater shows us now must come
later in the story than that which it showed us in any previous moment.
The strict classical demand for complete unity of time does not fit
every drama, but a drama would give up its mission if it told us in the
third act something which happened before the second act. Of course,
there may be a play within a play, and the players on the stage which is
set on the stage may play events of old Roman history before the king
of France. But this is an enclosure of the past in the present, which
corresponds exactly to the actual order of events. The photoplay, on the
other hand, does not and must not respect this temporal structure of the
physical universe. At any point the photoplay interrupts the series and
brings us back to the past. We studied this unique feature of the film
art when we spoke of the psychology of memory and imagination. With the
full freedom of our fancy, with the whole mobility of our association of
ideas, pictures of the past flit through the scenes of the present. Time
is left behind. Man becomes boy; today is interwoven with the day before
yesterday. The freedom of the mind has triumphed over the unalterable
law of the outer world.

It is interesting to watch how playwrights nowadays try to steal the
thunder of the photoplay and experiment with time reversals on the
legitimate stage. We are esthetically on the borderland when a
grandfather tells his grandchild the story of his own youth as a
warning, and instead of the spoken words the events of his early years
come before our eyes. This is, after all, quite similar to a play
within a play. A very different experiment is tried in "Under Cover."
The third act, which plays on the second floor of the house, ends with
an explosion. The fourth act, which plays downstairs, begins a quarter
of an hour before the explosion. Here we have a real denial of a
fundamental condition of the theater. Or if we stick to recent products
of the American stage, we may think of "On Trial," a play which perhaps
comes nearest to a dramatic usurpation of the rights of the photoplay.
We see the court scene and as one witness after another begins to give
his testimony the courtroom is replaced by the scenes of the actions
about which the witness is to report. Another clever play, "Between the
Lines," ends the first act with a postman bringing three letters from
the three children of the house. The second, third, and fourth acts lead
us to the three different homes from which the letters came and the
action in the three places not only precedes the writing of the letters;
but goes on at the same time. The last act, finally, begins with the
arrival of the letters which tell the ending of those events in the
three homes. Such experiments are very suggestive but they are not any
longer pure dramatic art. It is always possible to mix arts. An Italian
painter produces very striking effects by putting pieces of glass and
stone and rope into his paintings, but they are no longer pure
paintings. The drama in which the later event comes before the earlier
is an esthetic barbarism which is entertaining as a clever trick in a
graceful superficial play, but intolerable in ambitious dramatic art. It
is not only tolerable but perfectly natural in any photoplay. The
pictorial reflection of the world is not bound by the rigid mechanism of
time. Our mind is here and there, our mind turns to the present and then
to the past: the photoplay can equal it in its freedom from the bondage
of the material world.

But the theater is bound not only by space and time. Whatever it shows
is controlled by the same laws of causality which govern nature. This
involves a complete continuity of the physical events: no cause without
following effect, no effect without preceding cause. This whole natural
course is left behind in the play on the screen. The deviation from
reality begins with that resolution of the continuous movement which we
studied in our psychological discussions. We saw that the impression of
movement results from an activity of the mind which binds the separate
pictures together. What we actually see is a composite; it is like the
movement of a fountain in which every jet is resolved into numberless
drops. We feel the play of those drops in their sparkling haste as one
continuous stream of water, and yet are conscious of the myriads of
drops, each one separate from the others. This fountainlike spray of
pictures has completely overcome the causal world.

In an entirely different form this triumph over causality appears in the
interruption of the events by pictures which belong to another series.
We find this whenever the scene suddenly changes. The processes are not
carried to their natural consequences. A movement is started, but before
the cause brings its results another scene has taken its place. What
this new scene brings may be an effect for which we saw no causes. But
not only the processes are interrupted. The intertwining of the scenes
which we have traced in detail is itself such a contrast to causality.
It is as if different objects could fill the same space at the same
time. It is as if the resistance of the material world had disappeared
and the substances could penetrate one another. In the interlacing of
our ideas we experience this superiority to all physical laws. The
theater would not have even the technical means to give us such
impressions, but if it had, it would have no right to make use of them,
as it would destroy the basis on which the drama is built. We have only
another case of the same type in those series of pictures which aim to
force a suggestion on our mind. We have spoken of them. A certain effect
is prepared by a chain of causes and yet when the causal result is to
appear the film is cut off. We have the causes without the effect. The
villain thrusts with his dagger--but a miracle has snatched away his
victim.

_While the moving pictures are lifted above the world of space and time
and causality and are freed from its bounds, they are certainly not
without law._ We said before that the freedom with which the pictures
replace one another is to a large degree comparable to the sparkling
and streaming of the musical tones. The yielding to the play of the
mental energies, to the attention and emotion, which is felt in the film
pictures, is still more complete in the musical melodies and harmonies
in which the tones themselves are merely the expressions of the ideas
and feelings and will impulses of the mind. Their harmonies and
disharmonies, their fusing and blending, is not controlled by any outer
necessity, but by the inner agreement and disagreement of our free
impulses. And yet in this world of musical freedom, everything is
completely controlled by esthetic necessities. No sphere of practical
life stands under such rigid rules as the realm of the composer. However
bold the musical genius may be he cannot emancipate himself from the
iron rule that his work must show complete unity in itself. All the
separate prescriptions which the musical student has to learn are
ultimately only the consequences of this central demand which music, the
freest of the arts, shares with all the others. In the case of the film,
too, the freedom from the physical forms of space, time, and causality
does not mean any liberation from this esthetic bondage either. On the
contrary, just as music is surrounded by more technical rules than
literature, the photoplay must be held together by the esthetic demands
still more firmly than is the drama. The arts which are subordinated to
the conditions of space, time, and causality find a certain firmness of
structure in these material forms which contain an element of outer
connectedness. But where these forms are given up and where the freedom
of mental play replaces their outer necessity, everything would fall
asunder if the esthetic unity were disregarded.

This unity is, first of all, the unity of action. The demand for it is
the same which we know from the drama. The temptation to neglect it is
nowhere greater than in the photoplay where outside matter can so easily
be introduced or independent interests developed. It is certainly true
for the photoplay, as for every work of art, that nothing has the right
to existence in its midst which is not internally needed for the
unfolding of the unified action. Wherever two plots are given to us, we
receive less by far than if we had only one plot. We leave the sphere of
valuable art entirely when a unified action is ruined by mixing it with
declamation, and propaganda which is not organically interwoven with the
action itself. It may be still fresh in memory what an esthetically
intolerable helter-skelter performance was offered to the public in "The
Battlecry of Peace." Nothing can be more injurious to the esthetic
cultivation of the people than such performances which hold the
attention of the spectators by ambitious detail and yet destroy their
esthetic sensibility by a complete disregard of the fundamental
principle of art, the demand for unity. But we recognized also that this
unity involves complete isolation. We annihilate beauty when we link the
artistic creation with practical interests and transform the spectator
into a selfishly interested bystander. The scenic background of the play
is not presented in order that we decide whether we want to spend our
next vacation there. The interior decoration of the rooms is not
exhibited as a display for a department store. The men and women who
carry out the action of the plot must not be people whom we may meet
tomorrow on the street. All the threads of the play must be knotted
together in the play itself and none should be connected with our
outside interests. A good photoplay must be isolated and complete in
itself like a beautiful melody. It is not an advertisement for the
newest fashions.

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._




CHAPTER X

THE DEMANDS OF THE PHOTOPLAY


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.

If there is anything which introduces a characteristic element into the
creation of the photoplay as against all other arts, it may be found in
the undeniable fact that the photoplay always demands the cooeperation of
two inventive personalities, the scenario writer and the producer. Some
collaboration exists in other arts too. The opera demands the poet and
the composer; and yet the text of the opera is a work of literature
independent and complete in itself, and the music of the opera has its
own life. Again, every musical work demands the performer. The
orchestra must play the symphonies, the pianist or the singer must make
the melodies living, the actors must play the drama. But the music is a
perfect work of art even before it is sung or played on an instrument,
just as a drama is complete as a work of literature even if it never
reaches the stage. Moreover it is evident that the realization by actors
is needed for the photoplay too. But we may disregard that. What we have
in mind is that the work which the scenario writer creates is in itself
still entirely imperfect and becomes a complete work of art only through
the action of the producer. He plays a role entirely different from that
of the mere stage manager in the drama. The stage manager carries out
what the writer of the drama prescribes, however much his own skill and
visual imagination and insight into the demands of the characters may
add to the embodiment of the dramatic action. But the producer of the
photoplay really must show himself a creative artist, inasmuch as he is
the one who actually transforms the plays into pictures. The emphasis in
the drama lies on the spoken word, to which the stage manager does not
add anything. It is all contained in the lines. In the photoplay the
whole emphasis lies on the picture and its composition is left entirely
to the producing artist.

But the scenario writer must not only have talent for dramatic invention
and construction; he must be wide awake to the uniqueness of his task,
that is, he must feel at every moment that he is writing for the screen
and not for the stage or for a book. And this brings us back to our
central argument. He must understand that the photoplay is not a
photographed drama, but that it is controlled by psychological
conditions of its own. As soon as it is grasped that the film play is
not simply a mechanical reproduction of another art but is an art of a
special kind, it follows that talents of a special kind must be devoted
to it and that nobody ought to feel it beneath his artistic dignity to
write scenarios in the service of this new art. No doubt the moving
picture performances today still stand on a low artistic level. Nine
tenths of the plays are cheap melodramas or vulgar farces. The question
is not how much larger a percentage of really valuable dramas can be
found in our theaters. Many of their plays are just as much an appeal
to the lowest instincts. But at least the theater is not forced to be
satisfied with such degrading comedies and pseudotragedies. The world
literature of the stage contains an abundance of works of eternal value.
It is a purely social and not an esthetic question, why the theaters
around the "White Way" yield to the vulgar taste instead of using the
truly beautiful drama for the raising of the public mind. The moving
picture theaters face an entirely different situation. Their managers
may have the best intentions to give better plays; and yet they are
unable to do so because the scenario literature has so far nothing which
can be compared with the master works of the drama; and nothing of this
higher type can be expected or hoped for until the creation of
photoplays is recognized as worthy of the highest ideal endeavor.

Nobody denies that the photoplay shares the characteristic features of
the drama. Both depend upon the conflict of interests and of acts. These
conflicts, tragic or comic, demand a similar development and solution on
the stage and on the screen. A mere showing of human activity without
will conflict might give very pleasant moving pictures of idyllic or
romantic character or perhaps of practical interest. The result would be
a kind of lyric or epic poem on the screen, or a travelogue or what not,
but it would never shape itself into a photoplay as long as that
conflict of human interests which the drama demands was lacking. Yet, as
this conflict of will is expressed in the one case by living speaking
men, in the other by moving pictures, the difference in the artistic
conception must surely be as great as the similarity. Hence one of the
supreme demands must be for an original literature of real power and
significance, in which every thought is generated by the idea of the
screen. As long as the photoplays are fed by the literature of the
stage, the new art can never come to its own and can never reach its
real goal. It is surely no fault of Shakespeare that Hamlet and King
Lear are very poor photoplays. If ever a Shakespeare arises for the
screen, his work would be equally unsatisfactory if it were dragged to
the stage. Peer Gynt is no longer Ibsen's if the actors are dumb.

The novel, in certain respects, fares still worse, but in other respects
some degrees better. It is true that in the superficial literature
written for the hour the demarcation line between dramatic and narrative
works is often ignored. The best sellers of the novel counter are often
warmed over into successful theater plays, and no society play with a
long run on Broadway escapes its transformation into a serial novel for
the newspapers. But where literature is at its height, the deep
difference can be felt distinctly. The epic art, including the novel,
traces the experiences and the development of a character, while the
drama is dependent upon the conflict of character. Mere adventures of a
personality are never sufficient for a good drama and are not less
unsatisfactory for the plot of a photoplay. In the novel the opposing
characters are only a part of the social background which is needed to
show the life story of the hero or heroine. They have not the
independent significance which is essential for the dramatic conflict.
The novel on the screen, if it is a true novel and not the novelistic
rendering of what is really a dramatic plot, must be lifeless and
uninspiring. But on the other hand the photoplay much more than the
drama emphasizes the background of human action, and it shares this
trait with the novel. Both the social and the natural backgrounds are
the real setting for the development of the chief character in the
story. These features can easily be transferred to the photoplay and for
this reason some picturized novels have had the advantage over the
photoplay cut from the drama. The only true conclusion must remain,
however, that neither drama nor novel is sufficient for the film
scenarios. The photopoet must turn to life itself and must remodel life
in the artistic forms which are characteristic of his particular art. If
he has truly grasped the fundamental meaning of the screen world, his
imagination will guide him more safely than his reminiscences of dramas
which he has seen on the stage and of novels which he has read.

If we turn to a few special demands which are contained in such a
general postulate for a new artistic method, we naturally think at once
of the role of words. The drama and novel live by words. How much of
this noblest vehicle of thought can the photoplay conserve in its
domain? We all know what a large part of the photoplay today is told us
by the medium of words and phrases. How little would we know what those
people are talking about if we saw them only acting and had not
beforehand the information which the "leader" supplies. The technique
differs with different companies. Some experiment with projecting the
spoken words into the picture itself, bringing the phrase in glaring
white letters near the head of the person who is speaking, in a way
similar to the methods of the newspaper cartoonists. But mostly the
series of the pictures is interrupted and the decisive word taken
directly from the lips of the hero, or an explanatory statement which
gives meaning to the whole is thrown on the screen. Sometimes this may
be a concession to the mentally less trained members of the audience,
but usually these printed comments are indispensable for understanding
the plot, and even the most intelligent spectator would feel helpless
without these frequent guideposts. But this habit of the picture houses
today is certainly not an esthetic argument. They are obliged to yield
to the scheme simply because the scenario writers are still untrained
and clumsy in using the technique of the new art.

Some religious painters of medieval times put in the picture itself
phrases which the persons were supposed to speak, as if the words were
leaving their mouths. But we could not imagine Raphael and Michelangelo
making use of a method of communication which is so entirely foreign to
the real spirit of painting. Every art grows slowly to the point where
the artist relies on its characteristic and genuine forms of expression.
Elements which do not belong to it are at first mingled in it and must
be slowly eliminated. The photoplay of the day after tomorrow will
surely be freed from all elements which are not really pictures. The
beginning of the photoplay as a mere imitation of the theater is nowhere
so evident as in this inorganic combination with bits of dialogue or
explanatory phrases. The art of words and the art of pictures are there
forcibly yoked together. Whoever writes his scenarios so that the
pictures cannot be understood without these linguistic crutches is an
esthetic failure in the new art. The next step toward the emancipation
of the photoplay decidedly must be the creation of plays which speak the
language of pictures only.

Two apparent exceptions seem justified. It is not contrary to the
internal demands of the film art if a complete scene has a title. A
leader like "The Next Morning" or "After Three Years" or "In South
Africa" or "The First Step" or "The Awakening" or "Among Friends" has
the same character as the title of a painting in a picture gallery. If
we read in our catalogue of paintings that a picture is called
"Landscape" or "Portrait" we feel the words to be superfluous. If we
read that its title is "London Bridge in Mist" or "Portrait of the Pope"
we receive a valuable suggestion which is surely not without influence
on our appreciation of the picture, and yet it is not an organic part of
the painting itself. In this sense a leader as title for a scene or
still better for a whole reel may be applied without any esthetic
objection. The other case which is not only possible but perfectly
justified is the introduction of letters, telegrams, posters, newspaper
clippings, and similar printed or written communications in a pictorial
close-up the enlargement of which makes every word readable. This scheme
is more and more introduced into the plays today and the movement is in
a proper direction. The words of the telegram or of the signboard and
even of the cutting from the newspaper are parts of the reality which
the pictures are to show us and their meaning does not stand outside but
within the pictorial story. The true artist will make sparing use of
this method in order that the spectator may not change his attitude. He
must remain in an inner adjustment to pictorial forms and must not
switch over into an adaptation to sentences. But if its use is not
exaggerated, the method is legitimate, in striking contrast to the
inartistic use of the same words as leaders between the pictures.

The condemnation of guiding words, in the interest of the purity of the
picture play as such, also leads to earnest objection to phonographic
accompaniments. Those who, like Edison, had a technical, scientific, and
social interest but not a genuine esthetic point of view in the
development of the moving pictures naturally asked themselves whether
this optical imitation of the drama might not be improved by an
acoustical imitation too. Then the idea would be to connect the
kinematoscope with the phonograph and to synchronize them so completely
that with every visible movement of the lips the audible sound of the
words would leave the diaphragm of the apparatus. All who devoted
themselves to this problem had considerable difficulties and when their
ventures proved practical failures with the theater audiences, they were
inclined to blame their inability to solve the technical problem
perfectly. They were not aware that the real difficulty was an esthetic
and internal one. Even if the voices were heard with ideal perfection
and exactly in time with the movements on the screen, the effect on an
esthetically conscientious audience would have been disappointing. A
photoplay cannot gain but only lose if its visual purity is destroyed.
If we see and hear at the same time, we do indeed come nearer to the
real theater, but this is desirable only if it is our goal to imitate
the stage. Yet if that were the goal, even the best imitation would
remain far inferior to an actual theater performance. As soon as we have
clearly understood that the photoplay is an art in itself, the
conservation of the spoken word is as disturbing as color would be on
the clothing of a marble statue.

It is quite different with accompanying music. Even if the music in the
overwhelming majority of cases were not so pitifully bad as it is in
most of the picture theaters of today, no one would consider it an
organic part of the photoplay itself, like the singing in the opera. Yet
the need of such a more or less melodious and even more or less
harmonious accompaniment has always been felt, and even the poorest
substitute for decent music has been tolerated, as seeing long reels in
a darkened house without any tonal accompaniment fatigues and ultimately
irritates an average audience. The music relieves the tension and keeps
the attention awake. It must be entirely subordinated and it is a fact
that most people are hardly aware of the special pieces which are
played, while they would feel uncomfortable without them. But it is not
at all necessary for the music to be limited to such harmonious
smoothing of the mind by rhythmical tones. The music can and ought to be
adjusted to the play on the screen. The more ambitious picture
corporations have clearly recognized this demand and show their new
plays with exact suggestions for the choice of musical pieces to be
played as accompaniment. The music does not tell a part of the plot and
does not replace the picture as words would do, but simply reenforces
the emotional setting. It is quite probable, when the photoplay art has
found its esthetic recognition, that composers will begin to write the
musical score for a beautiful photoplay with the same enthusiasm with
which they write in other musical forms.

Just between the intolerable accompaniment by printed or spoken words on
the one side and the perfectly welcome rendering of emotionally fitting
music on the other, we find the noises with which the photoplay managers
like to accompany their performances. When the horses gallop, we must
hear the hoofbeats, if rain or hail is falling, if the lightning
flashes, we hear the splashing or the thunderstorm. We hear the firing
of a gun, the whistling of a locomotive, ships' bells, or the ambulance
gong, or the barking dog, or the noise when Charlie Chaplin falls
downstairs. They even have a complicated machine, the "allefex," which
can produce over fifty distinctive noises, fit for any photoplay
emergency. It will probably take longer to rid the photoplay of these
appeals to the imagination than the explanations of the leaders, but
ultimately they will have to disappear too. They have no right to
existence in a work of art which is composed of pictures. In so far as
they are simply heightening the emotional tension, they may enter into
the music itself, but in so far as they tell a part of the story, they
ought to be ruled out as intrusions from another sphere. We might just
as well improve the painting of a rose garden by bathing it in rose
perfume in order that the spectators might get the odor of the roses
together with the sight of them. The limitations of an art are in
reality its strength and to overstep its boundaries means to weaken it.

It may be more open to discussion whether this same negative attitude
ought to be taken toward color in the photoplay. It is well-known what
wonderful technical progress has been secured by those who wanted to
catch the color hues and tints of nature in their moving pictures. To be
sure, many of the prettiest effects in color are even today produced by
artificial stencil methods. Photographs are simply printed in three
colors like any ordinary color print. The task of cutting those many
stencils for the thousands of pictures on a reel is tremendous, and yet
these difficulties have been overcome. Any desired color effect can be
obtained by this method and the beauty of the best specimens is
unsurpassed. But the difficulty is so great that it can hardly become a
popular method. The direct photographing of the colors themselves will
be much simpler as soon as the method is completely perfected. It can
hardly be said that this ideal has been reached today. The successive
photographing through three red, green, and violet screens and the later
projection of the pictures through screens of these colors seemed
scientifically the best approach. Yet it needed a multiplication of
pictures per second which offered extreme difficulty, besides an
extraordinary increase of expense. The practical advance seems more
secure along the line of the so-called "kinemacolor." Its effects are
secured by the use of two screens only, not quite satisfactory, as true
blue impressions have to suffer and the reddish and greenish ones are
emphasized. Moreover the eye is sometimes disturbed by big flashes of
red or green light. Yet the beginnings are so excellent that the perfect
solution of the technical problem may be expected in the near future.
Would it be at the same time a solution of the esthetic problem?

It has been claimed by friends of color photography that at the present
stage of development natural color photography is unsatisfactory for a
rendering of outer events because any scientific or historical happening
which is reproduced demands exactly the same colors which reality shows.
But on the other hand the process seems perfectly sufficient for the
photoplay because there no objective colors are expected and it makes no
difference whether the gowns of the women or the rugs on the floor show
the red and green too vividly and the blue too faintly. From an esthetic
point of view we ought to come to exactly the opposite verdict. For the
historical events even the present technical methods are on the whole
satisfactory. The famous British coronation pictures were superb and
they gained immensely by the rich color effects. They gave much more
than a mere photograph in black and white, and the splendor and glory of
those radiant colors suffered little from the suppression of the bluish
tones. They were not shown in order to match the colors in a ribbon
store. For the news pictures of the day the "kinemacolor" and similar
schemes are excellent. But when we come to photoplays the question is no
longer one of technique; first of all we stand before the problem: how
far does the coloring subordinate itself to the aim of the photoplay? No
doubt the effect of the individual picture would be heightened by the
beauty of the colors. But would it heighten the beauty of the photoplay?
Would not this color be again an addition which oversteps the essential
limits of this particular art? We do not want to paint the cheeks of the
Venus of Milo: neither do we want to see the coloring of Mary Pickford
or Anita Stewart. We became aware that the unique task of the photoplay
art can be fulfilled only by a far-reaching disregard of reality. The
real human persons and the real landscapes must be left behind and, as
we saw, must be transformed into pictorial suggestions only. We must be
strongly conscious of their pictorial unreality in order that that
wonderful play of our inner experiences may be realized on the screen.
This consciousness of unreality must seriously suffer from the addition
of color. We are once more brought too near to the world which really
surrounds us with the richness of its colors, and the more we approach
it the less we gain that inner freedom, that victory of the mind over
nature, which remains the ideal of the photoplay. The colors are almost
as detrimental as the voices.

On the other hand the producer must be careful to keep sufficiently in
contact with reality, as otherwise the emotional interests upon which
the whole play depends would be destroyed. We must not take the people
to be real, but we must link with them all the feelings and associations
which we would connect with real men. This is possible only if in their
flat, colorless, pictorial setting they share the real features of men.
For this reason it is important to suggest to the spectator the
impression of natural size. The demand of the imagination for the normal
size of the persons and things in the picture is so strong that it
easily and constantly overcomes great enlargements or reductions. We see
at first a man in his normal size and then by a close-up an excessive
enlargement of his head. Yet we do not feel it as if the person himself
were enlarged. By a characteristic psychical substitution we feel rather
that we have come nearer to him and that the size of the visual image
was increased by the decreasing of the distance. If the whole picture is
so much enlarged that the persons are continually given much above
normal size, by a psychical inhibition we deceive ourselves about the
distance and believe that we are much nearer to the screen than we
actually are. Thus we instinctively remain under the impression of
normal appearances. But this spell can easily be broken and the esthetic
effect is then greatly diminished. In the large picture houses in which
the projecting camera is often very far from the screen, the dimensions
of the persons in the pictures may be three or four times larger than
human beings. The illusion is nevertheless perfect, because the
spectator misjudges the distances as long as he does not see anything in
the neighborhood of the screen. But if the eye falls upon a woman
playing the piano directly below the picture, the illusion is destroyed.
He sees on the screen enormous giants whose hands are as large as half
the piano player, and the normal reactions which are the spring for the
enjoyment of the play are suppressed.

The further we go into details, the more we might add such special
psychological demands which result from the fundamental principles of
the new art. But it would be misleading if we were also to raise demands
concerning a point which has often played the chief role in the
discussion, namely, the selection of suitable topics. Writers who have
the unlimited possibilities of trick pictures and film illusions in mind
have proclaimed that the fairy tale with its magic wonders ought to be
its chief domain, as no theater stage could enter into rivalry. How many
have enjoyed "Neptune's Daughter"--the mermaids in the surf and the
sudden change of the witch into the octopus on the shore and the joyful
play of the watersprites! How many have been bewitched by Princess
Nicotina when she trips from the little cigar box along the table! No
theater could dare to imitate such raptures of imagination. Other
writers have insisted on the superb chances for gorgeous processions and
the surging splendor of multitudes. We see thousands in Sherman's march
to the sea. How hopeless would be any attempt to imitate it on the
stage! When the toreador fights the bull and the crowds in the Spanish
arena enter into enthusiastic frenzy, who would compare it with those
painted people in the arena when the opera "Carmen" is sung. Again
others emphasize the opportunity for historical plays or especially for
plays with unusual scenic setting where the beauties of the tropics or
of the mountains, of the ocean or of the jungle, are brought into living
contact with the spectator. Biblical dramas with pictures of real
Palestine, classical plots with real Greece or Rome as a background,
have stirred millions all over the globe. Yet the majority of authors
claim that the true field for the photoplay is the practical life which
surrounds us, as no artistic means of literature or drama can render the
details of life with such convincing sincerity and with such realistic
power. These are the slums, not seen through the spectacles of a
litterateur or the fancy of an outsider but in their whole abhorrent
nakedness. These are the dark corners of the metropolis where crime is
hidden and where vice is growing rankly.

They all are right; and at the same time they all are wrong when they
praise one at the expense of another. Realistic and idealistic,
practical and romantic, historical and modern topics are fit material
for the art of the photoplay. Its world is as unlimited as that of
literature, and the same is true of the style of treatment. The
humorous, if it is true humor, the tragic, if it is true tragedy, the
gay and the solemn, the merry and the pathetic, the half-reel and the
five-reel play, all can fulfill the demands of the new art.




CHAPTER XI

THE FUNCTION OF THE PHOTOPLAY


Enthusiasts claim that in the United States ten million people daily are
attending picture houses. Sceptics believe that "only" two or three
millions form the daily attendance. But in any case "the movies" have
become the most popular entertainment of the country, nay, of the world,
and their influence is one of the strongest social energies of our time.
Signs indicate that this popularity and this influence are increasing
from day to day. What are the causes, and what are the effects of this
movement which was undreamed of only a short time ago?

The economists are certainly right when they see the chief reason for
this crowding of picture houses in the low price of admission. For five
or ten cents long hours of thrilling entertainment in the best seats of
the house: this is the magnet which must be more powerful than any
theater or concert. Yet the rush to the moving pictures is steadily
increasing, while the prices climb up. The dime became a quarter, and in
the last two seasons ambitious plays were given before audiences who
paid the full theater rates. The character of the audiences, too,
suggests that inexpensiveness alone cannot be decisive. Six years ago a
keen sociological observer characterized the patrons of the picture
palaces as "the lower middle class and the massive public, youths and
shopgirls between adolescence and maturity, small dealers, pedlars,
laborers, charwomen, besides the small quota of children." This would be
hardly a correct description today. This "lower middle class" has long
been joined by the upper middle class. To be sure, our observer of that
long forgotten past added meekly: "Then there emerges a superior person
or two like yourself attracted by mere curiosity and kept in his seat by
interest until the very end of the performance; this type sneers aloud
to proclaim its superiority and preserve its self-respect, but it never
leaves the theater until it must." Today you and I are seen there quite
often, and we find that our friends have been there, that they have
given up the sneering pose and talk about the new photoplay as a matter
of course.

Above all, even those who are drawn by the cheapness of the performance
would hardly push their dimes under the little window so often if they
did not really enjoy the plays and were not stirred by a pleasure which
holds them for hours. After all, it must be the content of the
performances which is decisive of the incomparable triumph. We have no
right to conclude from this that only the merits and excellences are the
true causes of their success. A caustic critic would probably suggest
that just the opposite traits are responsible. He would say that the
average American is a mixture of business, ragtime, and sentimentality.
He satisfies his business instinct by getting so much for his nickel, he
enjoys his ragtime in the slapstick humor, and gratifies his
sentimentality with the preposterous melodramas which fill the program.
This is quite true, and yet it is not true at all. Success has crowned
every effort to improve the photostage; the better the plays are the
more the audience approves them. The most ambitious companies are the
most flourishing ones. There must be inner values which make the
photoplay so extremely attractive and even fascinating.

To a certain degree the mere technical cleverness of the pictures even
today holds the interest spellbound as in those early days when nothing
but this technical skill could claim the attention. We are still
startled by every original effect, even if the mere showing of movement
has today lost its impressiveness. Moreover we are captivated by the
undeniable beauty of many settings. The melodrama may be cheap; yet it
does not disturb the cultured mind as grossly as a similar tragic
vulgarity would on the real stage, because it may have the snowfields of
Alaska or the palm trees of Florida as radiant background. An
intellectual interest, too, finds its satisfaction. We get an insight
into spheres which were strange to us. Where outlying regions of human
interest are shown on the theater stage, we must usually be satisfied
with some standardized suggestion. Here in the moving pictures the play
may really bring us to mills and factories, to farms and mines, to
courtrooms and hospitals, to castles and palaces in any land on earth.

Yet a stronger power of the photoplay probably lies in its own dramatic
qualities. The rhythm of the play is marked by unnatural rapidity. As
the words are absent which, in the drama as in life, fill the gaps
between the actions, the gestures and deeds themselves can follow one
another much more quickly. Happenings which would fill an hour on the
stage can hardly fill more than twenty minutes on the screen. This
heightens the feeling of vitality in the spectator. He feels as if he
were passing through life with a sharper accent which stirs his personal
energies. The usual make-up of the photoplay must strengthen this effect
inasmuch as the wordlessness of the picture drama favors a certain
simplification of the social conflicts. The subtler shades of the
motives naturally demand speech. The later plays of Ibsen could hardly
be transformed into photoplays. Where words are missing the characters
tend to become stereotyped and the motives to be deprived of their
complexity. The plot of the photoplay is usually based on the
fundamental emotions which are common to all and which are understood
by everybody. Love and hate, gratitude and envy, hope and fear, pity and
jealousy, repentance and sinfulness, and all the similar crude emotions
have been sufficient for the construction of most scenarios. The more
mature development of the photoplay will certainly overcome this
primitive character, as, while such an effort to reduce human life to
simple instincts is very convenient for the photoplay, it is not at all
necessary. In any case where this tendency prevails it must help greatly
to excite and to intensify the personal feeling of life and to stir the
depths of the human mind.

But the richest source of the unique satisfaction in the photoplay is
probably that esthetic feeling which is significant for the new art and
which we have understood from its psychological conditions. _The massive
outer world has lost its weight, it has been freed from space, time, and
causality, and it has been clothed in the forms of our own
consciousness. The mind has triumphed over matter and the pictures roll
on with the ease of musical tones. It is a superb enjoyment which no
other art can furnish us._ No wonder that temples for the new goddess
are built in every little hamlet.

The intensity with which the plays take hold of the audience cannot
remain without strong social effects. It has even been reported that
sensory hallucinations and illusions have crept in; neurasthenic persons
are especially inclined to experience touch or temperature or smell or
sound impressions from what they see on the screen. The associations
become as vivid as realities, because the mind is so completely given up
to the moving pictures. The applause into which the audiences,
especially of rural communities, break out at a happy turn of the
melodramatic pictures is another symptom of the strange fascination. But
it is evident that such a penetrating influence must be fraught with
dangers. The more vividly the impressions force themselves on the mind,
the more easily must they become starting points for imitation and other
motor responses. The sight of crime and of vice may force itself on the
consciousness with disastrous results. The normal resistance breaks down
and the moral balance, which would have been kept under the habitual
stimuli of the narrow routine life, may be lost under the pressure of
the realistic suggestions. At the same time the subtle sensitiveness of
the young mind may suffer from the rude contrasts between the farces and
the passionate romances which follow with benumbing speed in the
darkened house. The possibilities of psychical infection and destruction
cannot be overlooked.

Those may have been exceptional cases only when grave crimes have been
traced directly back to the impulses from unwholesome photoplays, but no
psychologist can determine exactly how much the general spirit of
righteousness, of honesty, of sexual cleanliness and modesty, may be
weakened by the unbridled influence of plays of low moral standard. All
countries seem to have been awakened to this social danger. The time
when unsavory French comedies poisoned youth lies behind us. A strong
reaction has set in and the leading companies among the photoplay
producers fight everywhere in the first rank for suppression of the
unclean. Some companies even welcome censorship provided that it is
high-minded and liberal and does not confuse artistic freedom with moral
licentiousness. Most, to be sure, seem doubtful whether the new
movement toward Federal censorship is in harmony with American ideas on
the freedom of public expression.

But while the sources of danger cannot be overlooked, the social
reformer ought to focus his interest still more on the tremendous
influences for good which may be exerted by the moving pictures. The
fact that millions are daily under the spell of the performances on the
screen is established. The high degree of their suggestibility during
those hours in the dark house may be taken for granted. Hence any
wholesome influence emanating from the photoplay must have an
incomparable power for the remolding and upbuilding of the national
soul. From this point of view the boundary lines between the photoplay
and the merely instructive moving pictures with the news of the day or
the magazine articles on the screen become effaced. The intellectual,
the moral, the social, and the esthetic culture of the community may be
served by all of them. Leading educators have joined in endorsing the
foundation of a Universal Culture Lyceum. The plan is to make and
circulate moving pictures for the education of the youth of the land,
picture studies in science, history, religion, literature, geography,
biography, art, architecture, social science, economics and industry.
From this Lyceum "schools, churches and colleges will be furnished with
motion pictures giving the latest results and activities in every sphere
capable of being pictured."

But, however much may be achieved by such conscious efforts toward
education, the far larger contribution must be made by the regular
picture houses which the public seeks without being conscious of the
educational significance. The teaching of the moving pictures must not
be forced on a more or less indifferent audience, but ought to be
absorbed by those who seek entertainment and enjoyment from the films
and are ready to make their little economic sacrifice.

The purely intellectual part of this uplift is the easiest. Not only the
news pictures and the scientific demonstrations but also the photoplays
can lead young and old to ever new regions of knowledge. The curiosity
and the imagination of the spectators will follow gladly. Yet even in
the intellectual sphere the dangers must not be overlooked. They are not
positive. It is not as in the moral sphere where the healthy moral
impulse is checked by the sight of crimes which stir up antisocial
desires. The danger is not that the pictures open insight into facts
which ought not to be known. It is not the dangerous knowledge which
must be avoided, but it is the trivializing influence of a steady
contact with things which are not worth knowing. The larger part of the
film literature of today is certainly harmful in this sense. The
intellectual background of most photoplays is insipid. By telling the
plot without the subtle motivation which the spoken word of the drama
may bring, not only do the characters lose color but all the scenes and
situations are simplified to a degree which adjusts them to a
thoughtless public and soon becomes intolerable to an intellectually
trained spectator.

They force on the cultivated mind that feeling which musical persons
experience in the musical comedies of the day. We hear the melodies
constantly with the feeling of having heard them ever so often before.
This lack of originality and inspiration is not necessary; it does not
lie in the art form. Offenbach and Strauss and others have written
musical comedies which are classical. Neither does it lie in the form
of the photoplay that the story must be told in that insipid, flat,
uninspired fashion. Nor is it necessary in order to reach the millions.
To appeal to the intelligence does not mean to presuppose college
education. Moreover the differentiation has already begun. Just as the
plays of Shaw or Ibsen address a different audience from that reached by
the "Old Homestead" or "Ben Hur," we have already photoplays adapted to
different types, and there is not the slightest reason to connect with
the art of the screen an intellectual flabbiness. It would be no gain
for intellectual culture if all the reasoning were confined to the
so-called instructive pictures and the photoplays were served without
any intellectual salt. On the contrary, the appeal of those strictly
educational lessons may be less deep than the producers hope, because
the untrained minds, especially of youth and of the uneducated
audiences, have considerable difficulty in following the rapid flight of
events when they occur in unfamiliar surroundings. The child grasps very
little in seeing the happenings in a factory. The psychological and
economic lesson may be rather wasted because the power of observation
is not sufficiently developed and the assimilation proceeds too slowly.
But it is quite different when a human interest stands behind it and
connects the events in the photoplay.

The difficulties in the way of the right moral influence are still
greater than in the intellectual field. Certainly it is not enough to
have the villain punished in the last few pictures of the reel. If
scenes of vice or crime are shown with all their lure and glamour the
moral devastation of such a suggestive show is not undone by the
appended social reaction. The misguided boys or girls feel sure that
they would be successful enough not to be trapped. The mind through a
mechanism which has been understood better and better by the
psychologists in recent years suppresses the ideas which are contrary to
the secret wishes and makes those ideas flourish by which those
"subconscious" impulses are fulfilled. It is probably a strong
exaggeration when a prominent criminologist recently claimed that
"eighty-five per cent. of the juvenile crime which has been investigated
has been found traceable either directly or indirectly to motion
pictures which have shown on the screen how crimes could be committed."
But certainly, as far as these demonstrations have worked havoc, their
influence would not have been annihilated by a picturesque court scene
in which the burglar is unsuccessful in misleading the jury. The true
moral influence must come from the positive spirit of the play itself.
Even the photodramatic lessons in temperance and piety will not rebuild
a frivolous or corrupt or perverse community. The truly upbuilding play
is not a dramatized sermon on morality and religion. There must be a
moral wholesomeness in the whole setting, a moral atmosphere which is
taken as a matter of course like fresh air and sunlight. An enthusiasm
for the noble and uplifting, a belief in duty and discipline of the
mind, a faith in ideals and eternal values must permeate the world of
the screen. If it does, there is no crime and no heinous deed which the
photoplay may not tell with frankness and sincerity. It is not necessary
to deny evil and sin in order to strengthen the consciousness of eternal
justice.

But the greatest mission which the photoplay may have in our community
is that of esthetic cultivation. No art reaches a larger audience
daily, no esthetic influence finds spectators in a more receptive frame
of mind. On the other hand no training demands a more persistent and
planful arousing of the mind than the esthetic training, and never is
progress more difficult than when the teacher adjusts himself to the
mere liking of the pupils. The country today would still be without any
symphony concerts and operas if it had only received what the audiences
believed at the moment that they liked best. The esthetically
commonplace will always triumph over the significant unless systematic
efforts are made to reenforce the work of true beauty. Communities at
first always prefer Sousa to Beethoven. The moving picture audience
could only by slow steps be brought from the tasteless and vulgar
eccentricities of the first period to the best plays of today, and the
best plays of today can be nothing but the beginning of the great upward
movement which we hope for in the photoplay. Hardly any teaching can
mean more for our community than the teaching of beauty where it reaches
the masses. The moral impulse and the desire for knowledge are, after
all, deeply implanted in the American crowd, but the longing for beauty
is rudimentary; and yet it means harmony, unity, true satisfaction, and
happiness in life. The people still has to learn the great difference
between true enjoyment and fleeting pleasure, between real beauty and
the mere tickling of the senses.

Of course, there are those, and they may be legion today, who would
deride every plan to make the moving pictures the vehicle of esthetic
education. How can we teach the spirit of true art by a medium which is
in itself the opposite of art? How can we implant the idea of harmony by
that which is in itself a parody on art? We hear the contempt for
"canned drama" and the machine-made theater. Nobody stops to think
whether other arts despise the help of technique. The printed book of
lyric poems is also machine-made; the marble bust has also "preserved"
for two thousand years the beauty of the living woman who was the model
for the Greek sculptor. They tell us that the actor on the stage gives
the human beings as they are in reality, but the moving pictures are
unreal and therefore of incomparably inferior value. They do not
consider that the roses of the summer which we enjoy in the stanzas of
the poet do not exist in reality in the forms of iambic verse and of
rhymes; they live in color and odor, but their color and odor fade away,
while the roses in the stanzas live on forever. They fancy that the
value of an art depends upon its nearness to the reality of physical
nature.

It has been the chief task of our whole discussion to prove the
shallowness of such arguments and objections. We recognized that art is
a way to overcome nature and to create out of the chaotic material of
the world something entirely new, entirely unreal, which embodies
perfect unity and harmony. The different arts are different ways of
abstracting from reality; and when we began to analyze the psychology of
the moving pictures we soon became aware that the photoplay has a way to
perform this task of art with entire originality, independent of the art
of the theater, as much as poetry is independent of music or sculpture
of painting. It is an art in itself. Only the future can teach us
whether it will become a great art, whether a Leonardo, a Shakespeare, a
Mozart, will ever be born for it. Nobody can foresee the directions
which the new art may take. Mere esthetic insight into the principles
can never foreshadow the development in the unfolding of civilization.
Who would have been bold enough four centuries ago to foresee the
musical means and effects of the modern orchestra? Just the history of
music shows how the inventive genius has always had to blaze the path in
which the routine work of the art followed. Tone combinations which
appeared intolerable dissonances to one generation were again and again
assimilated and welcomed and finally accepted as a matter of course by
later times. Nobody can foresee the ways which the new art of the
photoplay will open, but everybody ought to recognize even today that it
is worth while to help this advance and to make the art of the film a
medium for an original creative expression of our time and to mold by it
the esthetic instincts of the millions. Yes, it is a new art--and this
is why it has such fascination for the psychologist who in a world of
ready-made arts, each with a history of many centuries, suddenly finds a
new form still undeveloped and hardly understood. For the first time the
psychologist can observe the starting of an entirely new esthetic
development, a new form of true beauty in the turmoil of a technical
age, created by its very technique and yet more than any other art
destined to overcome outer nature by the free and joyful play of the
mind.


       *       *       *       *       *


BOOKS BY HUGO MUeNSTERBERG


Psychology and Life
  pp. 286, Boston, 1899

Grundzuege der Psychologie
  pp. 565, Leipzig, 1900

American Traits
  pp. 235, Boston, 1902

Die Amerikaner
  pp. 502 and 349, Berlin, 1904 (Rev, 1912)

Principles of Art Education
  pp. 118, New York, 1905

The Eternal Life
  pp. 72, Boston, 1905

Science and Idealism
  pp. 71, Boston, 1906

Philosophie der Werte
  pp. 486, Leipzig, 1907

On the Witness Stand
  pp. 269, New York, 1908

Aus Deutsch-Amerika
  pp. 245, Berlin, 1909

The Eternal Values
  pp. 436, Boston, 1909

Psychotherapy
  pp. 401, New York, 1909

Psychology and the Teacher
  pp. 330, New York, 1910

American Problems
  pp. 222, New York, 1910

Psychologie und Wirtschaftsleben
  pp. 192, Leipzig, 1912

Vocation and Learning
  pp. 289, St. Louis, 1912

Psychology and Industrial Efficiency
  pp. 321, Boston, 1913

American Patriotism
  pp. 262, New York, 1913

Grundzuege der Psychotechnik
  pp. 767, Leipzig, 1914

Psychology and Social Sanity
  pp. 320, New York, 1914

Psychology, General and Applied
  pp. 488, New York, 1914

The War and America
  pp. 210, New York, 1914

The Peace and America
  pp. 276, New York, 1915

The Photoplay
    New York, 1916





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