Film Studies -- Week 2 -- Film History/Language of CinemaPresentation Transcript
Week 2 Lecture Film Beginnings / Language of Cinema
Early Film Experiments
In 1878, Edward Muybridge set up 12 cameras alongside a race track. The cameras were attached to trip wires so that when a horse ran by, it would take a picture. When put together, the series mimicked motion
The psychological phenomena which makes successive images appear like motion is known as “the persistence of vision”
Early Film: The Kinetograph
One of the earliest film inventions was made by Thomas Edison. His large camera was called the Kinetograph. The camera itself was housed in a small room, which led it to be called the “Black Maria”.
Because the camera was not easily transportable, In order to capture images, performers had to come into the room – this led to most of his films being performance based and removed from reality
The viewing apparatus was called the Kinetoscope. It was a one-person viewing machine and could not be played before an audience.
Early Film: Lumiere Brothers
The other most influential early filmmakers come from France: The Lumiere Brothers.
They first started projecting films in 1895. They used an apparatus called the cinematographe, which acted as a camera, film developer, and projector. The camera was handcranked, so it didn’t rely on external power.
The camera was much more portable than Edisions Kinetograph, so their early films have real world events as their subject. The films could also be projected before a larger audience than the Kinetoscope.
Lumiere Brothers: Early works
One of the Lumiere’s earliest and most popular films was A Train Arriving at the Station (1895)
The film is one 50 second shot of a train arriving and the passengers coming off the train
There are some stories that audience members feared that the train was going to run into them when they were watching it on the screen
Link to the film:
A Train Arriving at the Station
Lumiere Brothers ’ First Films
Why do you think audiences would have enjoyed the films at the time?
What do you think audiences would think today?
Early Films: “The Cinema of Attractions ”
The earliest films are referred to as “the cinema of attractions”.
This is because film at the time was a novelty – filmmakers could place anything on the screen and audiences would be fascinated because of the medium itself
Subjects of early films were pretty similar
Why couldn’t more complex stories be told?
Melies: A Trip to the Moon
A Trip to the Moon (1902) was one of the earliest narrative films.
The film shows a great deal of fantasy and development of costuming in film, and certain sequences show that a film language was starting to emerge.
One sequence is the spaceship hitting the surface of the moon. It then cuts to a shot of the surface of the moon, where the spaceship lands again.
It is difficult to determine story because of the distance of the camera to the subject.
Link to the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbGd_240ynk
The band the Smashing Pumpkins did a send up of the film for a music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_f7LF3IiKI
Developments in Film Language
Audiences soon became bored with “the cinema of attractions” and filmmakers had to find new ways to keep their audiences entertained
Began to move towards narrative forms, however they found it difficult because of the lack of sound
Began using intertitles to narrate films. At first these needed to be long to explain the story, but as film language developed these began to only be used for dialogue
One of the greats of early cinema was D.W. Griffith, an actor turned director who is probably best known for his work on The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Griffith was an innovator in using tighter shots of his actors. Using tighter shots allowed several things:
Audiences could read emotion of a story from the actors expressions, thus helping tell the story
Actors began using more realistic techniques, they no longer had to be melodramatic in their techniques.
Griffith was also an innovator in regards to editing. He began using cross-cutting, a technique where the director cuts between two scenes that are happening simultaneously. This heightens the suspense in the narrative.
Developments in Film Language
Films began experimenting with the sequence of shots, and certain experiments were codified into film language:
Point of View shots: Back to Nature (1910)
Reverse Angle: The Assassination of the Duc de Guise (1908), The Loafer (1911)
Flashbacks: Napoleon – Man of Destiny (1909)
Can you think of things that are tried in recent movies that have become parts of the film language?