Reel Precepts

Shrine for Erwin Panofsky's:

"Style and Medium in the Motions Pictures"

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Text to the Author:

Sub-Scripted Marginalia

But Erwin, you couldn’t have foreseen how your ideas would conceptualize film and then reduce it, t’is a shame that it has and not that you didn’t.

Your discussion of "the evolution from jerky beginnings to . . . grand climax" as offering "the fascinating spectacle of a new artistic medium gradually becoming conscious of its legitimate, that is, exclusive possibilities and limitations," implies a model for artforms in general but --nowadays specifically-- video-gaming-as-artform… and all that that implies given the trend towards social/commercial manipulations.

The movies, engendered as a commercial product (only infrequently as art) were further sub ducted by television, involving an even wider market share for wage-slaves; devolved further into vid-games and ad-campaigns.  As you so succinctly pointed out, it’s technologically  funded/driven appealing to the lowest common denominator in the folk-art tradition of entertainment for popular appeal, and it’s changed the world.
These visual spectacles now take on greater prominence; it’s precisely the power of that prominence that has the deepest effect upon contemporary life, drawing in the masses of people and moving and shaping our dispositions. It’s almost a requirement of the majority of today's products that they must weave in sufficient amounts of sex and violence to grip the audience viscerally. It’s exactly those elements that ancient Greek theater considered best only alluded to verbally, in place of appearing on stage, (etymologicaly suggesting ob-scene).

It’s in keeping with the sensibilities of Plato, that to maintain such depiction would so arouse the passions as to disallow reflective judgment. Without the discipline of reflectiveness film and its predecessors pander, as no other artform can, to the immediate evocation of desire involving the viewer in their passions.

The ability to visually composite an ideal, so that the illusion develops as a mental construct, has the power to make us universal voyeurs, to make us present, in a way impossible in real life, to every mode of human action and to expand our vicarious experience to any real or fictitious visual and audible space.  This engenders an impossible dream of creating a real-living existence that mirrors not just a movie but now a computer generated image filled with false-dangers and fake-lust.

Plus, it’s a surrogate point of view. Even though we use our own eyes, we see through the eyes of someone else, dictated at someone else's pace. What this underscores is embodiment, although, as in the arts generally, only from the contemplative, non-tactual and therefore paradoxically disembodied viewpoint. It’s the seeing eye rather than the active and reactive embodied subject that responds.

Therefore we’re given a kind of human omnipresence, the satisfaction the voyeur's instinct without encroachment upon the privacy of others.  It allows the audience to experience vicariously an indeterminately expansive set of possibilities of action and setting, to be emotionally drawn into the world depicted in a mode unrivaled by other mediums. As such, it allows us to be emotionally manipulated; it also gives us an expanded experience, furnishing an artform medium, fueling an antithesis.