The main question aimed to answer here is precisely if cinema is indeed a world of its own. Apparently simple, this question comprehends a wide range of aspects and specifities not only related to cinema but also to previous visual devices such as photography. Throughout the analysis of arguments, some opposing, some backing up the concept of cinema as a second world (Frampton, 2006: 1), other relevant issues will arise such as the way in which is possible for us to engage with film if we consider that it represents a world other than our own.
In order to answer to the proposed question, one must first understand cinema as a technical visual device, perhaps one of the most effective when considering its capability of affecting individuals and society in general. When cinema appeared, and as noted by Crary (1988), it founded a new paradigm in the visual culture by causing a rupture with all the previous optical devices: cinema does not try to mirror any pre-existing reality; instead, cinema produces a new reality where its own realism, truth and objectivity are put to work.Order now
However, in the beginning of the 19th century there was still who believed that film promised the registration of pure materiality sans subjective intervention (Dasgrupta in Colman, 2009: 340), a expectation previously placed upon photography. Rancire eliminated this expectation by affirming that if the eye of the camera wants nothing, as previously stated by Epstein, that why it is made to want something by the film-maker” (Rancire quoted in Dasgrupta, 2009: 340).
This equally represents a turning point caused by cinema as it, contrarly to photography and even to the perspetive technique in painting, never denied its subjetive dimension, going even further by re-incorporating the human vision and accepting that the production of images is unavoidably connected with the establishment of points of view.
In order to understand whether film is a reflection of reality or a distorted mirror of that same reality (Frampton, 2006: 3) one must analyse the not so short path of film production. In the analysis Baudry and Williams (1974) made about how the technical cinematographic apparatus can be used to conceal the ideological contents in film, they establish the moments in which that same apparatus intervenes in the film production.
The authors recognised two key moments in which an instrumental base intervenes during film production: the first, identified as decoupage, happens between objective reality and the camera, consisting in the breakdown of the scenes which will be shot; the second moment happens between the inscription and the projection, in a process which is commonly known as post-production (1974: 40). The camera is here understood as an instrument which occupies an intermediate position, not undermining it as the operator of a key mutation of the signifying material (1974: 40).
All these stages are considered by the authors to be part of the cinematographic specificity, which they assume, consists in transmuting the objective reality into the film itself. That transfiguration further includes the dynamization of space and, accordingly, spatialization of time (Panofsky in Cohen and Mast, 1974: 154) meaning that a film is capable of portraying events which took place during days, months or even years in a time frame of about 120 minutes. This technical approach to cinema and its instruments corroborates Framptons conception of film as its own world with its own intentions and creativities (2006: 5).
Frampton himself approaches the act of cinematographic production as a process which transmutes reality, not denying that film uses it at an early and fleeting stage. However, that reality is almost instantly submitted to the film-mind which, as Frampton describes it, is the film itself (2006: 7), including its intentions. The first aim of the film-mind is to create a believable environment for the action (Perkins, 1993: 94) by including elements in the film-world which can be recognised by the spectator (Frampton, 2006).
Secondly, the film-mind through the film-thinking is also responsible for designing and refiguring the film-world (Frampton, 2006: 7). Perkins gives a very relevant example of what is meant by film-thinking when, attributing that thought to the films director, shows he/she can control what happens within the image. The director is able to produce a personal treatment of the script situation by controlling the action, in detail, organization and emphasis (1993: 74).
To exemplify this control, Perkins explains how in the movie 55 Days at Peking (1963) a scene that was presumably conceived in the script with the intention of causing a few easy tears (1993: 75) came to create a different effect on screen: in a scene in which a soldier tells a motherless child her father was killed in action, by controlling the way the dialogue is delivered and the position of the characters towards each other, the director guides the spectators attention to the difficulties experienced by the soldier instead of guiding it to the suffering of the orphan child.
Thus, the thought of the scene, including the focus on the particular character of the soldier, served the intention of the film-mind to expand the portrayal of the professional soldier as a man for whom the direct physical conflicts of war offer an escape from more subtle and demanding human relationships (Perkins, 1993: 75). Taking into account the example given by Perkins, is now easy to understand that film-thinking, as Frampton verified (2006: 8), turns form into more content which contributes to convey the intention of the film-mind.
Considering the key moments of film production identified by Baudry and Williams (1974) makes it undeniable that film-thinking is an ever present concept. In the dcoupage process, the first choices about how to tell a story are made by defining, selecting and very often sketching what will happen in each scene. Furthermore, at this stage, a detailed profile of each character is usually traced, often including remarks about aspects including their wardrobe and specific character traits.
Additionally, the dressing of the sets in which the scenes will take place, the planning of how a multitude of props can be used to further convey a meaning to the story, and many other decisions made at this stage reflect the great amount of thought involved in it. Thought is also involved when it comes to operate a camera while filming each scene as the availability of choices it offers is becoming increasingly vast: use of close-ups, of wide shots, of steady shots, of a multitude of different camera movements, of an infinity of filming angles.
In short, the way a camera is operated thinks a certain relation to the story being told as it has a decisive role when it comes to define how scenes and characters are portrayed. The final moment is mainly marked by the editing process involving the selection of shots which will be set upon a sequence, respecting or not the chronological order of the events depicted in the film. However, the editing process is so much more than that, and this becomes evident if we consider the use of digital technology in film production, which has increased exponentially in the past decade.
Digital makes it possible to include both sound and visual effects or even to create footage almost from scratch, developing images which were never in front of the camera, becoming an exclusive of the film-word (Frampton, 2006). In fact, it is nowadays extremely difficult to find a film, especially within the science-fiction genre, which isnt mainly constructed by using digitally developed effects and scenarios in which characters are placed even though the actors who portray them were never there.
The Oscar-nominated Gravity (2013) is a very recent example of how an entire film can take place in digitally-created world: although in the film it may seem so, it is obvious that neither Sandra Bullock nor George Clooney acted their characters while floating in the sidereal space. That illusion was created by the way the footage was digitally worked upon. It is now understandable why film editing can be described as an invisible art as it is only noticeable to the filmgoer when poorly practiced (Harris, 2008).
Taking into account all of films specificities and processes involved in its making, it becomes almost impossible to deny Framptons conception of it as a different world with its own rules (2006: 5). However, one can easily question how we engage with film to the point of feeling pleasure and enjoyment if it depicts fictional or even fantastical situations impossible to observe in our own world.
Furthermore, how can film influence our emotional lives and also figure into the process by which a culture educates its members (Platinga in Allen and Smith, 1999: 398). Perkins denies theories of illusion which suggest that film can cause the spectator to engage with it to the point of making him forget that what is being presented on screen is not real (1993: 71). Platinga shares this view by stating that the spectator must have consistent awareness that what he views is artificial and that he is outside of the fictional world (1999: 379).
Both authors are then obviously denying the ultimate characteristic of the simulacra (Deleuze, 1983; Debray, 1992), in what regards to film: the illusion and the interaction it produces, even when taken to a new level by the use of new technologies and film formats like the 3D display system and IMAX, are not enough for the spectators to perceive film as something which is within our reality.
Platinga (1999: 376) also refuses to accept Neo-Freudian theories, like the one presented by Laura Mulvey who suggests the illusion of looking in on a private word as the main source of pleasure for the audience by letting them unwind their voyeuristic phantasy (in Hollows, Joanne et al, 2000: 241).
By using a cognitive approach while studying the spectators involvement in films, Platinga (1999: 378) suggests that the emotional states experienced while watching a film depend on the cognitive response each individual has towards the situations portrayed. While referring to the thought theory, which proposes that we can have real affective responses not only to actual events but also to those we image, Platinga justifies how filmgoers have emotional responses while watching a film (1999: 380).
Film can even have an impact outside the cinema, changing peoples values, behaviours and even their way of perceiving reality. That impact is achieved through repetition and promotion (making the scenario seem natural, morally correct, or in accordance with advanced tastes and attitudes) (Platinga, 1999: 389). By way of conclusion, it is now possible to state that, although not being the same, our world and the film world share a connection in the form of a symbiotic relation.
Crary, J. 1988. Techniques of the Observer, October, Vol. 45, pp 3-35 JSTOR . Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/779041
Baudry, J.L. and Williams, A. 1974. Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus, Film Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp 39-47 JSTOR . Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1211632
Dasgrupta, S., 2009. Jacques Ranciere. In: Coleman, F., Film Theory and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers. Durham: Acumen, pp. 339-348
Debray, R., 1992. Douze thses sur lordre nouveau et une ultime question. In: Vie et mort de limage. Paris: Gallimard, pp. 491-506
Deleuze, G., 1969. Plato and the Simulacrum. Translated by: Krauss, R., 1983. October, Vol. 27, pp 45-56 JSTOR . Available at: http://jstor.org/stable/778495
Frampton, D., 2006. Introduction. In: Filmosophy. London: Wallflower, pp. 1-12
Harris, M., 2008. The Oscars Which editing is a cut above. The New York Times (January 6). Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/movies/awardsseason/06harr.html?_r=0
Mulvey, L., 2000. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In Hollows, Joanne et al, The Film Studies Reader. London: Arnold, pp. 238-248
Panofsky, E., 1974. Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures. In: Cohen, M. and Mast, G., Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. London: Oxford, pp. 151-169
Perkins, V. F., 1993. The World and Its Image. In: Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. Da Capo Press, pp. 71-115
Platinga, C., 1999. Notes on Spectator Emotion and Ideological Film Criticism. In: Allen, R. and Smith, M., Film Theory and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 373-393
Gravity, 2013 . Directed by Alfonso Cuarn. United Kingdom and United States: Warner Bros., Esperanto Filmojm and Heyday Films.