Jack Coopey‘s first article in his series on film theory. In this one he explores the development of film and its unexplored potentials. 


Do Gilles Deleuze’s words of ”cinema as consciousness portrayed” still remain true in the history of film? Does ‘hyper-real’ reality of digital cinema (2000’s) signify the end of cinema itself? Or more urgently, what is the nature of film? Or the cinematic experience? And thereby what is its relation to literature, theatre, music and dance? In these series of articles concerning film theory, I will chronologically analyse the development of film, and its unexplored potentials.

I will look at real cinematographic examples within the series, as well as synthesizing theory. Henri Bergson wrote, that he saw cinema not only as a ”series of moving images”, but as the ”flow of consciousness” itself. Thus, Deleuze takes from Bergson, that this flow is the reality of the way we perceive. Henceforth, we will acknowledge the camera in a fourfold relation: firstly, as a witness to early theatrical cinema, which is shot flatly from far back at a head height to capture the personae; secondly, as an omniscient camera, shot as an embodied subjectivity who captures the content in a plausible form; thirdly, as a first-person view to emulate a subject-consciousness; fourthly, which Deleuze would describe as cinematic ”rupture”, would also in my words, be the ”poetic” moment of meaning or the movement of the camera. Such that when a director films a low to high craning, tracking shock of a field of flowers, while playing Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, or narrating Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs Du Mal, the content is veiled beneath the assimilation of sound and image, the meaning is not explicit in the scene, but metaphorical. This aspect is the seminal point of my own theory—to explore this poetic moment in relation to literature, theatre, music and philosophy itself.

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Cinema, in its meta-textuality, is able to not only be self-aware, but also comment on other films through tropes, tendencies, signs and symbols. However more attention should be paid to the form of films. At this point, we will highlight a few innovations in the chronology of film to examine the nature of film, the effect of the camera on perception, and the poetic moment of meaning in cinema itself.

We are examining these elements in three respects: space-time, logic of story-telling and perception of reality. To begin, Life of an American Fireman (1903) displays the capacity to create space-time by using shots that are continuous in portraying a plausible story of a fireman rescuing a woman by filming the fireman going in, then cutting to him entering the window, thereby engaging in a logical perception of reality.

In Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888) the realism is paramount in capturing the event from a witness’ perspective. Whereas La lune a un metre (1898) is a theatrical piece, innovating the film technique of “editing” to cut out scenes to represent magic. It seems in this period, film was yet to let loose its wings of freedom from the chains of technology; these films possess a technical aura. Yet the camera does not move from its plane. According to the Story of Film, a documentary series, the most innovative moment in the history of film was the when directors began to physically move the camera to film objects.  Moving the camera completely changed the previous methods of the production of space-time, the perception of reality, and the logic of story-telling. Below is a list of my top ten films that initiate my film theory:

10) Out 1: Spectre (1974) dir. Jacques Rivette

9) Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) dir. Chantal Akerman

8) The Orphic Trilogy (1931) dir. Jean Cocteau

7)  (1963) dir. Federico Fellini

6) Contempt (1963) dir. Jean-Luc Godard

5) Andrei Rublev (1966) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

4) Fanny and Alexander (1982) dir. Ingmar Bergman

3) The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer

2) The Human Condition (1959-1961) dir. Masaki Kobayashi

1) On The Silver Globe (1988) dir. Andrzej Zulawski

Watch them and see if my theory applies. Feel free to challenge me by commenting below.

Jack Coopey