Week Two: Reproduction of Reality

Rudolf Arnheim believed that film’s potential to be considered a true art form lied with its ability to represent a facet of reality. Having a background in psychology, he not only looked at film as a whole but believed that the perception of the audience watching the film and the auteur creating the film are active agents as well. The main principle supporting Arnheim’s theory was that film does in fact fall short of an actual reproduction of reality. However, this is where its inherent beauty lies in his mind, that it isn’t an exact duplication.

With that being said, Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush is without a doubt one of the few films Arnheim would approve of and one that he actually discusses at length in his works. He praises Chaplin’s use of various technical elements, one including his use of pantomime. It wasn’t unusual in Chaplin’s earlier films that he didn’t speak a single word in any or all of his scenes. Instead, he evoked his emotion through a series of cleverly executed body movements and facial expressions. Chaplin’s remarkable ability to clearly express his feelings without uttering a single word is what Arnheim claims is the genius of his filmmaking.

What Arnheim sees in Chaplin is a director who relied upon visual images that were both cinematic and well thought out, which he believed was the director’s sole purpose to begin with. As a result, he sees Chaplin using the unique attributes of the medium to artistic effect. It’s not that Arnheim didn’t care at all about the actual content, it’s just that he felt that it should be conveyed purely through visual means.

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