Wednesday, July 28, 2010

J. Andrew on Film Theory Categories

"Every question about film falls under at least one of the following headings: raw material, methods and techniques, forms and shapes, purpose or value. These categories, adapted from Aristotle [Aristotle's breakdown of the four "causes" of any natural phenomenon (material, effecient, formal, and final) is developed in his Physics, II, section 3.] divide the phenomenon of film into the aspects which make it up and which can be interrogated.

1. "The raw material" includes questions about the medium, such as those which seek its relation to reality, photography, and illusion, or those which follow out its use of time and space, or even those which aim at such processes as color, sound, and the make-up of the movie theater. Anything which is seen to exist as a given state of affairs with which the cinematic process begins belongs to the category of "raw material."

2. "The methods and techniques" of cinema comprises all questions about the creative process which shapes or treats the raw material, from discussions of technological developments (like the zoom shot) to the psychology of the filmmaker or even the economics of film production.

3. "The forms and shapes" of film is the category containing questions about the kinds of film which have been or could be made. Questions about cinema's ability to adapt other artworks lie here, as do questions about genre and audience expectation or effect. Here we are looking at films from the standpoint of a completed process in which the raw material has already been shaped by various creative methods. What determines those shapes and how are they recognized as valuable by an audience?

4. "The purpose and value" of cinema is the category which interfaces with the larger aspects of life, for here fall all questions which seek the goal of cinema in man's universe. Once raw material has been shaped by a process into a given significant form, what does this mean for mankind?"

-The Major Film Theories, J. Dudley Andrew

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