Professor Shefali’s Lecture on The History of film

04Aug04

Today’s class was about the development of cinema, starting from the late 1800’s to the 1970’s. It was interesting and it felt like a different new magical realm altogether.

Film is a visual medium and acheives something that literature does not. Literature works with words while film works with pictures and visuals. I think it is unfair to compare the two. The words; film, flick, movie, cinema all have different connotations. For example, flick comes from the word flickering picture…I did not know that. Cinema covers all aesthetic aspects while a movie defines something that is consumerist and commercial. One of the earliest experiments which may be viewed as a precursor to film is one carried out by Muybridge. There were several cameras placed at different places and they all caught a horse running…the bet was whether a horse’s legs are off the ground when it runs or whether one of its legs remains on the ground. This led to another question – whether the entire sequence of a horse running could be captured on film in one shot. And the idea of the moving picture was born.

The Lumiere brothers came up with the very first film…all early ‘films’ were a minute or a minute and a half long…they were all documentaries and did not have a made up story to tell. Then a magician called Melies applied all his skills to making films and realized that films could be manipulated to distort reality and the concept of time. Thus the idea of narration emerged. After this, there was nothing stopping cinema. Porter made his films, complete with parallel editing and cuts. The idea of dialogue now emerged….ofcourse, sound didn’t come in till much later.

Hollywood beckoned.

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