The Significance of Form in Film
-in films, a pattern exists; an internal system governs the relations among parts and engages your interest. This system of relationships among parts we shall call form -we can analyze how a film’s parts relate to one another to create the spectator’s overall experience -our experience of artworks is patterned and structured. The human mind craves form. For this reason, form is of central importance in any artwork, regardless of its medium. This entire study of the nature of artistic form is the province of the aesthetician -artistic form is best thought of in relation to a perceiver, the human being who watches the film -perception in all phases of life is an activity
-the mind is never at rest. It is constantly seeking order and significance, testing the world for breaks in the habitual pattern -artworks rely on this dynamic, unifying quality of the human mind. They provide organized occasions in which we exercise and develop our ability to pay attention, to anticipate upcoming events, to draw conclusions, and to construct a whole out of parts -every film coaxes us to connect sequence into a larger whole -our activity cannot be in the artwork itself. A film is merely patterns of lights and dark on a screen. Objects do nothing. Evidently, the artwork and the perceiver depend on one another -the artwork cues us to perform a specific activity. Without the artwork’s prompting, we could not start or maintain the process. Without our playing along and picking up the cues, the artwork remains only an artifact -a painting uses color, line, and other techniques to invite us to imagine the space portrayed, to recall the moment before the one depicted or to anticipate the next one, to compare color and texture, to run our eye over the composition in a certain direction -any work of art presents cues that can elicit a particular activity from the perceiver -these cues are not simply random; they are organized into systems. Let us take a system as any set of elements that depend on and affect one another -a film is not simply a random batch of elements. Like all artworks, a film has form. By film form, in its broadest sense, we mean the total system that the viewer perceives in the film. Form is the overall system of relations that we can perceive among the elements in the whole film -the viewer makes sense of the film by recognizing these elements and reacting to them in various ways, we shall also be considering how form and style involve the spectator’s activity -stylistic elements derive from the various film techniques
-the perceiver relates the elements within each set to one another. We link and compare narrative elements -we attribute unity to the film by positing two subsystems – a narrative one and a stylistic one – within the larger system of the total film -our minds seek to tie these subsystems to one another
-it is the overall pattern of relationships among the various subsystems of elements that make up the form -if form is the total system which the viewer attributes to the film, there is no inside or outside. Every component functions as part of the overall pattern that is perceived -from our standpoint, subject matter and abstract ideas all enter into the total system of the artwork. They may cue us to frame certain expectations or draw certain inferences. The perceiver relates such elements to one another and makes them interact dynamically. Consequently, subject matter and ideas become somewhat different from what they might be outside the work -subject matter is shaped by the film’s formal context and our perceptions of it -one way in which form affects our experience, then, is to create the sense that “everything is there.” The film has its own organizing laws or rules – its own system -an artwork’s form creates a special sort of involvement on the part of the spectator -we watch a pattern which is no longer just “out there” in the everyday...
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