24 JANUARY 1931, Page 7



ACOMPETENT authority lately computed that a capital of no less than four hundred million pounds —most of it in American money—is at present invested in the cinema industry. So large a sum, an industry so vast and complicated and so dependent on world-factors having nothing to do with the camera and the set, in a situation so uncertain as that at present obtaining on account of the advent of Talkies and likely further to be complicated by the imminent advent of Television, makes any prophecy as to the more immediate future of the film impossible. It is, therefore, perhaps not unprofitable for those interested in the film as medium and not merely as a money-maker or a time-killer to take theoretic stock of the forms of film—considered purely as a medium and apart- from television—likely to develop in a not too remote future.

Sound has been added to film. Colour and stereoscopic projection are on the way. The first results of the advent of sound have been to throw the film back toward the stage. Colour and three dimensional presentation will probably further retard it and prevent the immediate resumption of that progress toward elasticity and fluidity (the supreme characteristic of the medium) which is already in evidence in the latest talkies.

With the full return of elasticity and fluidity the film will achieve a position as potentially the most highly developed medium of artistic expression known to man, capable as it will be of a synthesis inachicvable elsewhere. I say potentially for it is with potentialities I am dealing, and a generation will probably pass before these potentialities are fully exploited.

The first result of full exploitation is obvious : opera unlimited by the crudities of stage machinery, that is with a full command of place, time and imagery impossible on the stage. The word imagery brings me to the second potentiality : the escape from " literality " and the " factual " presentation (this is already beginning the best example to date has been The Student of Prague). At present the cinema—largely owing to the predominantly extrovert nature of the American people —has been mostly objective. The film of the future both as concerns visual flow and sound accompaniment will exploit the possibilities of uninterrupted flow from objective to subjective and back again. What does that mean ? Let me take as an example the one really great sequence in Murnau's film Sunrise. A husband wandering by a great river at sunset determines to drown his wife. Murnau cuts to an interior. Now for our sequence all given in one flow of image without cuts. We see the husband enter heavily, burdened with his idea, His wife approaches. He disregards her and lies down on the bed. The camera steals closer. The husband's eyes stare at the ceiling. Gradually, the image of the creeping river comes into existence flowing across the bed. The river darkens. The e Jes close. The drifting river dissolves all away into drifting darkness. Then on a black screen the river's ripples begin to lighten with sunrise. The morning mists drift away : the great river is disclosed. And by the cruel and happy light of day we see the husband enter from the bottom left-hand corner of the screen and conduct his wife toward the fatal boat.

Observe the progression from A (fact) into B (subjective) and back into C (fact) again. A gives the man returning to the darkish room, lying down on the bed without a glance at his solicitous wife. This disregard prepares us for the psychological development of B. B gives us the emergence from the subconscious of the image of the flowing river which becomes an idle fire and dominates his mind. We see it do so. So effectually does it do so that, worn out by the emotion the image provokes, he sinks into a pit of slumber, a pit black as his thoughts. With C we return to fact— the man is seen conducting his wife to the bright river.

Sunrise is not a sound film. Were sound added, the sound sequence would proceed : rhythm of the husband's approach—sighs—whispering to self—whispering of sunset river—mind and river whispering together—whispering of river of death—rhythmical breathing of sleeper--, and whispering of sunrise river.

Such a progression is only possible on the cinema. This film, however, deals only with the emotions of an individual and is tragic. The possibilities of the objective subjective-transition for comic fantasy—think of Don Quixote !—are enormous. Again, in Eisenstein's October the image of the Czar falls and crumbles only to re- coalesce with the assembly of Kerenski's Provisional Government : a subjective image is used to project a public myth. With the entry of myth—national or world-myth—the film displays potentialities that stagger the imagination.

The images employed in such films as I have mentioned are, however, founded on actuality in the sense that they are photographs of living action, sets, scenes, all of which contain incalculable elements. With the cinema cartoon- cum-sound absolute freedom is reached and there is the most summary of all reasons—economy of production —for supposing that its development will be extraordinary and of the profoundest interest to the aesthetically minded. To it anything imaginable by man in sound, speech and image. will 13:, possible : complete elasticity and fluidity will.be attained. Walter Disney's admirable Mickey Mouse will be, like Bottom, though more gloriously, " translated." Then the Sophocles, Shakespeare, Racine, Calderon, Moliere, Merimee, aye and the Andre de Lorde and farce maker of the future will work in collabora- tion with the moving images of a Raphael, Tintoretto, Poussin, Daumier, Goya or Hokusai, and with the music of a Monteverde, Beethoven, Gluck, Mozart, de Falla and so forth of an age yet to be. What, however, they will create will not be (say) a Doctor Faustus with decor by Delacroix and music by Berlioz, but—owing to the elasticity and fluidity of the image—a new thing, the like of which is not at present known and one in which the aspiration of each art • toward the condition of music will be more completely realized than is possible or desirable at present. Probably artists will arise who will perform all these functions. Even now there may exist an artist who, working with the simple and subtle linear design of a Greek vase painter and with a chamber orchestra, could create a fantasy—say a Polyphemus—on these lines.

Such an art-form, with full realization of potentialities in drama, moving design, colour and sound is at present far distant—we do not know enough about the synthesis even if financial backing were obtainable—but is not so dis- tant as to discourage theoretic speculation and practical experiment. Such an art-form will, of course, never completely oust the human element of the living actor and singer and the natural or built set, for the interest in these is abiding and necessary. But come it will. May my readers and I be there to enjoy it.