Mechanical Recording In Arnheim’s Film As Art

Postgraduate Journal of Aesthetics 5 (1):16-26 (2008)
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In his classic Film as Art, Rudolf Arnheim sets out to refute the claim that “Film cannot be art, for it does nothing but reproduce reality mechanically”.1 The usual argument in favor of that claim, he explains, contrasts film with realist painting, and goes something like this: There’s no doubt that what appears on the canvas depends on the way the painter sees the world, on her particular technique, on the colors she’s using, and so on. It is elements like these that justify aesthetic appreciation. What appears on celluloid, on the other hand, is the result of a purely mechanical process of light rays collecting and transforming into an image. In other words, a camera is merely a mechanical recording device, and for this very reason film cannot be art.

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