Gustav Deutsch – Film Ist

Published by Alessandro Violante on May 21, 2016

imagesThere’s a biting question in the last Godard‘s movie that sounds more or less as “is it possibile to shoot thought?”. Its sense is related to the concern of a movie based on a philosophical vision rather than on a plot. An example of this movie is the amazing effort by Gustav Deutsch that is a sort of philosophical essay about cinema. This review is based on the DVD edition made by Index that condenses the two part of the movie, Film Ist 1-6 and Film Ist 7-12, in one single movie, Film Ist 1-12. The twelve parts of Film Ist are based on the particular aspect of the film on the basis of the analysis of the sequence. Every subsection is based on a movie or documentary extract to underline his character with the intertitle. Every section is marked by an intertitle with the text “Film ist”, the second one with its property and the third one is its number.

The first six section of the movie are based on  scientific laboratory as the place of cinematography birth, reasoning on its documentary nature. Movement and Time starts with the assumption that first movies were shot at twelve frames per second so it was necessary to copy them twice to obtain the usual frame frequency. The chosen sequences emphasize the nature of photography in movement as they portrait animals running or  objects being thrown. Light and Darkness is focused on the image as light when is reflected, so it depicts the eye as a mirror of the lens. An instrument shows the documental nature of the medium and, in this, it is the only part with a synchronized audio. With Material the filmmaker analyses the frame so it shows it as a slide with a degraded or ruined copy underlining how the movie is in fact, not a proper movement but a sequence of frames that creates the illusion of movement by the use of a material, the film strip. The Blink of an Eye further studies the comparison between the lens and the eye which is a central concern in cinema, as the camera has been seen as an enhancement of the eye or, in aesthetics terms, we can say the movie is what has been seen by the eye in twelve blinks per second, so the frame is the choice of an eye. A Mirror closes the first part showing the other side of cinema: the audience seeing something and the act of seeing as looking into a mirror.

thumbnailImageThe second part is related to variety theatre as the second nature of cinematography or his narrative nature. Fundamentally related to Hollywood movies, it begins with Comic because, prior to be considered art, a movie was conceived as an attraction for the people so e.g. uses the topic of a view from a keyhole. With Magic the role of optical illusions  is emphasized for the creation of an enchanting show mainly based on almost pictorial influences. Conquest reasons upon the eth(n)ical element of using animals or so called primitive populations for the depiction of adventure movies where they were seen as a menace or elements for a freak show. The role of intertitles is the focus of Writing and language, because it was the main trick to circumvent the absence of  the voice in narrative cinema and a way to underline certain aspect of the plot. Emotions and passions focuses instead on the actor’s face with his exaggerated expression as the main element for the identification or a trigger for the audience’s attention. Remembering and document is a return to the first part of the movie as it focuses on the recreation of real life in cinema, so the historic movie is seen as a return to the documentary form,  almost as a film about making a document.

The result is a reflection about the contradictory nature of cinema,  both as a document and fiction, which is resolved by the assumption that the act of seeing is the proper nature of cinematography. From this perspective, the sequences chosen in Instrument are mirrored by the ones chosen in Magic, as the first ones are related to what was seen and the others to what was intended to be seen. The symbol of the eye became, in fact,  related not to the camera but to the viewer, so the eye surgery scene in the mirror section results as the central concept of the movie, cinema as what is shown to the audience and  what is chosen by the eye of the filmmaker, so it’s a sort of temporary eye transplant. So this movie is almost silent for a non obvious reason which could be this: using almost exclusively found footage from the cinema of the beginnings and not being interested in reworking them, but to dialectic and an exposition of its principles, the dubbing of a talk  would have been redundant and, as written and verbal language show, words are a mere support to the vision and do not convey the central aspects of a movie.

This approach could be tied to a tradition that sees the narrative, and litterature, as elements unrelated to the nature of cinema and, in fact, the parts 7-12 are from variety theatre that, in academic tradition, it is not usually considered an high form of art as instead is drama, formally based on a litterary form. Also parts 1-6 are based on a scientific document, which is not considered as an art form. This concern could be posed as how to craft art from something that is not art and this work is an answer to this question, as it shows how the meaning is constructed by the montage of film’s sequences as a dialectic form and is not in the single sequence in itself.