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The Photoplay - A Psychological Study
by Hugo Muensterberg
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THE PHOTOPLAY

A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY

BY

HUGO MUeNSTERBERG



D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON 1916



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER PAGE

1. THE OUTER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES 3 2. THE INNER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES 21

PART I. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE PHOTOPLAY

3. DEPTH AND MOVEMENT 44 4. ATTENTION 72 5. MEMORY AND IMAGINATION 92 6. EMOTIONS 112

PART II. THE ESTHETICS OF THE PHOTOPLAY

7. THE PURPOSE OF ART 133 8. THE MEANS OF THE VARIOUS ARTS 155 9. THE MEANS OF THE PHOTOPLAY 170 10. THE DEMANDS OF THE PHOTOPLAY 191 11. THE FUNCTION OF THE PHOTOPLAY 215



INTRODUCTION



CHAPTER I

THE OUTER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES

It is arbitrary to say where the development of the moving pictures began and it is impossible to foresee where it will lead. What invention marked the beginning? Was it the first device to introduce movement into the pictures on a screen? Or did the development begin with the first photographing of various phases of moving objects? Or did it start with the first presentation of successive pictures at such a speed that the impression of movement resulted? Or was the birthday of the new art when the experimenters for the first time succeeded in projecting such rapidly passing pictures on a wall? If we think of the moving pictures as a source of entertainment and esthetic enjoyment, we may see the germ in that camera obscura which allowed one glass slide to pass before another and thus showed the railway train on one slide moving over the bridge on the other glass plate. They were popular half a century ago. On the other hand if the essential feature of the moving pictures is the combination of various views into one connected impression, we must look back to the days of the phenakistoscope which had scientific interest only; it is more than eighty years since it was invented. In America, which in most recent times has become the classical land of the moving picture production, the history may be said to begin with the days of the Chicago Exposition, 1893, when Edison exhibited his kinetoscope. The visitor dropped his nickel into a slot, the little motor started, and for half a minute he saw through the magnifying glass a girl dancing or some street boys fighting. Less than a quarter of a century later twenty thousand theaters for moving pictures are open daily in the United States and the millions get for their nickel long hours of enjoyment. In Edison's small box into which only one at a time could peep through the hole, nothing but a few trite scenes were exhibited. In those twenty thousand theaters which grew from it all human passions and emotions find their stage, and whatever history reports or science demonstrates or imagination invents comes to life on the screen of the picture palace.

Yet this development from Edison's half-minute show to the "Birth of a Nation" did not proceed on American soil. That slot box, after all, had little chance for popular success. The decisive step was taken when pictures of the Edison type were for the first time thrown on a screen and thus made visible to a large audience. That step was taken 1895 in London. The moving picture theater certainly began in England. But there was one source of the stream springing up in America, which long preceded Edison: the photographic efforts of the Englishman Muybridge, who made his experiments in California as early as 1872. His aim was to have photographs of various phases of a continuous movement, for instance of the different positions which a trotting horse is passing through. His purpose was the analysis of the movement into its component parts, not the synthesis of a moving picture from such parts. Yet it is evident that this too was a necessary step which made the later triumphs possible.

If we combine the scientific and the artistic efforts of the new and the old world, we may tell the history of the moving pictures by the following dates and achievements. In the year 1825 a Doctor Roget described in the "Philosophical Transactions" an interesting optical illusion of movement, resulting, for instance, when a wheel is moving along behind a fence of upright bars. The discussion was carried much further when it was taken up a few years later by a master of the craft, by Faraday. In the Journal of the Royal Institute of Great Britain he writes in 1831 "on a peculiar class of optical deceptions." He describes there a large number of subtle experiments in which cogwheels of different forms and sizes were revolving with different degrees of rapidity and in different directions. The eye saw the cogs of the moving rear wheel through the passing cogs of the front wheel. The result is the appearance of movement effects which do not correspond to an objective motion. The impression of backward movement can arise from forward motions, quick movement from slow, complete rest from combinations of movements. For the first time the impression of movement was synthetically produced from different elements. For those who fancy that the "new psychology" with its experimental analysis of psychological experiences began only in the second half of the nineteenth century or perhaps even with the foundation of the psychological laboratories, it might be enlightening to study those discussions of the early thirties.

The next step leads us much further. In the fall of 1832 Stampfer in Germany and Plateau in France, independent of each other, at the same time designed a device by which pictures of objects in various phases of movement give the impression of continued motion. Both secured the effect by cutting fine slits in a black disk in the direction of the radius. When the disk is revolved around its center, these slits pass the eye of the observer. If he holds it before a mirror and on the rear side of the disk pictures are drawn corresponding to the various slits, the eye will see one picture after another in rapid succession at the same place. If these little pictures give us the various stages of a movement, for instance a wheel with its spokes in different positions, the whole series of impressions will be combined into the perception of a revolving wheel. Stampfer called them the stroboscopic disks, Plateau the phenakistoscope. The smaller the slits, the sharper the pictures. Uchatius in Vienna constructed an apparatus as early as 1853 to throw these pictures of the stroboscopic disks on the wall. Horner followed with the daedaleum, in which the disk was replaced by a hollow cylinder which had the pictures on the inside and holes to watch them from without while the cylinder was in rotation. From this was developed the popular toy which as the zooetrope or bioscope became familiar everywhere. It was a revolving black cylinder with vertical slits, on the inside of which paper strips with pictures of moving objects in successive phases were placed. The clowns sprang through the hoop and repeated this whole movement with every new revolution of the cylinder. In more complex instruments three sets of slits were arranged above one another. One set corresponded exactly to the distances of the pictures and the result was that the moving object appeared to remain on the same spot. The second brought the slits nearer together; then the pictures necessarily produced an effect as if the man were really moving forward while he performed his tricks. In the third set the slits were further distant from one another than the pictures, and the result was that the picture moved backward.

The scientific principle which controls the moving picture world of today was established with these early devices. Isolated pictures presented to the eye in rapid succession but separated by interruptions are perceived not as single impressions of different positions, but as a continuous movement. But the pictures of movements used so far were drawn by the pen of the artist. Life showed to him everywhere continuous movements; his imagination had to resolve them into various instantaneous positions. He drew the horse race for the zooetrope, but while the horses moved forward, nobody was able to say whether the various pictures of their legs really corresponded to the stages of the actual movements. Thus a true development of the stroboscopic effects appeared dependent upon the fixation of the successive stages. This was secured in the early seventies, but to make this progress possible the whole wonderful unfolding of the photographer's art was needed, from the early daguerreotype, which presupposed hours of exposure, to the instantaneous photograph which fixes the picture of the outer world in a small fraction of a second. We are not concerned here with this technical advance, with the perfection of the sensitive surface of the photographic plate. In 1872 the photographer's camera had reached a stage at which it was possible to take snapshot pictures. But this alone would not have allowed the photographing of a real movement with one camera, as the plates could not have been exchanged quickly enough to catch the various phases of a short motion.

Here the work of Muybridge sets in. He had a black horse trot or gallop or walk before a white wall, passing twenty-four cameras. On the path of the horse were twenty-four threads which the horse broke one after another and each one released the spring which opened the shutter of an instrument. The movement of the horse was thus analyzed into twenty-four pictures of successive phases; and for the first time the human eye saw the actual positions of a horse's legs during the gallop or trot. It is not surprising that these pictures of Muybridge interested the French painters when he came to Paris, but fascinated still more the great student of animal movements, the physiologist Marey. He had contributed to science many an intricate apparatus for the registration of movement processes. "Marey's tambour" is still the most useful instrument in every physiological and psychological laboratory, whenever slight delicate movements are to be recorded. The movement of a bird's wings interested him especially, and at his suggestion Muybridge turned to the study of the flight of birds. Flying pigeons were photographed in different positions, each picture taken in a five-hundredth part of a second.

But Marey himself improved the method. He made use of an idea which the astronomer Jannsen had applied to the photographing of astronomical processes. Jannsen photographed, for instance, the transit of the planet Venus across the sun in December, 1874, on a circular sensitized plate which revolved in the camera. The plate moved forward a few degrees every minute. There was room in this way to have eighteen pictures of different phases of the transit on the marginal part of the one plate. Marey constructed the apparatus for the revolving disk so that the intervals instead of a full minute became only one-twelfth of a second. On the one revolving disk twenty-five views of the bird in motion could be taken. This brings us to the time of the early eighties. Marey remained indefatigable in improving the means for quick successive snapshots with the same camera. Human beings were photographed by him in white clothes on a black background. When ten pictures were taken in a second the subtlest motions in their jumping or running could be disentangled. The leading aim was still decidedly a scientific understanding of the motions, and the combination of the pictures into a unified impression of movement was not the purpose. Least of all was mere amusement intended.

About that time Anschuetz in Germany followed the Muybridge suggestions with much success and gave to this art of photographing the movement of animals and men a new turn. He not only photographed the successive stages, but printed them on a long strip which was laid around a horizontal wheel. This wheel is in a dark box and the eye can see the pictures on the paper strip only at the moment when the light of a Geissler's tube flashes up. The wheel itself has such electric contacts that the intervals between two flashes correspond to the time which is necessary to move the wheel from one picture to the next. However quickly the wheel may be revolved the lights follow one another with the same rapidity with which the pictures replace one another. During the movement when one picture moves away and another approaches the center of vision all is dark. Hence the eye does not see the changes but gets an impression as if the picture remained at the same spot, only moving. The bird flaps its wings and the horse trots. It was really a perfect kinetoscopic instrument. Yet its limitations were evident. No movements could be presented but simple rhythmical ones, inasmuch as after one revolution of the wheel the old pictures returned. The marching men appeared very lifelike; yet they could not do anything but march on and on, the circumference of the wheel not allowing more room than was needed for about forty stages of the moving legs from the beginning to the end of the step.

If the picture of a motion was to go beyond these simplest rhythmical movements, if persons in action were really to be shown, it would be necessary to have a much larger number of pictures in instantaneous illumination. The wheel principle would have to be given up and a long strip with pictures would be needed. That presupposed a correspondingly long set of exposures and this demand could not be realized as long as the pictures were taken on glass plates. But in that period experiments were undertaken on many sides to substitute a more flexible transparent material for the glass. Translucent papers, gelatine, celluloid, and other substances were tried. It is well known that the invention which was decisive was the film which Eastman in Rochester produced. With it came the great mechanical improvement, the use of the two rollers. One roller holds the long strip of film which is slowly wound over the second, the device familiar to every amateur photographer today. With film photography was gained the possibility not only of securing a much larger number of pictures than Marey or Anschuetz made with their circular arrangements, but of having these pictures pass before the eye illumined by quickly succeeding flashlights for any length of time. Moreover, instead of the quick illumination the passing pictures might be constantly lighted. In that case slits must pass by in the opposite direction so that each picture is seen for a moment only, as if it were at rest. This idea is perfectly realized in Edison's machine.

In Edison's kinetoscope a strip of celluloid film forty-five feet in length with a series of pictures each three-quarters of an inch long moved continuously over a series of rolls. The pictures passed a magnifying lens, but between the lens and the picture was a revolving shutter which moved with a speed carefully adjusted to the film. The opening in the shutter was opposite the lens at the moment when the film had moved on three-quarters of an inch. Hence the eye saw not the passing of the pictures but one picture after another at the same spot. Pretty little scenes could now be acted in half a minute's time, as more than six hundred pictures could be used. The first instrument was built in 1890, and soon after the Chicago World's Fair it was used for entertainment all over the world. The wheel of Anschuetz had been widespread too; yet it was considered only as a half-scientific apparatus. With Edison's kinetoscope the moving pictures had become a means for popular amusement and entertainment, and the appetite of commercialism was whetted. At once efforts to improve on the Edison machine were starting everywhere, and the adjustment to the needs of the wide public was in the foreground.

Crowning success came almost at the same time to Lumiere and Son in Paris and to Paul in London. They recognized clearly that the new scheme could not become really profitable on a large scale as long as only one person at a time could see the pictures. Both the well-known French manufacturers of photographic supplies and the English engineer considered the next step necessary to be the projection of the films upon a large screen. Yet this involved another fundamental change. In the kinetoscope the films passed by continuously. The time of the exposure through the opening in the revolving shutter had to be extremely short in order to give distinct pictures. The slightest lengthening would make the movement of the film itself visible and produce a blurring effect. This time was sufficient for the seeing of the picture; it could not be sufficient for the greatly enlarged view on the wall. Too little light passed through to give a distinct image. Hence it became essential to transform the continuous movement of the film into an intermittent one. The strip of film must be drawn before the lens by jerking movements so that the real motion of the strip would occur in the periods in which the shutter was closed, while it was at rest for the fraction of time in which the light of the projection apparatus passed through.

Both Lumiere and Paul overcame this difficulty and secured an intermittent pushing forward of the pictures for three-quarters of an inch, that is for the length of the single photograph. In the spring of 1895 Paul's theatrograph or animatograph was completed, and in the following year he began his engagement at the Alhambra Theater, where the novelty was planned as a vaudeville show for a few days but stayed for many a year, since it proved at once an unprecedented success. The American field was conquered by the Lumiere camera. The Eden Musee was the first place where this French kinematograph was installed. The enjoyment which today one hundred and twenty-five thousand moving picture theaters all over the globe bring to thirty million people daily is dependent upon Lumiere's and Paul's invention. The improvements in the technique of taking the pictures and of projecting them on the screen are legion, but the fundamental features have not been changed. Yes; on the whole the development of the last two decades has been a conservative one. The fact that every producer tries to distribute his films to every country forces a far-reaching standardization on the entire moving picture world. The little pictures on the film are still today exactly the same size as those which Edison used for his kinetoscope and the long strips of film are still gauged by four round perforations at the side of each to catch the sprockets which guide the film.

As soon as the moving picture show had become a feature of the vaudeville theater, the longing of the crowd for ever new entertainments and sensations had to be satisfied if the success was to last. The mere enjoyment of the technical wonder as such necessarily faded away and the interest could be kept up only if the scenes presented on the screen became themselves more and more enthralling. The trivial acts played in less than a minute without any artistic setting and without any rehearsal or preparation soon became unsatisfactory. The grandmother who washes the baby and even the street boy who plays a prank had to be replaced by quick little comedies. Stages were set up; more and more elaborate scenes were created; the film grew and grew in length. Competing companies in France and later in the United States, England, Germany and notably in Italy developed more and more ambitious productions. As early as 1898 the Eden Musee in New York produced an elaborate setting of the Passion Play in nearly fifty thousand pictures, which needed almost an hour for production. The personnel on the stage increased rapidly, huge establishments in which any scenery could be built up sprang into being. But the inclosed scene was often not a sufficient background; the kinematographic camera was brought to mountains and seashore, and soon to the jungles of Africa or to Central Asia if the photoplay demanded exciting scenes on picturesque backgrounds. Thousands of people entered into the battle scenes which the historical drama demanded. We stand today in the midst of this external growth of which no one dreamed in the days of the kinetoscope. Yet this technical progress and this tremendous increase of the mechanical devices for production have their true meaning in the inner growth which led from trite episodes to the height of tremendous action, from trivial routine to a new and most promising art.



CHAPTER II

THE INNER DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOVING PICTURES

It was indeed not an external technical advance only which led from Edison's half a minute show of the little boy who turns on the hose to the "Daughter of Neptune," or "Quo Vadis," or "Cabiria," and many another performance which fills an evening. The advance was first of all internal; it was an esthetic idea. Yet even this does not tell the whole story of the inner growth of the moving pictures, as it points only to the progress of the photoplay. It leaves out of account the fact that the moving pictures appeal not merely to the imagination, but that they bring their message also to the intellect. They aim toward instruction and information. Just as between the two covers of a magazine artistic stories stand side by side with instructive essays, scientific articles, or discussions of the events of the day, the photoplay is accompanied by a kinematoscopic rendering of reality in all its aspects. Whatever in nature or in social life interests the human understanding or human curiosity comes to the mind of the spectator with an incomparable intensity when not a lifeless photograph but a moving picture brings it to the screen.

The happenings of the day afford the most convenient material, as they offer the chance for constantly changing programmes and hence the ideal conditions for a novelty seeking public. No actors are needed; the dramatic interest is furnished by the political and social importance of the events. In the early days when the great stages for the production of photoplays had not been built, the moving picture industry relied in a much higher degree than today on this supply from the surrounding public life. But while the material was abundant, it soon became rather insipid to see parades and processions and orators, and even where the immediate interest seemed to give value to the pictures it was for the most part only a local interest and faded away after a time. The coronation of the king or the inauguration of the president, the earthquake in Sicily, the great Derby, come, after all, too seldom. Moreover through the strong competition only the first comer gained the profits and only the most sensational dashes of kinematographers with the reporter's instinct could lead to success in the eyes of the spoiled moving picture audiences.

Certainly the history of these enterprises is full of adventures worthy to rank with the most daring feats in the newspaper world. We hear that when the investiture of the Prince of Wales was performed at Carnarvon at four o'clock in the afternoon, the public of London at ten o'clock of the same day saw the ceremony on the screen in a moving picture twelve minutes in length. The distance between the two places is two hundred miles. The film was seven hundred and fifty feet long. It had been developed and printed in a special express train made up of long freight cars transformed into dark rooms and fitted with tanks for the developing and washing and with a machine for printing and drying. Yet on the whole the current events were slowly losing ground even in Europe, while America had never given such a large share of interest to this rival of the newspaper. It is claimed that the producers in America disliked these topical pictures because the accidental character of the events makes the production irregular and interferes too much with the steady preparation of the photoplays. Only when the war broke out, the great wave of excitement swept away this apathy. The pictures from the trenches, the marches of the troops, the life of the prisoners, the movements of the leaders, the busy life behind the front, and the action of the big guns absorbed the popular interest in every corner of the world. While the picturesque old-time war reporter has almost disappeared, the moving picture man has inherited all his courage, patience, sensationalism, and spirit of adventure.

A greater photographic achievement, however, than the picturing of the social and historic events was the marvelous success of the kinematograph with the life of nature. No explorer in recent years has crossed distant lands and seas without a kinematographic outfit. We suddenly looked into the most intimate life of the African wilderness. There the elephants and giraffes and monkeys passed to the waterhole, not knowing that the moving picture man was turning his crank in the top of a tree. We followed Scott and Shackleton into the regions of eternal ice, we climbed the Himalayas, we saw the world from the height of the aeroplane, and every child in Europe knows now the wonders of Niagara. But the kinematographer has not sought nature only where it is gigantic or strange; he follows its path with no less admirable effect when it is idyllic. The brook in the woods, the birds in their nest, the flowers trembling in the wind have brought their charm to the delighted eye more and more with the progress of the new art.

But the wonders of nature which the camera unveils to us are not limited to those which the naked eye can follow. The technical progress led to the attachment of the microscope. After overcoming tremendous difficulties, the scientists succeeded in developing a microscope kinematography which multiplies the dimensions a hundred thousand times. We may see on the screen the fight of the bacteria with the microscopically small blood corpuscles in the blood stream of a diseased animal. Yes, by the miracles of the camera we may trace the life of nature even in forms which no human observation really finds in the outer world. Out there it may take weeks for the orchid to bud and blossom and fade; in the picture the process passes before us in a few seconds. We see how the caterpillar spins its cocoon and how it breaks it and how the butterfly unfolds its wings; and all which needed days and months goes on in a fraction of a minute. New interest for geography and botany and zooelogy has thus been aroused by these developments, undreamed of in the early days of the kinematograph, and the scientists themselves have through this new means of technique gained unexpected help for their labors.

The last achievement in this universe of photoknowledge is "the magazine on the screen." It is a bold step which yet seemed necessary in our day of rapid kinematoscopic progress. The popular printed magazines in America had their heydey in the muckraking period about ten years ago. Their hold on the imagination of the public which wants to be informed and entertained at the same time has steadily decreased, while the power of the moving picture houses has increased. The picture house ought therefore to take up the task of the magazines which it has partly displaced. The magazines give only a small place to the news of the day, a larger place to articles in which scholars and men of public life discuss significant problems. Much American history in the last two decades was deeply influenced by the columns of the illustrated magazines. Those men who reached the millions by such articles cannot overlook the fact—they may approve or condemn it—that the masses of today prefer to be taught by pictures rather than by words. The audiences are assembled anyhow. Instead of feeding them with mere entertainment, why not give them food for serious thought? It seemed therefore a most fertile idea when the "Paramount Pictograph" was founded to carry intellectual messages and ambitious discussions into the film houses. Political and economic, social and hygienic, technical and industrial, esthetic and scientific questions can in no way be brought nearer to the grasp of millions. The editors will have to take care that the discussions do not degenerate into one-sided propaganda, but so must the editors of a printed magazine. Among the scientists the psychologist may have a particular interest in this latest venture of the film world. The screen ought to offer a unique opportunity to interest wide circles in psychological experiments and mental tests and in this way to spread the knowledge of their importance for vocational guidance and the practical affairs of life.

Yet that power of the moving pictures to supplement the school room and the newspaper and the library by spreading information and knowledge is, after all, secondary to their general task, to bring entertainment and amusement to the masses. This is the chief road on which the forward march of the last twenty years has been most rapid. The theater and the vaudeville and the novel had to yield room and ample room to the play of the flitting pictures. What was the real principle of the inner development on this artistic side? The little scenes which the first pictures offered could hardly have been called plays. They would have been unable to hold the attention by their own contents. Their only charm was really the pleasure in the perfection with which the apparatus rendered the actual movements. But soon touching episodes were staged, little humorous scenes or melodramatic actions were played before the camera, and the same emotions stirred which up to that time only the true theater play had awakened. The aim seemed to be to have a real substitute for the stage. The most evident gain of this new scheme was the reduction of expenses. One actor is now able to entertain many thousand audiences at the same time, one stage setting is sufficient to give pleasure to millions. The theater can thus be democratized. Everybody's purse allows him to see the greatest artists and in every village a stage can be set up and the joy of a true theater performance can be spread to the remotest corner of the lands. Just as the graphophone can multiply without limit the music of the concert hall, the singer, and the orchestra, so, it seemed, would the photoplay reproduce the theater performance without end.

Of course, the substitute could not be equal to the original. The color was lacking, the real depth of the objective stage was missing, and above all the spoken word had been silenced. The few interspersed descriptive texts, the so-called "leaders," had to hint at that which in the real drama the speeches of the actors explain and elaborate. It was thus surely only the shadow of a true theater, different not only as a photograph is compared with a painting, but different as a photograph is compared with the original man. And yet, however meager and shadowlike the moving picture play appeared compared with the performance of living actors, the advantage of the cheap multiplication was so great that the ambition of the producers was natural, to go forward from the little playlets to great dramas which held the attention for hours. The kinematographic theater soon had its Shakespeare repertoire; Ibsen has been played and the dramatized novels on the screen became legion. Victor Hugo and Dickens scored new triumphs. In a few years the way from the silly trite practical joke to Hamlet and Peer Gynt was covered with such thoroughness that the possibility of giving a photographic rendering of any thinkable theater performance was proven for all time.

But while this movement to reproduce stage performances went on, elements were superadded which the technique of the camera allowed but which would hardly be possible in a theater. Hence the development led slowly to a certain deviation from the path of the drama. The difference which strikes the observer first results from the chance of the camera man to set his scene in the real backgrounds of nature and culture. The stage manager of the theater can paint the ocean and, if need be, can move some colored cloth to look like rolling waves; and yet how far is his effect surpassed by the superb ocean pictures when the scene is played on the real cliffs and the waves are thundering at their foot and the surf is foaming about the actors. The theater has its painted villages and vistas, its city streets and its foreign landscape backgrounds. But here the theater, in spite of the reality of the actors, appears thoroughly unreal compared with the throbbing life of the street scenes and of the foreign crowds in which the camera man finds his local color.

But still more characteristic is the rapidity with which the whole background can be changed in the moving pictures. Reinhardt's revolving stage had brought wonderful surprises to the theater-goer and had shifted the scene with a quickness which was unknown before. Yet how slow and clumsy does it remain compared with the routine changes of the photoplays. This changing of background is so easy for the camera that at a very early date this new feature of the plays was introduced. At first it served mostly humorous purposes. The public of the crude early shows enjoyed the flashlike quickness with which it could follow the eloper over the roofs of the town, upstairs and down, into cellar and attic, and jump into the auto and race over the country roads until the culprit fell over a bridge into the water and was caught by the police. This slapstick humor has by no means disappeared, but the rapid change of scenes has meanwhile been put into the service of much higher aims. The development of an artistic plot has been brought to possibilities which the real drama does not know, by allowing the eye to follow the hero and heroine continuously from place to place. Now he leaves his room, now we see him passing along the street, now he enters the house of his beloved, now he is led into the parlor, now she is hurrying to the library of her father, now they all go to the garden: ever new stage settings sliding into one another. Technical difficulties do not stand in the way. A set of pictures taken by the camera man a thousand miles away can be inserted for a few feet in the film, and the audience sees now the clubroom in New York, and now the snows of Alaska and now the tropics, near each other in the same reel.

Moreover the ease with which the scenes are altered allows us not only to hurry on to ever new spots, but to be at the same time in two or three places. The scenes become intertwined. We see the soldier on the battlefield, and his beloved one at home, in such steady alternation that we are simultaneously here and there. We see the man speaking into the telephone in New York and at the same time the woman who receives his message in Washington. It is no difficulty at all for the photoplay to have the two alternate a score of times in the few minutes of the long distance conversation.

But with the quick change of background the photoartists also gained a rapidity of motion which leaves actual men behind. He needs only to turn the crank of the apparatus more quickly and the whole rhythm of the performance can be brought to a speed which may strikingly aid the farcical humor of the scene. And from here it was only a step to the performance of actions which could not be carried out in nature at all. At first this idea was made serviceable to rather rough comic effects. The policeman climbed up the solid stone front of a high building. The camera man had no difficulty in securing the effects, as it was only necessary to have the actor creep over a flat picture of the building spread on the floor. Every day brought us new tricks. We see how the magician breaks one egg after another and takes out of each egg a little fairy and puts one after another on his hand where they begin to dance a minuet. No theater could ever try to match such wonders, but for the camera they are not difficult; the little dancers were simply at a much further distance from the camera and therefore appeared in their Lilliputian size. Rich artistic effects have been secured, and while on the stage every fairy play is clumsy and hardly able to create an illusion, in the film we really see the man transformed into a beast and the flower into a girl. There is no limit to the trick pictures which the skill of the experts invent. The divers jump, feet first, out of the water to the springboard. It looks magical, and yet the camera man has simply to reverse his film and to run it from the end to the beginning of the action. Every dream becomes real, uncanny ghosts appear from nothing and disappear into nothing, mermaids swim through the waves and little elves climb out of the Easter lilies.

As the crank of the camera which takes the pictures can be stopped at any moment and the turning renewed only after some complete change has been made on the stage any substitution can be carried out without the public knowing of the break in the events. We see a man walking to the edge of a steep rock, leaving no doubt that it is a real person, and then by a slip he is hurled down into the abyss below. The film does not indicate that at the instant before the fall the camera has been stopped and the actor replaced by a stuffed dummy which begins to tumble when the movement of the film is started again. But not only dummies of the same size can be introduced. A little model brought quite near to the camera may take the place of the large real object at a far distance. We see at first the real big ship and can convince ourselves of its reality by seeing actual men climbing up the rigging. But when it comes to the final shipwreck, the movement of the film is stopped and the camera brought near to a little tank where a miniature model of the ship takes up the role of the original and explodes and really sinks to its two-feet-deep watery grave.

While, through this power to make impossible actions possible, unheard of effects could be reached, all still remained in the outer framework of the stage. The photoplay showed a performance, however rapid or unusual, as it would go on in the outer world. An entirely new perspective was opened when the managers of the film play introduced the "close-up" and similar new methods. As every friend of the film knows, the close-up is a scheme by which a particular part of the picture, perhaps only the face of the hero or his hand or only a ring on his finger, is greatly enlarged and replaces for an instant the whole stage. Even the most wonderful creations, the great historical plays where thousands fill the battlefields or the most fantastic caprices where fairies fly over the stage, could perhaps be performed in a theater, but this close-up leaves all stagecraft behind. Suddenly we see not Booth himself as he seeks to assassinate the president, but only his hand holding the revolver and the play of his excited fingers filling the whole field of vision. We no longer see at his desk the banker who opens the telegram, but the opened telegraphic message itself takes his place on the screen for a few seconds, and we read it over his shoulder.

It is not necessary to enumerate still more changes which the development of the art of the film has brought since the days of the kinetoscope. The use of natural backgrounds, the rapid change of scenes, the intertwining of the actions in different scenes, the changes of the rhythms of action, the passing through physically impossible experiences, the linking of disconnected movements, the realization of supernatural effects, the gigantic enlargement of small details: these may be sufficient as characteristic illustrations of the essential trend. They show that the progress of the photoplay did not lead to a more and more perfect photographic reproduction of the theater stage, but led away from the theater altogether. Superficial impressions suggest the opposite and still leave the esthetically careless observer in the belief that the photoplay is a cheap substitute for the real drama, a theater performance as good or as bad as a photographic reproduction allows. But this traditional idea has become utterly untrue. The art of the photoplay has developed so many new features of its own, features which have not even any similarity to the technique of the stage that the question arises: is it not really a new art which long since left behind the mere film reproduction of the theater and which ought to be acknowledged in its own esthetic independence? This right to independent recognition has so far been ignored. Practically everybody who judged the photoplays from the esthetic point of view remained at the old comparison between the film and the graphophone. The photoplay is still something which simply imitates the true art of the drama on the stage. May it not be, on the contrary, that it does not imitate or replace anything, but is in itself an art as different from that of the theater as the painter's art is different from that of the sculptor? And may it not be high time, in the interest of theory and of practice, to examine the esthetic conditions which would give independent rights to the new art? If this is really the situation, it must be a truly fascinating problem, as it would give the chance to watch the art in its first unfolding. A new esthetic cocoon is broken; where will the butterfly's wings carry him?

We have at last reached the real problem of this little book. We want to study the right of the photoplay, hitherto ignored by esthetics, to be classed as an art in itself under entirely new mental life conditions. What we need for this study is evidently, first, an insight into the means by which the moving pictures impress us and appeal to us. Not the physical means and technical devices are in question, but the mental means. What psychological factors are involved when we watch the happenings on the screen? But secondly, we must ask what characterizes the independence of an art, what constitutes the conditions under which the works of a special art stand. The first inquiry is psychological, the second esthetic; the two belong intimately together. Hence we turn first to the psychological aspect of the moving pictures and later to the artistic one.



PART I

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE PHOTOPLAY



CHAPTER III[1]

DEPTH AND MOVEMENT

[1] Readers who have no technical interest in physiological psychology may omit Chapter III and turn directly to Chapter IV on Attention.

The problem is now quite clear before us. Do the photoplays furnish us only a photographic reproduction of a stage performance; is their aim thus simply to be an inexpensive substitute for the real theater, and is their esthetic standing accordingly far below that of the true dramatic art, related to it as the photograph of a painting to the original canvas of the master? Or do the moving pictures bring us an independent art, controlled by esthetic laws of its own, working with mental appeals which are fundamentally different from those of the theater, with a sphere of its own and with ideal aims of its own? If this so far neglected problem is ours, we evidently need not ask in our further discussions about all which books on moving pictures have so far put into the foreground, namely the physical technique of producing the pictures on the film or of projecting the pictures on the screen, or anything else which belongs to the technical or physical or economic aspect of the photoplay industry. Moreover it is then evidently not our concern to deal with those moving pictures which serve mere curiosity or the higher desires for information and instruction. Those educational pictures may give us delight, and certainly much esthetic enjoyment may be combined with the intellectual satisfaction, when the wonders of distant lands are unveiled to us. The landscape setting of such a travel film may be a thing of beauty, but the pictures are not taken for art's sake. The aim is to serve the spread of knowledge.

Our esthetic interest turns to the means by which the photoplay influences the mind of the spectator. If we try to understand and to explain the means by which music exerts its powerful effects, we do not reach our goal by describing the structure of the piano and of the violin, or by explaining the physical laws of sound. We must proceed to the psychology and ask for the mental processes of the hearing of tones and of chords, of harmonies and disharmonies, of tone qualities and tone intensities, of rhythms and phrases, and must trace how these elements are combined in the melodies and compositions. In this way we turn to the photoplay, at first with a purely psychological interest, and ask for the elementary excitements of the mind which enter into our experience of the moving pictures. We now disregard entirely the idea of the theater performance. We should block our way if we were to start from the theater and were to ask how much is left out in the mere photographic substitute. We approach the art of the film theater as if it stood entirely on its own ground, and extinguish all memory of the world of actors. We analyze the mental processes which this specific form of artistic endeavor produces in us.

To begin at the beginning, the photoplay consists of a series of flat pictures in contrast to the plastic objects of the real world which surrounds us. But we may stop at once: what does it mean to say that the surroundings appear to the mind plastic and the moving pictures flat? The psychology of this difference is easily misunderstood. Of course, when we are sitting in the picture palace we know that we see a flat screen and that the object which we see has only two dimensions, right-left, and up-down, but not the third dimension of depth, of distance toward us or away from us. It is flat like a picture and never plastic like a work of sculpture or architecture or like a stage. Yet this is knowledge and not immediate impression. We have no right whatever to say that the scenes which we see on the screen appear to us as flat pictures.

We may become more strongly conscious of this difference between an object of our knowledge and an object of our impression, if we remember a well-known instrument, the stereoscope. The stereoscope, which was quite familiar to the parlor of a former generation, consists of two prisms through which the two eyes look toward two photographic views of a landscape. But the two photographic views are not identical. The landscape is taken from two different points of view, once from the right and once from the left. As soon as these two views are put into the stereoscope the right eye sees through the prism only the view from the right, the left eye only the view from the left. We know very well that only two flat pictures are before us; yet we cannot help seeing the landscape in strongly plastic forms. The two different views are combined in one presentation of the landscape in which the distant objects appear much further away from us than the foreground. We feel immediately the depth of things. It is as if we were looking at a small plastic model of the landscape and in spite of our objective knowledge cannot recognize the flat pictures in the solid forms which we perceive. It cannot be otherwise, because whenever in practical life we see an object, a vase on our table, as a solid body, we get the impression of its plastic character first of all by seeing it with our two eyes from two different points of view. The perspective in which our right eye sees the things on our table is different from the perspective for the left eye. Our plastic seeing therefore depends upon this combination of two different perspective views, and whenever we offer to the two eyes two such one-sided views, they must be combined into the impression of the substantial thing. The stereoscope thus illustrates clearly that the knowledge of the flat character of pictures by no means excludes the actual perception of depth, and the question arises whether the moving pictures of the photoplay, in spite of our knowledge concerning the flatness of the screen, do not give us after all the impression of actual depth.

It may be said offhand that even the complete appearance of depth such as the stereoscope offers would be in no way contradictory to the idea of moving pictures. Then the photoplay would give the same plastic impression which the real stage offers. All that would be needed is this. When the actors play the scenes, not a single but a double camera would have to take the pictures. Such a double camera focuses the scene from two different points of view, corresponding to the position of the two eyes. Both films are then to be projected on the screen at the same time by a double projection apparatus which secures complete correspondence of the two pictures so that in every instance the left and the right view are overlapping on the screen. This would give, of course, a chaotic, blurring image. But if the apparatus which projects the left side view has a green glass in front of the lens and the one which projects the right side view a red glass, and every person in the audience has a pair of spectacles with the left glass green and the right glass red—a cardboard lorgnette with red and green gelatine paper would do the same service and costs only a few cents—the left eye would see only the left view, the right eye only the right view. We could not see the red lines through the green glass nor the green lines through the red glass. In the moment the left eye gets the left side view only and the right eye the right side view, the whole chaos of lines on the screen is organized and we see the pictured room on the screen with the same depth as if it were really a solid room set on the stage and as if the rear wall in the room were actually ten or twenty feet behind the furniture in the front. The effect is so striking that no one can overcome the feeling of depth under these conditions.

But while the regular motion pictures certainly do not offer us this complete plastic impression, it would simply be the usual confusion between knowledge about the picture and its real appearance if we were to deny that we get a certain impression of depth. If several persons move in a room, we gain distinctly the feeling that one moves behind another in the film picture. They move toward us and from us just as much as they move to the right and left. We actually perceive the chairs or the rear wall of the room as further away from us than the persons in the foreground. This is not surprising if we stop to think how we perceive the depth, for instance, of a real stage. Let us fancy that we sit in the orchestra of a real theater and see before us the stage set as a room with furniture and persons in it. We now see the different objects on the stage at different distances, some near, some far. One of the causes was just mentioned. We see everything with our right or our left eye from different points of view. But if now we close one eye and look at the stage with the right eye only, the plastic effect does not disappear. The psychological causes for this perception of depth with one eye are essentially the differences of apparent size, the perspective relations, the shadows, and the actions performed in the space. Now all these factors which help us to grasp the furniture on the stage as solid and substantial play their role no less in the room which is projected on the screen.

We are too readily inclined to imagine that our eye can directly grasp the different distances in our surroundings. Yet we need only imagine that a large glass plate is put in the place of the curtain covering the whole stage. Now we see the stage through the glass; and if we look at it with one eye only it is evident that every single spot on the stage must throw its light to our eye by light rays which cross the glass plate at a particular point. For our seeing it would make no difference whether the stage is actually behind that glass plate or whether all the light rays which pass through the plate come from the plate itself. If those rays with all their different shades of light and dark started from the surface of the glass plate, the effect on the one eye would necessarily be the same as if they originated at different distances behind the glass. This is exactly the case of the screen. If the pictures are well taken and the projection is sharp and we sit at the right distance from the picture, we must have the same impression as if we looked through a glass plate into a real space.

The photoplay is therefore poorly characterized if the flatness of the pictorial view is presented as an essential feature. That flatness is an objective part of the technical physical arrangements, but not a feature of that which we really see in the performance of the photoplay. We are there in the midst of a three-dimensional world, and the movements of the persons or of the animals or even of the lifeless things, like the streaming of the water in the brook or the movements of the leaves in the wind, strongly maintain our immediate impression of depth. Many secondary features characteristic of the motion picture may help. For instance, by a well-known optical illusion the feeling of depth is strengthened if the foreground is at rest and the background moving. Thus the ship passing in front of the motionless background of the harbor by no means suggests depth to the same degree as the picture taken on the gliding ship itself so that the ship appears to be at rest and the harbor itself passing by.

The depth effect is so undeniable that some minds are struck by it as the chief power in the impressions from the screen. Vachel Lindsay, the poet, feels the plastic character of the persons in the foreground so fully that he interprets those plays with much individual action as a kind of sculpture in motion. He says: "The little far off people on the oldfashioned speaking stage do not appeal to the plastic sense in this way. They are by comparison mere bits of pasteboard with sweet voices, while on the other hand the photoplay foreground is full of dumb giants. The bodies of these giants are in high sculptural relief." Others have emphasized that this strong feeling of depth touches them most when persons in the foreground stand with a far distant landscape as background—much more than when they are seen in a room. Psychologically this is not surprising either. If the scene were a real room, every detail in it would appear differently to the two eyes. In the room on the screen both eyes receive the same impression, and the result is that the consciousness of depth is inhibited. But when a far distant landscape is the only background, the impression from the picture and life is indeed the same. The trees or mountains which are several hundred feet distant from the eye give to both eyes exactly the same impression, inasmuch as the small difference of position between the two eyeballs has no influence compared with the distance of the objects from our face. We would see the mountains with both eyes alike in reality, and therefore we feel unhampered in our subjective interpretation of far distant vision when the screen offers exactly the same picture of the mountains to our two eyes. Hence in such cases we believe that we see the persons really in the foreground and the landscape far away.

Nevertheless we are never deceived; we are fully conscious of the depth, and yet we do not take it for real depth. Too much stands in the way. Some unfavorable conditions are still deficiencies of the technique; for instance, the camera picture in some respects exaggerates the distances. If we see through the open door of the rear wall into one or two other rooms, they appear like a distant corridor. Moreover we have ideal conditions for vision in the right perspective only when we sit in front of the screen at a definite distance. We ought to sit where we see the objects in the picture at the same angle at which the camera photographed the originals. If we are too near or too far or too much to one side, we perceive the plastic scene from a viewpoint which would demand an entirely different perspective than that which the camera fixated. In motionless pictures this is less disturbing; in moving pictures every new movement to or from the background must remind us of the apparent distortion. Moreover, the size and the frame and the whole setting strongly remind us of the unreality of the perceived space. But the chief point remains that we see the whole picture with both eyes and not with only one, and that we are constantly reminded of the flatness of the picture because the two eyes receive identical impressions. And we may add an argument nearly related to it, namely, that the screen as such is an object of our perception and demands an adaptation of the eye and an independent localization. We are drawn into this conflict of perception even when we look into a mirror. If we stand three feet from a large mirror on the wall, we see our reflection three feet from our eyes in the plate glass and we see it at the same time six feet from our eye behind the glass. Both localizations take hold of our mind and produce a peculiar interference. We all have learned to ignore it, but characteristic illusions remain which indicate the reality of this doubleness.

In the case of the picture on the screen this conflict is much stronger. We certainly see the depth, and yet we cannot accept it. There is too much which inhibits belief and interferes with the interpretation of the people and landscape before us as truly plastic. They are surely not simply pictures. The persons can move toward us and away from us, and the river flows into a distant valley. And yet the distance in which the people move is not the distance of our real space, such as the theater shows, and the persons themselves are not flesh and blood. It is a unique inner experience, which is characteristic of the perception of the photoplays. We have reality with all its true dimensions; and yet it keeps the fleeting, passing surface suggestion without true depth and fullness, as different from a mere picture as from a mere stage performance. It brings our mind into a peculiar complex state; and we shall see that this plays a not unimportant part in the mental make-up of the whole photoplay.

While the problem of depth in the film picture is easily ignored, the problem of movement forces itself on every spectator. It seems as if here the really essential trait of the film performance is to be found, and that the explanation of the motion in the pictures is the chief task which the psychologist must meet. We know that any single picture which the film of the photographer has fixed is immovable. We know, furthermore, that we do not see the passing by of the long strip of film. We know that it is rolled from one roll and rolled up on another, but that this movement from picture to picture is not visible. It goes on while the field is darkened. What objectively reaches our eye is one motionless picture after another, but the replacing of one by another through a forward movement of the film cannot reach our eye at all. Why do we, nevertheless, see a continuous movement? The problem did not arise with the kinetoscope only but had interested the preceding generations who amused themselves with the phenakistoscope and the stroboscopic disks or the magic cylinder of the zooetrope and bioscope. The child who made his zooetrope revolve and looked through the slits of the black cover in the drum saw through every slit the drawing of a dog in one particular position. Yet as the twenty-four slits passed the eye, the twenty-four different positions blended into one continuous jumping movement of the poodle.

But this so-called stroboscopic phenomenon, however interesting it was, seemed to offer hardly any difficulty. The friends of the zooetrope surely knew another little plaything, the thaumatrope. Dr. Paris had invented it in 1827. It shows two pictures, one on the front, one on the rear side of a card. As soon as the card is quickly revolved about a central axis, the two pictures fuse into one. If a horse is on one side and a rider on the other, if a cage is on one and a bird on the other, we see the rider on the horse and the bird in the cage. It cannot be otherwise. It is simply the result of the positive afterimages. If at dark we twirl a glowing joss stick in a circle, we do not see one point moving from place to place, but we see a continuous circular line. It is nowhere broken because, if the movement is quick, the positive afterimage of the light in its first position is still effective in our eye when the glowing point has passed through the whole circle and has reached the first position again.

We speak of this effect as a positive afterimage, because it is a real continuation of the first impression and stands in contrast to the so-called negative afterimage in which the aftereffect is opposite to the original stimulus. In the case of a negative afterimage the light impression leaves a dark spot, the dark impression gives a light afterimage. Black becomes white and white becomes black; in the world of colors red leaves a green and green a red afterimage, yellow a blue and blue a yellow afterimage. If we look at the crimson sinking sun and then at a white wall, we do not see red light spots but green dark spots. Compared with these negative pictures, the positive afterimages are short and they last through any noticeable time only with rather intense illumination. Yet they are evidently sufficient to bridge the interval between the two slits in the stroboscopic disk or in the zooetrope, the interval in which the black paper passes the eye and in which accordingly no new stimulus reaches the nerves. The routine explanation of the appearance of movement was accordingly: that every picture of a particular position left in the eye an afterimage until the next picture with the slightly changed position of the jumping animal or of the marching men was in sight, and the afterimage of this again lasted until the third came. The afterimages were responsible for the fact that no interruptions were noticeable, while the movement itself resulted simply from the passing of one position into another. What else is the perception of movement but the seeing of a long series of different positions? If instead of looking through the zooetrope we watch a real trotting horse on a real street, we see its whole body in ever new progressing positions and its legs in all phases of motion; and this continuous series is our perception of the movement itself.

This seems very simple. Yet it was slowly discovered that the explanation is far too simple and that it does not in the least do justice to the true experiences. With the advance of modern laboratory psychology the experimental investigations frequently turned to the analysis of our perception of movement. In the last thirty years many researches, notably those of Stricker, Exner, Hall, James, Fischer, Stern, Marbe, Lincke, Wertheimer, and Korte have thrown new light on the problem by carefully devised experiments. One result of them came quickly into the foreground of the newer view: the perception of movement is an independent experience which cannot be reduced to a simple seeing of a series of different positions. A characteristic content of consciousness must be added to such a series of visual impressions. The mere idea of succeeding phases of movement is not at all the original movement idea. This is suggested first by the various illusions of movement. We may believe that we perceive a movement where no actual changes of visual impressions occur. This, to be sure, may result from a mere misinterpretation of the impression: for instance when in the railway train at the station we look out of the window and believe suddenly that our train is moving, while in reality the train on the neighboring track has started. It is the same when we see the moon floating quickly through the motionless clouds. We are inclined to consider as being at rest that which we fixate and to interpret the relative changes in the field of vision as movements of those parts which we do not fixate.

But it is different when we come, for instance, to those illusions in which movement is forced on our perception by contrast and aftereffect. We look from a bridge into the flowing water and if we turn our eyes toward the land the motionless shore seems to swim in the opposite direction. It is not sufficient in such cases to refer to contrasting eye movements. It can easily be shown by experiments that these movements and counter-movements in the field of vision can proceed in opposite directions at the same time and no eye, of course, is able to move upward and downward, or right and left, in the same moment. A very characteristic experiment can be performed with a black spiral line on a white disk. If we revolve such a disk slowly around its center, the spiral line produces the impression of a continuous enlargement of concentric curves. The lines start at the center and expand until they disappear in the periphery. If we look for a minute or two into this play of the expanding curves and then turn our eyes to the face of a neighbor, we see at once how the features of the face begin to shrink. It looks as if the whole face were elastically drawn toward its center. If we revolve the disk in the opposite direction, the curves seem to move from the edge of the disk toward the center, becoming smaller and smaller, and if then we look toward a face, the person seems to swell up and every point in the face seems to move from the nose toward the chin or forehead or ears. Our eye which watches such an aftereffect cannot really move at the same time from the center of the face toward both ears and the hair and the chin. The impression of movement must therefore have other conditions than the actual performance of the movements, and above all it is clear from such tests that the seeing of the movements is a unique experience which can be entirely independent from the actual seeing of successive positions. The eye itself gets the impression of a face at rest, and yet we see the face in the one case shrinking, in the other case swelling; in the one case every point apparently moving toward the center, in the other case apparently moving away from the center. The experience of movement is here evidently produced by the spectator's mind and not excited from without.

We may approach the same result also from experiments of very different kind. If a flash of light at one point is followed by a flash at another point after a very short time, about a twentieth of a second, the two lights appear to us simultaneous. The first light is still fully visible when the second flashes, and it cannot be noticed that the second comes later than the first. If now in the same short time interval the first light moves toward the second point, we should expect that we would see the whole process as a lighted line at rest, inasmuch as the beginning and the end point appear simultaneous, if the end is reached less than a twentieth of a second after the starting point. But the experiment shows the opposite result. Instead of the expected lighted line, we see in this case an actual movement from one point to the other. Again we must conclude that the movement is more than the mere seeing of successive positions, as in this case we see the movement, while the isolated positions do not appear as successive but as simultaneous.

Another group of interesting phenomena of movement may be formed from those cases in which the moving object is more easily noticed than the impressions of the whole field through which the movement is carried out. We may overlook an area in our visual field, especially when it lies far to one side from our fixation point, but as soon as anything moves in that area our attention is drawn. We notice the movement more quickly than the whole background in which the movement is executed. The fluttering of kerchiefs at a far distance or the waving of flags for signaling is characteristic. All indicate that the movement is to us something different from merely seeing an object first at one and afterward at another place. We can easily find the analogy in other senses. If we touch our forehead or the back of our hand with two blunt compass points so that the two points are about a third of an inch distant from each other, we do not discriminate the two points as two, but we perceive the impression as that of one point. We cannot discriminate the one pressure point from the other. But if we move the point of a pencil to and fro from one point to the other we perceive distinctly the movement in spite of the fact that it is a movement between two end points which could not be discriminated. It is wholly characteristic that the experimenter in every field of sensations, visual or acoustical or tactual, often finds himself before the experience of having noticed a movement while he is unable to say in which direction the movement occurred.

We are familiar with the illusions in which we believe that we see something which only our imagination supplies. If an unfamiliar printed word is exposed to our eye for the twentieth part of a second, we readily substitute a familiar word with similar letters. Everybody knows how difficult it is to read proofs. We overlook the misprints, that is, we replace the wrong letters which are actually in our field of vision by imaginary right letters which correspond to our expectations. Are we not also familiar with the experience of supplying by our fancy the associative image of a movement when only the starting point and the end point are given, if a skillful suggestion influences our mind. The prestidigitator stands on one side of the stage when he apparently throws the costly watch against the mirror on the other side of the stage; the audience sees his suggestive hand movement and the disappearance of the watch and sees twenty feet away the shattering of the mirror. The suggestible spectator cannot help seeing the flight of the watch across the stage.

The recent experiments by Wertheimer and Korte have gone into still subtler details. Both experimenters worked with a delicate instrument in which two light lines on a dark ground could be exposed in very quick succession and in which it was possible to vary the position of the lines, the distance of the lines, the intensity of their light, the time exposure of each, and the time between the appearance of the first and of the second. They studied all these factors, and moreover the influence of differently directed attention and suggestive attitude. If a vertical line is immediately followed by a horizontal, the two together may give the impression of one right angle. If the time between the vertical and the horizontal line is long, first one and then the other is seen. But at a certain length of the time interval, a new effect is reached. We see the vertical line falling over and lying flat like the horizontal line. If the eyes are fixed on the point in the midst of the angle, we might expect that this movement phenomenon would stop, but the opposite is the case. The apparent movement from the vertical to the horizontal has to pass our fixation point and it seems that we ought now to recognize clearly that there is nothing between those two positions, that the intermediate phases of the movement are lacking; and yet the experiment shows that under these circumstances we frequently get the strongest impression of motion. If we use two horizontal lines, the one above the other, we see, if the right time interval is chosen, that the upper one moves downward toward the lower. But we can introduce there a very interesting variation. If we make the lower line, which appears objectively after the upper one, more intense, the total impression is one which begins with the lower. We see first the lower line moving toward the upper one which also approaches the lower; and then follows the second phase in which both appear to fall down to the position of the lower one. It is not necessary to go further into details in order to demonstrate that the apparent movement is in no way the mere result of an afterimage and that the impression of motion is surely more than the mere perception of successive phases of movement. The movement is in these cases not really seen from without, but is superadded, by the action of the mind, to motionless pictures.

The statement that our impression of movement does not result simply from the seeing of successive stages but includes a higher mental act into which the successive visual impressions enter merely as factors is in itself not really an explanation. We have not settled by it the nature of that higher central process. But it is enough for us to see that the impression of the continuity of the motion results from a complex mental process by which the various pictures are held together in the unity of a higher act. Nothing can characterize the situation more clearly than the fact which has been demonstrated by many experiments, namely, that this feeling of movement is in no way interfered with by the distinct consciousness that important phases of the movement are lacking. On the contrary, under certain circumstances we become still more fully aware of this apparent motion created by our inner activity when we are conscious of the interruptions between the various phases of movement.

We come to the consequences. What is then the difference between seeing motion in the photoplay and seeing it on the real stage? There on the stage where the actors move the eye really receives a continuous series. Each position goes over into the next without any interruption. The spectator receives everything from without and the whole movement which he sees is actually going on in the world of space without and accordingly in his eye. But if he faces the film world, the motion which he sees appears to be a true motion, and yet is created by his own mind. The afterimages of the successive pictures are not sufficient to produce a substitute for the continuous outer stimulation; the essential condition is rather the inner mental activity which unites the separate phases in the idea of connected action. Thus we have reached the exact counterpart of our results when we analyzed the perception of depth. We see actual depth in the pictures, and yet we are every instant aware that it is not real depth and that the persons are not really plastic. It is only a suggestion of depth, a depth created by our own activity, but not actually seen, because essential conditions for the true perception of depth are lacking. Now we find that the movement too is perceived but that the eye does not receive the impressions of true movement. It is only a suggestion of movement, and the idea of motion is to a high degree the product of our own reaction. Depth and movement alike come to us in the moving picture world, not as hard facts but as a mixture of fact and symbol. They are present and yet they are not in the things. We invest the impressions with them. The theater has both depth and motion, without any subjective help; the screen has them and yet lacks them. We see things distant and moving, but we furnish to them more than we receive; we create the depth and the continuity through our mental mechanism.



CHAPTER IV

ATTENTION

The mere perception of the men and women and of the background, with all their depth and their motion, furnishes only the material. The scene which keeps our interest alive certainly involves much more than the simple impression of moving and distant objects. We must accompany those sights with a wealth of ideas. They must have a meaning for us, they must be enriched by our own imagination, they must awaken the remnants of earlier experiences, they must stir up our feelings and emotions, they must play on our suggestibility, they must start ideas and thoughts, they must be linked in our mind with the continuous chain of the play, and they must draw our attention constantly to the important and essential element of the action. An abundance of such inner processes must meet the world of impressions and the psychological analysis has only started when perception of depth and movement alone are considered. If we hear Chinese, we perceive the sounds, but there is no inner response to the words; they are meaningless and dead for us; we have no interest in them. If we hear the same thoughts expressed in our mother tongue, every syllable carries its meaning and message. Then we are readily inclined to fancy that this additional significance which belongs to the familiar language and which is absent from the foreign one is something which comes to us in the perception itself as if the meaning too were passing through the channels of our ears. But psychologically the meaning is ours. In learning the language we have learned to add associations and reactions of our own to the sounds which we perceive. It is not different with the optical perceptions. The best does not come from without.

Of all internal functions which create the meaning of the world around us, the most central is the attention. The chaos of the surrounding impressions is organized into a real cosmos of experience by our selection of that which is significant and of consequence. This is true for life and stage alike. Our attention must be drawn now here, now there, if we want to bind together that which is scattered in the space before us. Everything must be shaded by attention and inattention. Whatever is focused by our attention wins emphasis and irradiates meaning over the course of events. In practical life we discriminate between voluntary and involuntary attention. We call it voluntary if we approach the impressions with an idea in our mind as to what we want to focus our attention on. We carry our personal interest, our own idea into the observation of the objects. Our attention has chosen its aim beforehand, and we ignore all that does not fulfil this specific interest. All our working is controlled by such voluntary attention. We have the idea of the goal which we want to reach in our mind beforehand and subordinate all which we meet to this selective energy. Through our voluntary attention we seek something and accept the offering of the surroundings only in so far as it brings us what we are seeking.

It is quite different with the involuntary attention. The guiding influence here comes from without. The cue for the focusing of our attention lies in the events which we perceive. What is loud and shining and unusual attracts our involuntary attention. We must turn our mind to a place where an explosion occurs, we must read the glaring electric signs which flash up. To be sure, the perceptions which force themselves on our involuntary attention may get their motive power from our own reactions. Everything which appeals to our natural instincts, everything which stirs up hope or fear, enthusiasm or indignation, or any strong emotional excitement will get control of our attention. But in spite of this circuit through our emotional responses the starting point lies without and our attention is accordingly of the involuntary type. In our daily activity voluntary and involuntary attention are always intertwined. Our life is a great compromise between that which our voluntary attention aims at and that which the aims of the surrounding world force on our involuntary attention.

How does the theater performance differ in this respect from life? Might we not say that voluntary attention is eliminated from the sphere of art and that the audience is necessarily following the lead of an attention which receives all its cues from the work of art itself and which therefore acts involuntarily? To be sure, we may approach a theater performance with a voluntary purpose of our own. For instance, we may be interested in a particular actor and may watch him with our opera glass all the time whenever he is on the stage, even in scenes in which his role is insignificant and in which the artistic interest ought to belong to the other actors. But such voluntary selection has evidently nothing to do with the theater performance as such. By such behavior we break the spell in which the artistic drama ought to hold us. We disregard the real shadings of the play and by mere personal side interests put emphasis where it does not belong. If we really enter into the spirit of the play, our attention is constantly drawn in accordance with the intentions of the producers.

Surely the theater has no lack of means to draw this involuntary attention to any important point. To begin with, the actor who speaks holds our attention more strongly than the actors who at that time are silent. Yet the contents of the words may direct our interest to anybody else on the stage. We watch him whom the words accuse, or betray or delight. But the mere interest springing from words cannot in the least explain that constantly shifting action of our involuntary attention during a theater performance. The movements of the actors are essential. The pantomime without words can take the place of the drama and still appeal to us with overwhelming power. The actor who comes to the foreground of the stage is at once in the foreground of our consciousness. He who lifts his arm while the others stand quiet has gained our attention. Above all, every gesture, every play of the features, brings order and rhythm into the manifoldness of the impressions and organizes them for our mind. Again, the quick action, the unusual action, the repeated action, the unexpected action, the action with strong outer effect, will force itself on our mind and unbalance the mental equilibrium.

The question arises: how does the photoplay secure the needed shifting of attention? Here, too, involuntary attention alone can be expected. An attention which undertakes its explorations guided by preconceived ideas instead of yielding to the demands of the play would lack adjustment to its task. We might sit through the photoplay with the voluntary intention of watching the pictures with a scientific interest in order to detect some mechanical traits of the camera, or with a practical interest, in order to look up some new fashions, or with a professional interest, in order to find out in what New England scenery these pictures of Palestine might have been photographed. But none of these aspects has anything to do with the photoplay. If we follow the play in a genuine attitude of theatrical interest, we must accept those cues for our attention which the playwright and the producers have prepared for us. But there is surely no lack of means by which our mind can be influenced and directed in the rapid play of the pictures.

Of course the spoken word is lacking. We know how often the words on the screen serve as substitutes for the speech of the actors. They appear sometimes as so-called "leaders" between the pictures, sometimes even thrown into the picture itself, sometimes as content of a written letter or of a telegram or of a newspaper clipping which is projected like a picture, strongly enlarged, on the screen. In all these cases the words themselves prescribe the line in which the attention must move and force the interest of the spectator toward the new goal. But such help by the writing on the wall is, after all, extraneous to the original character of the photoplay. As long as we study the psychological effect of the moving pictures themselves, we must concentrate our inquiry on the moving pictures as such and not on that which the playwright does for the interpretation of the pictures. It may be granted that the letters and newspaper articles take a middle place. They are a part of the picture, but their influence on the spectator is, nevertheless, very similar to that of the leaders. We are here concerned only with what the pictorial offering contains. We must therefore also disregard the accompanying music or the imitative noises which belong to the technique of the full-fledged photoplay nowadays. They do not a little to push the attention hither and thither. Yet they are accessory, while the primary power must lie in the content of the pictures themselves.

But it is evident that with the exception of the words, no means for drawing attention which is effective on the theater stage is lost in the photoplay. All the directing influences which the movements of the actors exert can be felt no less when they are pictured in the films. More than that, the absence of the words brings the movements which we see to still greater prominence in our mind. Our whole attention can now be focused on the play of the face and of the hands. Every gesture and every mimic excitement stirs us now much more than if it were only the accompaniment of speech. Moreover, the technical conditions of the kinematograph show favor the importance of the movement. First the play on the screen is acted more rapidly than that on the stage. By the absence of speech everything is condensed, the whole rhythm is quickened, a greater pressure of time is applied, and through that the accents become sharper and the emphasis more powerful for the attention. But secondly the form of the stage intensifies the impression made by those who move toward the foreground. The theater stage is broadest near the footlights and becomes narrower toward the background; the moving picture stage is narrowest in front and becomes wider toward the background. This is necessary because its width is controlled by the angle at which the camera takes the picture. The camera is the apex of an angle which encloses a breadth of only a few feet in the nearest photographic distance, while it may include a width of miles in the far distant landscape. Whatever comes to the foreground therefore gains strongly in relative importance over its surroundings. Moving away from the camera means a reduction much greater than a mere stepping to the background on the theater stage. Furthermore lifeless things have much more chance for movements in the moving pictures than on the stage and their motions, too, can contribute toward the right setting of the attention.

But we know from the theater that movement is not the only condition which makes us focus our interest on a particular element of the play. An unusual face, a queer dress, a gorgeous costume or a surprising lack of costume, a quaint piece of decoration, may attract our mind and even hold it spellbound for a while. Such means can not only be used but can be carried to a much stronger climax of efficiency by the unlimited means of the moving pictures. This is still more true of the power of setting or background. The painted landscape of the stage can hardly compete with the wonders of nature and culture when the scene of the photoplay is laid in the supreme landscapes of the world. Wide vistas are opened, the woods and the streams, the mountain valleys and the ocean, are before us with the whole strength of reality; and yet in rapid change which does not allow the attention to become fatigued.

Finally the mere formal arrangement of the succeeding pictures may keep our attention in control, and here again are possibilities which are superior to those of the solid theater stage. At the theater no effect of formal arrangement can give exactly the same impression to the spectators in every part of the house. The perspective of the wings and the other settings and their relation to the persons and to the background can never appear alike from the front and from the rear, from the left and from the right side, from the orchestra and from the balcony, while the picture which the camera has fixated is the same from every corner of the picture palace. The greatest skill and refinement can be applied to make the composition serviceable to the needs of attention. The spectator may not and ought not to be aware that the lines of the background, the hangings of the room, the curves of the furniture, the branches of the trees, the forms of the mountains, help to point toward the figure of the woman who is to hold his mind. The shading of the lights, the patches of dark shadows, the vagueness of some parts, the sharp outlines of others, the quietness of some parts of the picture as against the vehement movement of others all play on the keyboard of our mind and secure the desired effect on our involuntary attention.

But if all is admitted, we still have not touched on the most important and most characteristic relation of the photoplay pictures to the attention of the audience; and here we reach a sphere in which any comparison with the stage of the theater would be in vain. What is attention? What are the essential processes in the mind when we turn our attention to one face in the crowd, to one little flower in the wide landscape? It would be wrong to describe the process in the mind by reference to one change alone. If we have to give an account of the act of attention, as seen by the modern psychologist, we ought to point to several cooerdinated features. They are not independent of one another but are closely interrelated. We may say that whatever attracts our attention in the sphere of any sense, sight or sound, touch or smell, surely becomes more vivid and more clear in our consciousness. This does not at all mean that it becomes more intense. A faint light to which we turn our attention does not become the strong light of an incandescent lamp. No, it remains the faint, just perceptible streak of lightness, but it has grown more impressive, more distinct, more clear in its details, more vivid. It has taken a stronger hold of us or, as we may say by a metaphor, it has come into the center of our consciousness.

But this involves a second aspect which is surely no less important. While the attended impression becomes more vivid, all the other impressions become less vivid, less clear, less distinct, less detailed. They fade away. We no longer notice them. They have no hold on our mind, they disappear. If we are fully absorbed in our book, we do not hear at all what is said around us and we do not see the room; we forget everything. Our attention to the page of the book brings with it our lack of attention to everything else. We may add a third factor. We feel that our body adjusts itself to the perception. Our head enters into the movement of listening for the sound, our eyes are fixating the point in the outer world. We hold all our muscles in tension in order to receive the fullest possible impression with our sense organs. The lens in our eye is accommodated exactly to the correct distance. In short our bodily personality works toward the fullest possible impression. But this is supplemented by a fourth factor. Our ideas and feelings and impulses group themselves around the attended object. It becomes the starting point for our actions while all the other objects in the sphere of our senses lose their grip on our ideas and feelings. These four factors are intimately related to one another. As we are passing along the street we see something in the shop window and as soon as it stirs up our interest, our body adjusts itself, we stop, we fixate it, we get more of the detail in it, the lines become sharper, and while it impresses us more vividly than before the street around us has lost its vividness and clearness.

If on the stage the hand movements of the actor catch our interest, we no longer look at the whole large scene, we see only the fingers of the hero clutching the revolver with which he is to commit his crime. Our attention is entirely given up to the passionate play of his hand. It becomes the central point for all our emotional responses. We do not see the hands of any other actor in the scene. Everything else sinks into a general vague background, while that one hand shows more and more details. The more we fixate it, the more its clearness and distinctness increase. From this one point wells our emotion, and our emotion again concentrates our senses on this one point. It is as if this one hand were during this pulse beat of events the whole scene, and everything else had faded away. On the stage this is impossible; there nothing can really fade away. That dramatic hand must remain, after all, only the ten thousandth part of the space of the whole stage; it must remain a little detail. The whole body of the hero and the other men and the whole room and every indifferent chair and table in it must go on obtruding themselves on our senses. What we do not attend cannot be suddenly removed from the stage. Every change which is needed must be secured by our own mind. In our consciousness the attended hand must grow and the surrounding room must blur. But the stage cannot help us. The art of the theater has there its limits.

Here begins the art of the photoplay. That one nervous hand which feverishly grasps the deadly weapon can suddenly for the space of a breath or two become enlarged and be alone visible on the screen, while everything else has really faded into darkness. The act of attention which goes on in our mind has remodeled the surrounding itself. The detail which is being watched has suddenly become the whole content of the performance, and everything which our mind wants to disregard has been suddenly banished from our sight and has disappeared. The events without have become obedient to the demands of our consciousness. In the language of the photoplay producers it is a "close-up." The close-up has objectified in our world of perception our mental act of attention and by it has furnished art with a means which far transcends the power of any theater stage.

The scheme of the close-up was introduced into the technique of the film play rather late, but it has quickly gained a secure position. The more elaborate the production, the more frequent and the more skillful the use of this new and artistic means. The melodrama can hardly be played without it, unless a most inartistic use of printed words is made. The close-up has to furnish the explanations. If a little locket is hung on the neck of the stolen or exchanged infant, it is not necessary to tell us in words that everything will hinge on this locket twenty years later when the girl is grown up. If the ornament at the child's throat is at once shown in a close-up where everything has disappeared and only its quaint form appears much enlarged on the screen, we fix it in our imagination and know that we must give our fullest attention to it, as it will play a decisive part in the next reel. The gentleman criminal who draws his handkerchief from his pocket and with it a little bit of paper which falls down on the rug unnoticed by him has no power to draw our attention to that incriminating scrap. The device hardly belongs in the theater because the audience would not notice it any more than would the scoundrel himself. It would not be able to draw the attention. But in the film it is a favorite trick. At the moment the bit of paper falls, we see it greatly enlarged on the rug, while everything else has faded away, and we read on it that it is a ticket from the railway station at which the great crime was committed. Our attention is focused on it and we know that it will be decisive for the development of the action.

A clerk buys a newspaper on the street, glances at it and is shocked. Suddenly we see that piece of news with our own eyes. The close-up magnifies the headlines of the paper so that they fill the whole screen. But it is not necessary that this focusing of the attention should refer to levers in the plot. Any subtle detail, any significant gesture which heightens the meaning of the action may enter into the center of our consciousness by monopolizing the stage for a few seconds. There is love in her smiling face, and yet we overlook it as they stand in a crowded room. But suddenly, only for three seconds, all the others in the room have disappeared, the bodies of the lovers themselves have faded away, and only his look of longing and her smile of yielding reach out to us. The close-up has done what no theater could have offered by its own means, though we might have approached the effect in the theater performance if we had taken our opera glass and had directed it only to those two heads. But by doing so we should have emancipated ourselves from the offering of the stage picture, that is, the concentration and focusing were secured by us and not by the performance. In the photoplay it is the opposite.

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