Film and mimesis

Artur Zaguła

Film, without any doubts, is one of the most important arts in present world. It is worth to consider this phenomenon and try to answer the question why it is this way. It seems to result from the film's imitative potential. As Aristotle stated over two thousand years ago, human being, in its nature, is a mimetic animal. We learn through imitation and imitation is the most enjoyable pleasure. Through the centuries this rule was used as a main motive in any arts - painting, sculpture, poetry, music. However, in visual arts at the end of the XIX and the beginning of the XX century it was all about looking for new things instead of imitating.

Abstract art was invented, the reality reflection in painting, sculpture or drawing was considered as non-creative. The discovery of photography and later the film was, to some extent, the replacement for earlier imitative plastic arts. The film had the ability to replay the reality, it also showed the lapse of time, so it created the narrative space which was far more attractive than in e.g. painting. It's the second essential element of film that makes it attractive to people. In addition, we have an inborn urge to imitate, and it's our world that is narrative. 

Human being lives in time - we are born, we grow up, die, that's why it's easy for us to describe our life and the life of others in categories of narration. Such stories also have their great advantage of creating the bond between those who are the story characters and those who listen, read or watch it. By telling stories we learn the world, we feel the bond with people before us, we communicate. We tell about our values, we confront them with other points of view. Film can do all of that and it uses everything well.  In opposition to plastic arts, which are anti-imitative, for the film its the most important element. And that's the reason why this medium is so attractive to all of the people. 

Contemporary art reaches only narrow groups, usually of professionally educated people who know the field. The cinema remains the art which influences everyone, regardless of age, education, culture or social status. Let's try to compare good cinema with traditional painting in which imitation was, just like in film, the most important. It's worth to think why in galleries with historical paintings, just like in the cinema, we can find Anyone. It happens because it's a great pleasure, as we mentioned, to watch the representation of the real world, and it's even better when they are technically perfect and excite the imagination.

Contemporary art has also renounced this element. Today, so called artistic atelier is not important anymore, however, people creating films are convinced that perfection is essential to produce good cinema.  The paragon of reality imitating film is obtained thanks to the best technical and technological means. Let's observe the development of 3D films. It's a gigantic market developing so fast that even the greatest optimists couldn't foresee that. What is so attractive about this film segment? The illusion of our reality is almost complete. Telling interesting stories by imitative visual tools will remain for people the most attractive activity for centuries to come, or maybe forever.

Text: Artur Zaguła

no 67 January 2013

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Film and mimesis - Artur Zaguła

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