A Brief History of Film
History of film has been dominated by the discovery and testing of the paradoxes inherent in the medium itself. Film uses machines to record images of life; it combines still photographs to give the illusion of continuous motion; it seems to present life itself, but it also offers impossible unrealities approached only in dreams.
The motion picture was developed in the 1890s from the union of still PHOTOGRAPHY, which records physical reality, with the persistence-of-vision toy, which made drawn figures appear to move. Four major film traditions have developed since then: fictional narrative film, which tells stories about people with whom an audience can identify because their world looks familiar; nonfictional documentary film, which focuses on the real world either to instruct or to reveal some sort of truth about it; animated film, which makes drawn or sculpted figures look as if they are moving and speaking; and experimental film, which exploits film's ability to create a purely abstract, nonrealistic world unlike any previously seen.
Film is considered the youngest art form and has inherited much from the older and more traditional arts. Like the novel, it can tell stories; like the drama, it can portray conflict between live characters; like painting, it composes in space with light, color, shade, shape, and texture; like music, it moves in time according to principles of rhythm and tone; like dance, it presents the movement of figures in space and is often underscored by music; and like photography, it presents a two-dimensional rendering of what appears to be three-dimensional reality, using perspective, depth, and shading.
Film, however, is one of the few arts that is both spatial and temporal, intentionally manipulating both space and time. This synthesis has given rise to two conflicting theories about film and its historical development. Some theorists, such as S. M. EISENSTEIN and Rudolf Arnheim, have argued that film must take the path of the other modern arts and concentrate not on telling stories or representing reality but on investigating time and space in a pure and consciously abstract way. Others, such as Andre Bazin and Siegfried KRACAUER, maintain that film must fully and carefully develop its connection with nature so that it can portray human events as excitingly and revealingly as possible.
Because of his fame, his success at publicizing his activities, and his habit of patenting machines before actually inventing them, Thomas EDISON received most of...