The ornamental trend is a peculiar phenomenon of late modern cinema. Although traces of it appeared already at the emergence of modernism, it was characteristic of the second period starting from the late 1960s.
Modern ornamentalism is not mere decoration or spectacular effect. Ornamental films may have theater as a cultural referential background, but most typically, their source is somewhere else. The source of modern ornamental style is either in different national folklore or in a religious or mythological context.1 Thus I will distinguish between two trends of modern ornamental forms: folkloric and mythological ornamentalism.
Ornamental style in itself is not alien to modern art. The Viennese Secession and art nouveau are the most salient examples of modern ornamental styles in the early modern period. Ornamentalism can be a form of abstraction whenever a closed set of regular or irregular geometrical elements that are not meant to represent a part of surface reality becomes an essential part of the composition. However, ornamental elements in modern art are meant to convey some deeper meaning; they are meant to represent some kind of “inner reality” and express fantasy, emotions, or a psychological state of mind allegedly inexpressible by elements of surface reality. Often times, modern ornamentalism mixes elements of realist surface representation with abstract ornamental elements, like in the works of one of the greatest Viennese masters, Gustav Klimt. In other cases ornamental modernism remains entirely abstract, like in case of Vasili Kandinsky or the American
1. The term “ornamental film” was first used by Ákos Szilágyi to characterize the aes-
thetic form of the films of Sergei Paradzhanov. In Filmvilág (1987–88): 34–39.
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Publication information: Book title: Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema, 1950-1980. Contributors: AndrÁs BÁlint KovÁcs - Author. Publisher: University of Chicago Press. Place of publication: Chicago. Publication year: 2007. Page number: 175.
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