Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film

By Ben Brewster; Lea Jacobs | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Staging and Editing

MOST of the examples discussed here so far have been concerned with space in a scene filmed as a single take, i.e. continuously from either a single position or a continuously moving one. This requires no special justification in many cases, since in the 1910s fiction films largely consist of such scenes linked by relatively elliptical breaks, usually covered by an intertitle; these breaks closely resemble scene changes in a stage play. But in many other cases, devices of a similar kind appear in sequences which consist of shots edited together. Here the theatrical analogy is much less clear-cut. Considerations of the relations between camera and filmed space are not necessarily adequate to deal with questions of cinematic space in a series of shots as opposed to a single one.

The standard modern ways of conceiving this problem derive from one of Kuleshov's experiments. A shot of Aleksandra Khoklova walking down Petrov Street in Moscow was followed in turn by a shot of Leonid Obolensky walking along the embankment of the Moscow River, a shot of them shaking hands on the Boulevard Prechistensk, also in Moscow, and then looking off, and a shot of the White House in Washington. 1 The result is a place which never existed in the real world--a city in which remote Moscow streets are next to one another, and also to a famous building in the United States. Cinematic space thus becomes a matter of the synthesis of a set of views by positing plausible connections between them--connections of action, such as a character walking out of one scene and entering into the next; connections via looks, such as a character looking out of one scene, with the second a view they might plausibly be able to see; and connections via overlapping elements, such as furniture, or body parts seen from different angles and distances in different views, but plausibly posited as identical.

Clearly, theatrical scenes have to be linked in similar ways; the castle has to be the appropriate distance from the forest for characters to move from one to the other in the interval between the scenes implied by the plot. The earliest multiple-shot films related their shots in the same fashion. Most notably, in chase films characters run through succeeding landscapes in a single pursuit, such that the landscapes have to be conceived as more or less, but not necessarily precisely, adjacent to one another. However, the Kuleshovian schema supposes a much closer re-

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Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Molly's Book v
  • Preface vi
  • Contents ix
  • Technical Note xi
  • 1: Introductory 1
  • Chapter 1: Pictures 3
  • Chapter 2: Situations 18
  • 2: The Tableau 33
  • Chapter 3 the Stage Tableau in Uncle Tom's Cabin 37
  • Chapter 4: The Fate of the Tableau in the Cinema 48
  • 3: Acting 79
  • Chapter 5: Pictorial Acting in the Theatre 85
  • Chapter 6: Pictorial Styles and Film Acting 99
  • Chapter 7 the Pictorial Style in European Cinema 111
  • 4: Staging 139
  • Chapter 8: Pictorial Staging in the Theatre 145
  • Chapter 9: The Cinematic Stage 164
  • Chapter 10: Staging and Editing 188
  • Conclusion 212
  • Appendix: Plot Summary of Uncle Tom's Cabin 217
  • Bibliography 219
  • Filmography 229
  • Index 233
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