Interpersonal Communication with Photography

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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Siegfried Kracauer was a German-born theorist who wrote and published cultural criticism. In his essay titled “Basic Concepts,” he discusses film and its interpersonal relationship with photography. Kracauer also discusses how film is evolving throughout time. He divided the tendencies of films into different main groups: realistic and formative. During this time period, film created a flexible sense of realism. In Kracauer’s essay, he seems conflicted as to whether film can be fully considered as an art form.

In his essay, he analyzes the different aspects of film by looking at two earlier directors, Lumiere and Melies.

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Of the two directors, Lumiere used mimesis to replicate reality when creating cinema, while Melies’s films used diegesis and told a story. Lumiere’s films, “…pictured everyday life after the manner of photographs”(149). Kracauer describes Lumiere as more of a strict naturalist. Lumiere’s films tried to replicate reality and didn’t serve as entertainment but more as recreating the world. Kracauer goes on to say that, “The bulk of his films recorded the world about us for no other purpose than to present it”(150). Lumiere’s films seemed to merely exhibit reality with no actual purpose. His films didn’t seem useful or entertaining to an audience.

The other early director that Kracauer evaluated was Melies. Melies “took off where Lumiere left off.” His films brought more appeal to audiences. Kracauer seems to see Melies as more of a laid-back, artistic director. The films were more to grab attention rather than recreate reality. George Melies brought film to a whole other level. Kracauer goes on to say that Melies’s films, “main contribution to the cinema lay in substituting staged illusion for unstaged reality, and contrived plots for everyday incidents” (151). I feel that Melies delved into more of a fantasy reality.

The two basic tendencies of film that Kracauer discusses in his essay are the realistic tendency and the formative tendency. He suggests that cinema is always divided between these two tendencies. The realistic tendency is more to exhibit the world as it actually is. In contrast, the formative tendency displays the world we fantasize about. The realistic tendency is based more on scientific fact compared to the fantasy world we imagine. When Kracauer discusses the formative tendency, he writes, “film extends into dimensions which photography does not cover” (154). When it comes to the formative tendency, Melies was considered the first person to delve into this type of medium.

In Siegfried Kracauer’s essay, “Basic Concepts,” he questions whether film should be considered an art at all. He references both directors, Lumiere and Melies, to show the different perspectives of film and how varied it can be. The films that Lumiere directed were solely meant to mimic reality, while Melies served as more of an entertainment aspect with special effects. After reading and analyzing his essay, I think that Kracauer believes cinema can assert an artistic accuracy if they move away from the basic properties.

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Interpersonal Communication With Photography. (2022, Aug 23). Retrieved from