The film language of Siegfried Kraceur?


I’m sure many of you have heard of or read Siegfried Kraceur’s Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. If not, let me open your eyes to his beliefs, although I think we are all slightly perplexed as to what the theory truly means. Kraceur believes that the cinema is “animated by a desire to picture transient material life.” In other words, “nature caught in the act.” By this, Kraceur is saying that any staged or deliberate acts become – by definition – “uncinematic”. Isn’t this cinema in itself? Is Kraceur unaware of the mass production a film goes through before it reaches the screen?

Kraceur’s theory lends itself toward documentary practice; therefore this is the medium that Kraceur exclaims films should fall under. At least this notion suggests Kraceur seems to understand what he himself is talking about. “Films are true to the medium to the extent that they penetrate the world before our eyes.” I fail here to ‘penetrate’ what Kraceur is talking about; film is either solely a form for documentary or the fictional worlds created through film are in fact a reality i.e. filmed as they happened? Furthermore, it would certainly appear that any fantasy or science fiction film is out of the question, or at least it could never be true to the medium. It seems Kraceur is limiting his movie experience to neo-realism. But perhaps I am at fault for taking his notion of ‘the world before our eyes’ too literally.

Films dealing with the poor, and using non-professionals, are more “natural” according to Kraceur. I can understand how this representation may appear ‘natural’ before the camera, as it would lend itself to the essence of being an un-staged reality. However, this is by no means the way one should define cinema. Kraceur is saying, “Film… gravitates towards it,” but surely film gravitates wherever the director wishes it to, which is a world of his or her own.

Kraceur is going out of his way to separate the medium of film from all other arts. We can take great pleasure from the medium of painting, poetry, photography and literature, and so on, so why not the cinema? Kraceur is attempting to disclose the medium of film as “nature caught in the act,” and nature here is defined in a social-realist sense of perceiving the reality of human actions as they unfold. As beautiful as this may seem, the medium is capable of far more translucent behaviours. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey would not count as an aesthetic of art in Kraceur’s theory, not even Georges Méliès spectacular Le Voyage dans la Lune. Kraceur avoids accepting any form of stabilisation, experimentation, or even convention in the cinema. He reduces cinema to a statement of his own ideology, becomes a critic of it like those of other art forms, which leads to a pretension of ideas about what cinema is. Whereas, cinema is quite simply a bleeding-edge medium.

We must not sacrifice the art of the motion picture to a theory that, frankly, is total nonsense. Pauline Kael describes it as, “There are men whose concept of love is so boring and nagging that you decide if that’s what love is you don’t want it, you want something else. That’s how I feel about Kraceur’s ‘cinema’. I want something else.” Kael is still a very judgemental critic of film, but at least she stands outside of academia.