Film, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M022-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 16, 2020, from

Article Summary

Film aesthetics has been dominated by issues of realism. Three kinds of realism attributable to film may be distinguished: (1) the realism inherent in film because of its use of the photographic method (realism of method); (2) realism as a style which approximates the normal conditions of perception (realism of style); (3) realism as the capacity of film to engender in the viewer an illusion of the reality and presentness of fictional characters and events (realism of effect). Some theorists have argued that realism of method requires us to avoid realist style, others that it requires us to adopt realist style. Most have agreed that realist style makes for realism of effect; they disagree about whether this is a desirable goal. It is argued here that these realisms are independent of one another, that realism of style does not entail any kind of metaphysical realism, and that realism of effect is irrelevant to understanding the normal experience of cinema. Realism of style suggests a way of making precise the claim that cinema is an art of time and of space, because this kind of realism is partially explicated in terms of the representation of time by time and of space by space. Psychological theorizing about the cinema has been strongly connected with realism of effect, and with the idea that an illusion of the film’s reality is created by the identification of the viewer’s position with that of the camera. Another version of illusionism has it that the experience of film-watching is significantly similar to that of dreaming. Such doctrines are undermined when we acknowledge that realism of effect is an insignificant phenomenon.

    Citing this article:
    Currie, Gregory. Film, aesthetics of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M022-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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