It was always Paolo who was the theorist of their trio. That idea about virtue – that vertu was life-giving power – had originally been his, as was its antithesis, that vice is the power that takes away from life, the negative capability that does not add but subtracts. The purpose of the art of the cinema was to give life. Good films did that, they enriched and strengthened the life-force. Bad films were killers. That’s what he called them. Murderers. In the end his own death was like a bad film, too.
When Arkady started out he was interested only in people, emotion, drama, color, music, a rich stew of ingredients, but Paolo explained to him that at the birth of the movies people thought of them as the descendants of the visual arts. They were paintings to which movement had been added – motion pictures - not photographed theatricals. Only with the addition of sound did the dramatic aspects of the new form come to the fore, along with a new term for them: photoplays. “The pure form,” Paolo said, “descends from Leonardo and Michelangelo, not Shakespeare or Molière. If people come out of a movie with five or six images in their heads which they will never forget, then that’s a great movie. The script? That’s just the rack to hang the images off.” After that Arkady became more and more interested in questions of group composition. Da Vinci’s Cenacolo, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, Delacroix’s Raft of the Medusa, Bosch’s monster-crowded Garden of Earthly Delights, these became some of the images he carried with him into everything he did – paintings in which people were never alone, always among others, in which the group or the crowd served as a metaphor of the world.
As for Francis, what Paolo gave him to think about was the show-versus-tell question. “Show is mimesis,” Paolo said. “It’s what drama does. It enacts. Tell is diegesis. The story is told - narrated, recounted – instead of just being acted out. The cinema is a diegetic form that includes mimetic elements. Yes, there are scenes, there’s acting, performance, and event, yes, of course. But always we have the camera guiding the audience, showing them its world, look here!, now look here!, at her! at him!, at the sea!, at this explosion!, and we have montage telling them in what order to do the looking, first this!, then that! then again this! – You understand? In film we tell much more than we show. This is why the cinema is more related to epic poetry than to anything else.”
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