1. The camera as narrator
In literature, the narrator places himself in some position relative to the action. The camera does the same in film. The film narrates its story through external, visual images. In both film and literature, we see through another’s eyes. However, if we were to see the narrator in a work of literature it would be because he is one of the characters he is describing, while in film, if we see the narrator, it turns into a lifeless object, a camera, which does not look at all like the things which it describes.
2. Performance recedes into the past; there is only one performance
As a temporal art, film is performed, but the actors’ performance does not occur at the same time that the viewer experiences it, but precedes it by an indefinite time. One result is that the order of the actual performance need not be apparent to us. Scene four may have been filmed before scene one.
3. The manipulation of time through space
For the first time on the spectrum, the work itself starts to become its own score. The film’s celluloid, an object in space, holds all the details of the work’s flow in time.
It can be turned back into an experience in time simply by moving it through a projector. In film this spatial presence does not yet look like the experienced work. This will change in the spatial arts, where the spatial presence is the work of art. After completing a spatial work of art, the artist no longer actively changes its spatial appearance. Film’s closeness to the spatial arts on the spectrum is noticeable in that it too is less likely to change from one “retelling” to another than are the other temporal arts.
The film material holds every detail of the work. Time has been entirely captured by space. When deprived of its flow, while stored in this spatial equivalent, time becomes manipulatable. For example, order in time can be altered by rearranging the film strip in space. The viewer remains unaware of the time it “takes” to do this, because it occurs in that indefinite period of time that intervenes between the original performance and the showing of the film.
Order in time is the paramount marker of structure in time. In film, even the actors cannot control the order of the work. Space has begun to store the effects of time to release them again at a later date. This remains true for the upcoming spatial arts.
The tempo, the acceleration and direction of time are alterable by space. In literature these were controllable directly through the narrator’s use of time. That we notice these changes in film is because they are “projected” onto the normal flow of our conscious-ness. Because a story is being told, we have certain expectations, based on the everyday reality, of how things should unfold, and so notice any deviation.
4. The simulation of the everyday reality
Because film and photography straddle the middle of the spectrum, the shift in reality from an artistic reality to the everyday reality is at its smallest. This may explain why these two arts can most succeed in imitating the everyday reality when they so choose. Film can so closely visually resemble the everyday reality, that if we see something occurring in defiance to material causality we think of it less as fantasy and more as an exhibition of amazing skill or technology (where causality still prevails).
5. The ambiguous role of sound in film
All that we have said so far about space and time in film is unaffected by the presence or absence of sound. There is an arbitrariness in the conjunction of any two senses in any artistic reality, when that reality is often created by exiling certain senses. If we focus on the sounds in a movie, then the movements of the actor’s mouth and lips can seem aesthetically out of accord with the sounds: why this movement for just this sound? It is as if an unsophisticated choreographer timed the dancers’ movements to coincide with the beginning of each new note in the music. Sights come to us from all parts of the artistic space held within the film screen, while sounds come from a finite number of fixed locations in the everyday space (the audio speakers), and are unlinked spatially to the visual objects that purportedly are emitting these sounds. Film without sound is still a film: a silent film. Film without sight is no longer a film, but returns to literature.
6. We cannot enter film’s space
Perspective breaks down at the boundary of the film screen. The space of the film is not the space we are in. If we change our position in the movie theatre, we still see objects in the film space from the same angle. This is because there is but one viewer, the narrator. There is always some everyday space between us and the screen. If an object is as close to us as it can get in a film, this space becomes more noticeable. We cannot enter the film’s reality through the everyday space, only intuitively through our imagination. Neither the space of our imagination nor the seemingly external space of film can be entered through the everyday reality, but they can mirror each other with respect to the everyday reality, which interposes itself between the two.
7. The requirement for an audience
As previously mentioned, in literature, and more so in film, the present as a specific moment in time begins to break down , and with it the notion of the performance. The requirement of there being audience members who are not themselves the performers becomes greater than in the previous arts.
8. We are voyeurs
Watching a movie is like looking through a peephole that is just large enough for one person to see through. We are better hidden than Polonius behind the arras, because we are hidden by time as well as space.