Guido Bagier on the development of the sound film

The Film to Come

Guido Bagier on the development of the sound film

Guido Bagier, Film-Kurier, No. 7, January 7, 1928

If the fates were asked about the future of film, they could do not better than to follow Richard Wagner"s idea and let their skeins abruptly break. The complex structure of the moving picture—half technology, half product of fantasy, half efficiently handled commodity—already defied exact analysis in the early stages of it birth. How could the further development of this mystical creature have been predicted even approximately? One thing is certain: In the span of thirty years, the child has grown into a man whose powers have overrun the world. What in former times was coincidence, intuitive emergence, and impulsive becoming, has gradually crystallized into maturity, reflection, consistency, and conscious evolution.

To consider the future of cinematography is to turn, first of all, to its technical problems and prospects. This is only natural, since the machine forms the basis of this medium and only new constructions seem to open up new pictorial pathways. Over and over, people speak of three fundamental possibilities:

Replacement of the silent image by sound.
Replacement of the black-and-white image by color.
Replacement of the flat image by a three-dimensional one.

It is superfluous to say how assiduously everyone is working on all three areas of expansion, and what considerable progress might be achieved. The greatest leap forward has been made by acoustic film, fostered in tandem by German and American inventors—among whom the tenacious Joseph Massolle seems to be taking the lead, notwithstanding structures in the U.S.A. that are more important for the praxis and economic viability of the field. Color film lies much farther behind: Sczepanik is outstripped. Herst demonstrates laboratory discoveries for everyday use. Danish and French processes promise better results with additive or chemical means. Despite splendid claims, Technicolor has fallen victim to incurable kitsch. And what about three-dimensional film? There are some interesting initial developments there. In view of the unerring nature of the pupil, stereoscopic vision itself will not be attained either through compromise, nor innocent deception—optical phase differential systems and the like! The gains of momentary successes (fog projection, etc.) founder on the complicatedness and costliness of the equipment.

The question arises: In view of its abundant power and the breadth of its effect, does film in its current form need to chase after these things, which may perhaps only keep it from its actual mission? Color and three-dimensionality will only confuse what exists—indeed, they often reduce and flatten it—without putting anything decisively new its place. Adding sound to the silent images will open up other, positive prospects: It will preserve famous statesmen and brilliant artists for posterity; it will give life to nature in a different sense then the animated play of light and shadow; it will give rise to an unprecedentedly agile linguistic form of communication; it will elevate the accompanying music from an incidental handmaiden to an equally inspired, or at the least, sympathetic comrade. But whether all this will come to pass or not, film will find its way and have a future for other reasons, and based on other sources: those that feed our fantasy!

Film has reached adulthood and is tired of childish games. The mass craving for pleasure, entertainment, and eroticism will always demand "the movies"; the film industry will always have to fill this demand, in order to live and let live. But in addition—just as a flea-pit differs from an artistic institution, and the fairground from cultured society—a new form of moving picture will develop that owes its existence not to the fashion of the masses, but to the vision of an individual, or in the best case, the community of a few individuals: a technician, a painter, a poet, a musician; no chief publisher, no super-director, no diva! These films will not be feature-length. They will not be full-blown movies with a plot, a star, and a slant, but rather short, succinct essays: bold, capricious and full of spirit. Despite their slight production costs, they will certainly not constitute a "business." But they will be stimulating, and their novel take on reality—free of all cliché and parrot-like imitation—shall slowly, but all the more thoroughly, penetrate the rest of the sluggish and sadly conventional mass of cinematography. And soon, the small audience of these intimate confessions, tired of the same old combinations of the fashionable feature film, shall grow and grow—until the production of larger works in an independent style begins to be worth it economically, for they no longer have to be made for the next 14 days or 14 weeks. And only in this way shall the film to come become an art like music and poetry, which run the gamut through all spheres: from honky-tonk and musical to abstract feeling; from couplet, saucy verse, and light lyric to deep meaning.

Of course, this rise shall proceed slowly, very slowly; but the best things are those that are hoped for. And only those who have faith will be able to work for the "future of film!"

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