- From Iván Hevesy’s Aesthetics and Dramaturgy of the Film Play (1925), Part 2: The Structure and Image Construction of the Film Play
The Structure of the Film Play
The far-reaching differences and deep-seated similarities that can be observed between the film play and the theater play, as well as between the film play and the novel, are derived purely from the technical character of film. It is the technical necessities and the technical possibilities that determine the conception and inner form of the film play. All of these technical factors follow from the fundamental essence of film. This fundamental essence is reproduction: it gives the film play a story and a reality without being limited by the unity of space and time as happens in the theater play. However, this reproductive nature determines not only the aesthetic form and inner dramatic character of the film play; it determines its entire buildup and the minutest detail of its dramatic direction as well.
The task of film direction can be divided into two components, from both a theoretical and a practical perspective. The first component is the method of composing the sequence of shots, which is the dramatic structuring of the film play per se, while the other one is the creation of the individual shots, in other words, of the elements of the structure. These two are equally important factors of the film play, and it is difficult to tell which would more obstruct the development of its full dramatic effect: well-composed shots connected in an uncinematic, dragged-out manner or dramatically unfolding but misconceived shots. The conditions for a full dramatic effect in the case of the cinema are completely new, since the whole concept of the scene is given an entirely different meaning in the film play, compared to the theater play. In a theater play, the milieu and the décor change infrequently, most often only at the end of each act, which means that, from the point of view of the direction, it is not the changes of the décor that segment the play. In the theater, the cohesive element is the scene, which is played out with the same characters, since every time a character enters or exits a new scene begins. In film, the milieu, be it natural or a décor, can change countless times. It is because of this, and also because of technical reasons, that the work unit of the director, the scene, is not keyed to the changes of the number of characters but to the changes of milieu. In the film play, a scene, or “shot,” lasts as long as the action evolves in the same milieu or, to put it more precisely, as long as the position of the camera is unchanged. This is because even if the old milieu remains, we get a new shot, a new image, every time the camera changes place, or changes angle, in order to show only a part of the same milieu or to broaden it in some direction, closing up [End Page 61] on a detail or on a face. This segmentation according to shots follows naturally from the technique of the film and from its dramatic expressive possibilities. Film does not give us reality but a reproduction of it, and thus, the point of departure of primary importance for it is not reality but the setup and the point of view that it occupies vis-à-vis reality.
Theater drama has a very wide and very broad staging frame in each act. It needs these wide spaces because it has only a few such frames: the entire plot needs to evolve in four or five such wide scenes.24 On the contrary, the film play, making use of its reproductive agility and its unlimited possibilities to change scenes, always tends to narrow down the scene space as opposed to those of the theater. The film play does this simply to guide the attention of the spectators to the most important dramatic moment. At this point, we encounter a phenomenon that again marks the superiority...