Johnmark, I agree with a number of your points - up to a point. The problem for me comes because you keep absolutising things that cannot be absolutised. It is in principle
impossible to make absolutes out of the aesthetic experience because they are culturally bound as well as being tied in with personality and experience.
QUOTE(johnmark @ Sep 20 2006, 10:01 AM)
I gave a perfectly good example of what I meant about a vast difference between Psalm 23 and, let’s say, Cole Porter’s Night and Day.
Psalm 23 is a wonderful psalm. If I want to reflect on God's care for me, it is enormously potent (though less so than some other parts of Scripture for me). If instead I want to reflect on the nature of romantic love (which is a reflection of God's love for his people as made clear by the constant use of marriage as the primary biblical metaphor for communicating the relationship of exclusivity and intimacy which ought to exist between God and his people), then Psalm 23 doesn't even feature on the radar. The Song of Songs is more the territory then, but the idioms of SoS are such that more contemporary expressions of it will have a greater emotional impact on me - Notting Hill
Time lapse photography is a wonderful gimmick, a matter of spectacle. We can’t be talking about gimmicks here in relation to the difference between a poem and film, per se.
You cannot simply dismiss a particular way of producing an art work as a 'gimmick'. Spectacle is
part of art. The beauty of a time-lapse film of a rose budding and bursting into flower is breathtaking. Give me that rather than Van Gogh's Sunflowers or even of the Dutch still-life masters and day. I see more of the beauty of the rose in it because it takes me closer to the Real of the rose, which seems to be one of your primary criteria - and one of mine too in many contexts.
There is nothing that language lacks in conveying a truth or a wonder. The difference is medium, not effect. I mean, the wow factor is real in every art form.
But there is. Language cannot adequately convey the splendour of the Horsehead Nebula or the intricacy of the mirad of microscopic plankton, or the shimmer of light on a stag beetle's wing casing, or the peculiar quality of light that one experiences in the English Lake District, or the subtle shifts of hue in a sunset or countless other things. Language can describe them; language may be able to evoke memories
of such things and thus create in us a similar emotional state - but it is not the same as the images of such things falling on my retina to be processed afresh by my brain. Language can describe the aching melancholy of Samuel Barber's or Albinoni's Adagios or the soaring beauty of The Pearl Fishers' Duet, or the joyful exuberance of Mendelssohn's Octet, or the stately grandeur of HAndel's Zadok the Priest. It can describe them, describe the feelings evoked by them, remind me of them, but it cannot even convey what it means to hear a chord or three notes filling the space in which I sit. Language simply cannot substitute for the real.
A film, however can get me much closer to the reality of all these examples by bringing the images to my eyes and the music to my ears. Yes, it's better in many ways to be at a live performance, but I will never be able to see with my own eyes the Horsehead Nebula or the magnificent emptiness of Antarctica or the courtship of blue whales.
Uniqueness in a particular form is not what impresses.
But you are arguing for the primacy of some forms over others. You have said that theatre is better than film because it is real, human-scaled, etc. Isn't that suggesting that it is the uniqueness of the form which impresses you?
Invoking wonder is impressive and I will assert that certain forms or expressions do that better than other forms.
Exactly. And as I have just set out, film is a far better medium for some things than any other form or expression.
The best means for conveyance is unmediated experience of truth. From there, we descend in order of Power to sacred literature, to poetry, to painting, music, to theater, prose, photography, film, TV and so on. It’s not like I’ve made it a system, but there is a gold standard regarding the sacred and art.
Yes, unmediated experience of truth is best, but as I've indicated, it's not always possible. But then your ordering of forms is precisely a system that suits you and your background, personality, cultural context. Of course Scripture is the most powerful of all since it is God's inspired word - God himself speaks through it by his Holy Spirit which is an extraordinary transcendent experience.
Does anyone here yet deny that the 23 Psalm or The Lord’s Prayer -- works of art, of rhetoric, of poetry, of language, of musical sound, of pictorial painting -- are not more effective in their power, their charge than just about anything you can name?
Yes, they are God's word, so for me as a believer it has a profound impact. But the problem with introducing these into this discussion is that it is no longer comparing like with like. There is nothing else that God has inspired in the same way, so it doesn't actually help us in discussing whether the experience of film is a greater, lesser, or just different thing than the experience of literature in general
. But if
the BIble was merely the words of human beings, then it could not in and of itself be given a greater value than anything else.
From there on your system is frankly elitist. Poetry is deeply culturally-related. You need great fluency with a language which is not your own to even begin to appreciate it, and it never translates adequately. Visual images are cross-cultural, independent of language. I would venture that this could be a criterion for saying that visual media are therefore greater than verbal media.
If I speak in absolutes, it’s because there are absolutes. You may not, for example, tell me that there is any figure in literature who is greater than Shakespeare. Or in prose fiction greater than Tolstoy. If you have a different opinion, you can’t be taken seriously. You are not intelligent. If that offends you, well, you have no wisdom.
These statements are so subjective that they cannot be taken seriously. We bring far too much of ourselves to what we engage with. Milton is for many people - myself included - greater than Shakespeare. What about Goethe or Dante? As for Tolstoy, no thanks. Give me Hugo or Hardy or Eliot or even Austen please. So I am not to be taken seriously? I'm not intelligent? I have no wisdom? How deeply offensive! And what about the vast majority of people in the world for whom English is not their first language? Do you think they even care about whether Shakespeare trumps Milton or vice versa? Norwegians probably prefer Ibsen.