Changes in the Use of Narrative in Early American Cinema

Describes how film, once perceived as a new and innovative form of technology, has evolved into what many consider to be a form of art.

This paper explores the evolution of film from a technology to an art form. The changes that took place in filming technology, the changes in the approach to filming, and changes in attitudes towards film are cited as reasons why the early perception of film changed from that of a new technology to that of an art form. The paper also talks about how the introduction of the narrative helped enforce the growing belief that film was an form of art, not just another new technology.
“Although it may be difficult to conceive of in our modern era, as film has taken its place alongside the long-accepted artistic mediums of painting and sculpture as an “art form”, during the early era of silent film this was far from the case. At the beginning of the 20th century, film had the status more of a modern technological curiosity or “freak show” rather than the status of art. The earliest works of film of the very end of the 19th century encouraged the viewer to simply marvel at the “moving picture” before his or her eyes, almost regardless of its content. Quite often these early clips of film had no narrative to speak of. The purpose of such shorts was to simply show the nature (and the limits) of the medium and to capture, however imperfectly, dancers, actors, and other noteworthy individuals of the day in motion, much like a moving newspaper.”