Visual filmmaking differs from most narrative film forms, and is more comparable to music, painting & poetry.  There are almost as many styles of visual film as there are of those allied arts. The filmic experience relies on the whole sensorium of color, image, motion, sound and time rather than just representational imagery and dialogue, and appeals to the emotional/unconscious brain as much as the intellectual/conscious brain. A total tour de force could blend all these elements, but for purposes of this discussion, we’ll treat them as distinct.


From the beginning, Eisenstein pointed out that the basic unit of film language is the juxtaposition of images: first two, then a sequence, then the montage. Like word, sentence, paragraph, sequential film images create sense as they build a trajectory from beginning, thru middle, to end. Native cognition always seeks those three: the proposition, the elaboration, the resolution. Thus, music, composition and story.


Each filmic element is resonant with meaning, feeling & idea that is richer than any simple thought or impression. Combined, they reinforce, associate, recall, blend & contradict in the experiencing mind. And in a sudden flash of insight, they can turn into their opposite. The wonderful, cognizant mind tries to make what it can of its overwhelming world of experience, and when it can’t or just for adventure, opens itself to transformation into a totally creative unknown.


Image is a primary element of the experience: the evocation of meaning in shape, color and content; instantaneous impression, reference, association, memory. Motion or action can be interpreted in multiple ways, a story developed. Recognition or identification with the human or natural references evokes personal feelings. Conflict or dissonance creates questions or doubt, fear or wonder.


Cognitive mind always tries to find connection between impressions; images associate in multiple ways, evoke ambiguous thoughs & memories; fade and recur in consciousness. Sensation is time based, as well, so rhythm & timing are important elements. Sounds connect with image or emotion by persistent coincidence (hello, Pavlov.) The timing of juxtaposition alters the first impression to set in - completes, compliments or contradicts the anticipation. Enjambament is the creative collision of disparet thoughts, words or rhythms in poety and jazz.


The body responds in it’s own particular ways to each sensation, so subjective responses of the organism also become a promotive or limitting factor. The retina retains light impressions for a fraction of a second; then effloresces a negative afterimage. The ears shut down or generate counter noise. The eyes blink, dialate, scan; breath shortens with hightened abdominal tensions, lengthens with repose; muscles flex sympathetically with apparent action; mirror neurons excite our inner experience of the perceived subject’s emotions and expressions.


Finally, some people may experience synaesthetic responses, where colors may excite sounds, flavors, smells and so on. All of these become the palette for the visual filmmaker, a great tool box for thought, feeling and memory to compose opus-like experiences for the viewer’s mind and body.


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