All right, now we’re starting to get into the experimental years.
You can pretty much break early film down into five-year increments, with blurred edges in between. Essentially, 1895-1899 is the “cinema of attractions” stage. People discover the moving image, they rush out and film things. It’s like getting a new car and spending the first week speeding around in it. Then 1899-1903 are the experimentation years. They start discovering ways to tell a story. They try new things, they develop new techniques. You start to see the visual language of film develop. Instead of 50 second bursts, films are regularly three to six minutes. Then, 1904-1908 are the years where they start making stories longer. One reels. Then, from 1908-1913, it’s all the one and two-reel films. Now they’re stretching their narrative muscles. This is actually like child development. Then, 1914-1920, they start doing feature length. They spend those years perfecting that. And then from 1921-1926, you’re basically in the golden age of silent movies, where they’ve perfected the art of silent cinema, and have perfected the language and can crank out movie after movie, with the differences being different levels of artistry in each. Like now. We know what movies are, and we differentiate them by how they tell a story.
So, the part we’re at now is when they start experimenting with ways to tell their story. (more…)