The Influence of Avant-Garde and Experimental Cinema on Early Film

Cinema is an important part of our culture that has a vast and important history.  Inventors always tried to entertain audiences, especially in ways that push what is normal and try to be innovative and independent, such as Avant-garde. Even before the famous Lumiere Brothers and Georges Melies revolutionized film, there were ways to enjoy moving pictures, such as the camera obscura. The camera obscura is an optical device that eventually led to the photography and the camera. It consists of a box or room with a small hole in one side that allows external light to pass through. An image would be flipped upside down on the opposite side. Film was not seen as art, but as a science. The idea of the camera obscura was used by Rene Descartes as a representation of the eye and the mind. It also helped to produce images with a linear perspective in paintings, maps, and eventually photographic or film creation. Years before the creation of film, people created a robots that were proto-computers. These were nothing like robots of today, but used as optical machines. The magic lantern is a form of an early type of image projector. It was developed in the 17th century. The images projected were forms of exoticism and colonialism. It was used for entertainment and educational purposes.   Even photographer Eadweard Muybridge created pictures that had a greater sense of depth, pictorial interest, and nontraditional ideas that were not common in the mid nineteenth century. He developed the zoopraxiscope, a projector that shows moving pictures of animals. All of these inventions served as an optical illusion and a strange form of entertainment.

Auguste and Louis Lumiere were the first filmmakers. They patented the cinematograph, a three in one device that could record, develop, and project motion pictures. Their invention allowed for more people to watch their film, unlike Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope that was too small for multiple viewers. Their first film was called “Workers Leaving the Factory in Lyon”. It simply was a recording of workers leaving a factory. They created “actualities” or documentaries that filmed the lives of people. Another important film was called, “The Arrival of the Train at La Ciotat”. It was considered to be the first horror film because the use of a low camera angles gave the perception of the train coming towards the screen. The Lumiere Brothers reveled verisimilitude, the truth to a film that creates reality. Georges Melies was a magician who created the film “A Trip to the Moon”. He was very important in the film industry because he was the first to majorly use editing, special effects, time-lapse, and the stop-trick. His films were different and allowed more filmmakers to expand the use of experimental film.

Avant-garde consists of art that is different from what is known. Michael O’Pray states that it can be understood as an opposition to mainstream media. It can be represented as aesthetically and politically motivated to attack traditional art values. Even though Lumiere Brothers and Geroges Melies began film ventures, their filmmaking styles changed the industry. Experimental filmmaking and Avant-garde has the potential to change how one see’s popular art.