Cinema and the Audiovisual Imagination: Music, Image, Sound is, as its title suggests, an exploration of the fundamental components that make cinema such a distinct art form. Robert Robertson looks at this succinct but profound construct – sound, vision, art, thought – engaging with the concepts behind the manner by which the senses are interpreted by film-makers, how these processes are realised and the results of their artistic manufacturing. This is also inherent in the range of films covered – their type, technique and purpose are discussed and dissected to show how the imagination can range from the artistic to the entertaining or a combination of both. From Soviet silents to science-fiction space sagas by ways of animation, art and thrillers from across the globe, the purpose of Cinema and the Audiovisual Imagination: Music, Image, Sound is to provide perspective, analysis and further thought for the reader and viewer.
Robert Robertson goes into some depth exploring the technical cinematographic processes and sound implementations that were used in the creation of the distinct audiovisual aspects on a number of films, from the intensive making of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick) with its intricate and lengthy shoot, to the deliberate flag colourising and sound requisites on Eisenstein’s work stemming as far back as Battleship Potemkin. Indeed the revolutionary film theories and their implementation visually and aurally (visual use of rhythmic montage as a leitmotif for musical interaction) in Eisenstein are intrinsic to much of the book’s structure, as was the author’s previous work Eisenstein on the Audiovisual: The Montage of Music, Image and Sound in Cinema (2009), with audiovisual aspects relating to other films mentioned – extensive coverage is made of Ivan The Terrible Part 1 (1944, Sergei Eisenstein) here.
The range of films discussed are many and varied, and are normally prefaced by background information about their creators: their techniques and style and the manner by which the filmmakers created their own artistic visions. The chapter The Audiovisual Imagination Beyond The European in particular extends further than the Euro-centric (including the USSR)/US films and methods, which can often restrict interpretations of wider themes, so that here the lives, style and works of Satyajit Ray, Kaneto Shindo and Kurosawa Akira are also examined in the wider world theoretical context, each having one specific work examined in detail; these are, respectively, Devi (1960, Satyajit Ray), Onibaba (1964, Kaneto Shindo) and Throne of Blood (1957, Kurosawa Akira).
Also welcome is an in-depth look at the creation and compositional use of sound in Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, 1959, Maya Deren), the seminal surrealist metaphysical or religious work that needs the depth of the review given here both from an audiovisual and also a creative and historical context, notably its score. Similarly the relationship between sound and composition is examined when examining Blue (1993, Derek Jarman). The vastly engaging forms of The Gospel According to Matthew (1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini) and The Legend of the Surami Fortress (1984, Sergei Paradjanov) demonstrate the artistic diversity but total control over their visual and aural elements that these two directors possessed.
Although aspects of films’ visuals, sound and narrative are fundamentally a part of criticism and of film language Cinema and the Audiovisual Imagination: Music, Image, Sound makes a solid link with the artistic process of their development, from the art-house to the multiplex in a way that both engages and informs. Fascinating and thought provoking academia.