chapter  9
31 Pages

From flatland to vernacular relativity: the genesis of early english screenscapes: David b . Clarke and Marcus a . Doel

Although landscape and film are often seen as having been made for one another, their affinity is far from straightforward. For example, early films

(c. 1895-1906) present something of a paradox in relation to landscape. Thus, whilst Tom Gunning has elucidated the significance of landscape with respect to the travel genre3-“one of the most popular and developed” forms of early cinema4-it is instructive to note that the prevailing conceptions of landscape and film could also be regarded as profoundly antinomical in the early years of filmmaking. In 1897, for instance, “The Showman” found no difficulty in asserting that “there is a want of beauty in animated photographs from the fact that they depend on the reproduction of street scenes and others in which moving objects predominate simple landscape subjects, which are perhaps the most beautiful of all, being quite out of the question.”5 The apparent tension between the movement inherent to animated photography and the historically and geographically specific picturesque notion of landscape is central to our present concerns. For Gunning, “The unique aspect of motion pictures, the representation of movement,” not only “supplied a new way the world could be transformed into pictures,” it also “transformed the nature of the picture” itself (1998, 30). By extension, therefore, it equally transformed the picturesque notion of landscape.