Why Movies Are the Pinnacle of Human Creativity
How can we quantify and qualify the creativity inherent in a piece of art?
I’ve long thought about creativity and creative works as existing with levels of gradation. First, there exists the primary, fundamental level of an idea popping into your head. Above that is verbalization: sharing it with others and manifesting it into the world.
Beyond those principal steps, ideas are written down, labored over, reworked and perfected until they are finally ready to be presented to the world. Those subsequent acts, in whichever form of art, expand across creative disciplines, requiring more energy, time, vision and ingenuity as well as diverse creative talent to develop their messages.
In terms of cementing new ideas and adding them to the corpus of public thought, writing is the most direct and easily accessible: you don’t need an expensive camera or a musical instrument, but rather a paper and a pencil. More involved and expansive writing, such as a great work of fiction with many plots, characters and storylines, is an even greater form of the creative act of writing. The appreciation of the magnitude of work as an indicator of its beauty is not a novel concept. In “Poetics,” Aristotle writes, “For beauty to exist, both in regard to a living being and in regard to any object that is composed of separate parts, not only must there be a proper arrangement of the component elements, but the object must also be of a magnitude that is not fortuitous. For beauty is determined by magnitude and order.”
Magnitude is seen as great because more thought and creativity went into the work. This definition extends to all written works such as poems, books, plays, screenplays, etc. The greater the depth and breadth of the written work, the more beautiful it is considered. The successful synthesis of plot, character and dialogue combine to make a beautiful, creative work, granted the pieces operate in a cogent way.
Furthermore, the more involved and multifaceted a work is, the more creative it is. Magnitude extends not only vertically but horizontally as well; the more disciplines which are involved in the work, the more creative the work is as a whole. Therefore, the play that is performed is more “creative” than the written play itself. The play is interpreted and layers are added to it in accordance with the creative lens which the interpreter wishes to use. Staging, lighting, costume design and line delivery among other, infinite creative decisions must be made and supplanted on top of the original creative work that was the play. The magnitude is deepened.
Music is of a different order altogether than any other form of art. It is worthwhile to devote a few sentences of analysis to this as it will make the ultimate argument more potent. This concept is most powerfully observed in the combination of Plato’s and Schopenhauer’s philosophies. In “The Republic,” Plato distinguishes between the physical, material world and what he coins the world of Forms, which possesses the idealized version of every object. In his philosophic quest for Truth, he denigrates the material world and extends that ridicule to representative art; as removed as the material world is from the world of Forms, art is that much more removed. The artist draws a depiction of that which is already a depiction. Music, however, is not based on anything found in this world.
Arthur Schopenhauer explains the extension of Plato’s philosophy to music. He writes of music that “It stands alone, quite cut off from all the other arts. In it we do not recognize the copy or repetition of any idea of existence in the world … music is by no means like the other arts, the copy of the Ideas, but the copy of the Will itself, whose objectivity the Ideas are. This is why the effect of music is so much more powerful and penetrating than that of any of the other arts, for they only speak of shadows, but it [music] speaks of the thing itself.”
Music is not an imitation of reality but a new reality altogether. It mimics nothing of this world but creates a world of its own. To me, the challenges of creating a piece of music without representation or form in the world to base it upon elevates music above other creative acts and affords it great respect.
Nonetheless, the same definition of creativity that is used for the other art forms may still be applied to music. The more complex and involved a piece of music is, the more creative it is considered. A melody is the most basic form of music. Rhythm, percussion and harmony add more and more layers, broadening the depth and magnitude of the piece. In this regard, a symphony, with a full orchestra and pieces of unique music written for different instruments all coming together to make one pleasing piece, is incredibly creative.
It stands to reason that the art form which combines the most disciplines, across various forms of art, and with all working in a seamless, harmonious way would be the most creative art form.
Movies are therefore the pinnacle of artistic achievement. They are first and foremost a screenplay, which is on an equal level with any other long-form written document. The screenplay has the same depth as a novel, character development as a short story or structure as a play. Although the format is written as a means of eventual translation to the screen, the document is nonetheless a literary work.
The movie itself is an amalgam of multiple creative works. The costumes, blocking, acting and set design are as involved and detailed as a play.
Furthermore, movies extend beyond the stationary performance of a play by adding technical elements as well; the movements of the camera, color design, editing and sound design, to name a few. These technical feats have been improved upon, expanded and revolutionized over time as directors have come to understand the potential of the medium and given license to their creativity to roam freely.
The last and final element of a film’s production is the scoring. A composer will speak with the director, understand the emotional core of the story and the characters and compose musical themes, soundscapes and symphonies to accompany the movie. Not only must the score be entirely original and purely creative, it must also impress an emotional impact on the audience in a way that moving pictures alone could not achieve. The great film composer John Williams noted, “In film, music represents the words that cannot be spoken.”
Movies are the most creative of all the art forms. They have the greatest horizontal depth and magnitude through their combination of several disciplines. All artists, from the director and cinematographer, to the composer and set designer, must hone their crafts, come together and work harmoniously to produce the art that is a film.
But remember, however complex a movie may be, like any other idea of great scope, it starts with the simple creative act of writing. Putting the idea on paper is the necessary initial step to presenting your vision to the world. As the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa said, “If you genuinely want to make films, then write screenplays. All you need to write a script is paper and a pencil.” The barrier to entry of the most creative form of art is paper and pencil. We just have to start writing.
Photo Caption: As the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa said, “All you need to write a script is paper and a pencil.”
Photo Credit: Unsplash