Film as art

Robert Stecker

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Scopus citations


    Question: Is film art? The question is ambiguous. It might be asking whether films are artworks, or, more cautiously, whether there are films that are artworks. Or, it might be asking whether film is an art form, or more cautiously, whether a kind of film medium is or contains an art form. A natural follow-up to the first question is, What makes an individual film an artwork? A natural follow-up to the second questions is, What makes a film medium (contain) an art form? That there are distinct questions here may not be obvious. But the distinction is important and neglected. So is the philosophical investigation of art forms, which has always taken a backseat to artworks when people ask the question “what is art?" The reason the distinction is important is this. Consider one film medium: still photography. There are lots of still photos, such as most family snapshots, that have no pretension to being artworks. There are others that almost certainly are artworks. But given that there are a vast number of nonart photos, someone might question whether still photography is an art form. Or, if they don’t question this, they might still wonder what is responsible for the existence of an art form in a sea of nonart photographs. The main focus of this essay is film in the sense of moving pictures as seen in the cinema, on television and on video or DVDs, though I will continue to pull in still photographs when it is helpful to do so. The majority view today is that film is an art form and, hence, many cinematic works are artworks. On this view, the main issues concern the nature of the art form, the nature of the film artwork, and the boundary between film art and film nonart. A further question, but one that we have space only to touch on, is whether there are important differences in the way we appreciate artworks and nonartworks that share the same medium? Why should anyone care whether some films are artworks and whether there are one or more film art forms? The short answer concerning works is that, while asserting that a film is an artwork does not entail that it has any special value, it does entail it is the sort of thing capable of having great value. Regarding forms, the short answer is that asserting that there is a film art form entails that an institution exists for creating, distributing, interpreting, and evaluating a class of items, all of which are films, capable of having such value. Fuller answers will emerge from what is said below.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Number of pages10
    ISBN (Electronic)9781135982751
    ISBN (Print)9780415771665
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


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