In motion pictures or television, literature is the ruler and term-setter, with music serving only as an incidental, background accompaniment. Screen and television plays are subcategories of the drama, and in the dramatic arts “the play is the thing.” The play is that which makes it art; the play provides the end, to which all the rest is the means.
Visual art is an intrinsic part of films in a much deeper sense than the mere selection of sets and camera angles . . . a “motion picture” is literally that, and has to be a stylized visual composition in motion . . . .
Potentially, motion pictures are a great art, but that potential has not as yet been actualized, except in single instances and random moments. An art that requires the synchronization of so many esthetic elements and so many different talents cannot develop in a period of philosophical-cultural disintegration such as the present. Its development requires the creative cooperation of men who are united, not necessarily by their formal philosophical convictions, but by their fundamental view of man, i.e., by their sense of life.
The movies are still in the position of a retarded child: born into a collapsing family, i.e., a deteriorating culture, an art that demanded Romanticism was left to struggle blindly in the midst of a value-desert. It produced a few rare, almost accidental sparks of true greatness, displaying its untouched potential, then was swallowed again in a growing tide of mediocrity.
Today, the movies have gone all the way back to the pre-Griffith days; or rather, they have accepted, on a broad scale, the error that destroyed D. W. Griffith: the belief that a movie is primarily a director’s art, that content, story, and cast do not matter—i.e., that it is an art concerned only with the “how,” not the “what”—i.e., that it is an art of means, without ends—i.e., that it is the field of trick photographers, not of artists.