Does cinema film have a future?

A couple sit in front of artist Tacita Dean's commissioned artwork "Film"

Darren Aronofsky sat back on his sun-lounger and smiled broadly.

It was early September and the film director was a happy man.

The weather was terrific; he was in Venice, and was thoroughly enjoying his role as chair of the Venice Film Festival jury. "And what," I asked, "did he like best about being chair?"

"Seeing all these great movies projected on 35mm film," he said. "It's so rare nowadays."

This morning the artist Tacita Dean is sitting at the far end of the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

The entire space has been blacked-out for her installation, Film (2011), which has just been unveiled to the press.

It consists of a 14m (42ft) tall monolith upon which her silent 35mm film Film, is being projected.

It is in a vertical, portrait format, which is very unusual. So is the nature of the installation: part artwork, part campaign piece.

The artist is using the opportunity of being asked to fill this very public platform to raise awareness of what she says is the imminent demise of film; as a medium for making and presenting.

And as an artist who uses film to make and show her work, she feels shocked and frustrated. She compares not being able to use film with a painter "being told that paint will no longer be available".

Analogue art

A book has been published to accompany the exhibition, in which she has invited 80 or so interested parties to comment on the crisis.

Among them are Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

Scorsese says that "no matter where cinema goes, we cannot afford to lose sight of its [films] beginnings".

Spielberg is more poetic, saying: "My favourite and preferred step between imagination and image is a strip of photochemistry that can be held, twisted, folded, looked at with a naked eye, or projected onto a surface for others to see.

Start Quote

Tacita Dean at the Tate

If you were a painter, would you want the viewer to see your painting or a digital reproduction of it?”

End Quote Tacita Dean

"It has a scent and it is imperfect... I will remain loyal to this analogue art form until the last lab closes."

Which, according to Tacita Dean, could be sooner rather than later.

Her campaign is not anti-digital, but pro-film.

Her point is that they are very different mediums, with different characteristics, which produce different results.

And even if digital is able to mimic the look and feel of film, it cannot mimic the process of making, which forces the film maker into technical and artistic situations digital does not.

That is the making side of things, but there is also the exhibition side: the screening of a finished film.

Nowadays even if a movie has been shot on film it is often shown digitally (Aronofsky's point), which he and many others say is not the same visual experience.

Tacita Dean goes back to her comparison with paintings.

"If you were a painter, would you want the viewer to see your painting or a digital reproduction of it?" she asks.

Of course there are market forces, and all sorts of other real world issues to consider.

But it would be a great loss if digital became the grey squirrel of the arts.

Music has fought back by making vinyl more available and the public have responded. What will the film industry do?

Update: Here's my report for the News at Ten on the latest installation in the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall.

Tacita Dean: ''I've turned the Turbine Hall into a strip of film''

Will Gompertz Article written by Will Gompertz Will Gompertz Arts editor

UK visitor numbers drop at top London art galleries

Two of London's most prestigious fine art galleries have seen UK visitor numbers fall significantly over the last five years, official figures show.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I think some of the best recent films
    have been made on a low budget, a very low budget

    No studios to back them up
    They just went out and made them

    Couldn't afford film
    (didn't even think of buying film)
    But they made them none the less

    When all that limits you
    Is your imagination...

    (Just try to get the image
    of Steven Spielberg sniffing film
    out of it
    and you'll be fine)

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I suppose the other factor with the demise of the cinema which also partially accounds for the increased use of digital media is the fact TV screens have got bigger and people can also have digital projectors at home. So there's no need to go to the cinema and hang out in a dark room with a crowd of strangers, when you can relax and watch a movie in comfort, and even smoke if you want. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Wow, the medium is the message.

    I can sympathise with the sentiment and nostalgia but a true artist wouldn't let the unavailability of media put a halt to creativity, they'd find another way. Besides, initially, painters had to make their own paint, and rumble and hiss can easily be added to a digital recording to fool people into believing it's analog vinyl; there's a lot of nonsense about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    It's not the medium that is the problem, but the means to display it. In the ever-increasing race to better technology, the machines fall by the wayside. What do you do with all your Betamax tapes and Blu-Ray discs, when there are no longer any machines to play them on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Using the term "analogue film" for films shot on celluloid (35mm/16mm etc.) is symptomatic of general ignorance about history of cinema. It completely overlooks significant number of films shot on analog video since 1956. Among the most famous are 200 Motels (1971) with Ringo Starr as Frank Zappa, and Antonioni's adaptation of Jean Cocteau's Il mistero di Oberwald (1981), both with 35mm prints.


Comments 5 of 69



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.