Frames and Containers

Curator's Note

In his 1931 essay “The Dynamic Square,” Sergei Eisenstein campaigned for a flexible cinematic frame, whose variable dimensions might allow filmmakers to explore “all the multitude of expressive rectangles in the world”, opening up an indefinite vision of what this burgeoning artform could be. Unfortunately, his proposal was frustrated by the rigidity of the cinema screen, which then — as now — offered filmmakers a prescriptive landscape container for their creations, at the behest of forces both commercial and cultural.

In this video essay, I revisit Eisenstein’s proposal, as well as Julian Hanich’s recent essay “Reflecting on Reflections,” to explore how filmmakers have rebelled against this rigidity in the 85 years since “The Dynamic Square.” Ultimately, I argue that those same commercial and cultural forces that once defied Eisenstein, now conspire to make his vision a reality, by rendering cinema’s containers (cinema screens, televisions, and an array of portable devices) every bit as flexible as he once imagined the frame.