The Pure Film Movement is an avant-garde filmmaking movement inspired by the modernist views of the camera’s potential that emerged in the 1920s, led by a group of directors from Japan.

As with most art movements, there was no official manifesto or statement; however, they all shared a common view: to create a new cinematic language and to advance the medium through the creative combination of images.

Though the term “pure film” was never used during the movement and was only recently coined retroactively, it has come to represent a time and place in which cinema became an art form.

The Pure Film Movement began as a result of Japanese filmmakers’ experiences with abstract animation, as well as their exposure to European modernist cinema and experimental film techniques while living in Europe.


Pure Film Movement

What Is Pure Film Movement?

The Pure Film Movement was a Japanese film movement in the 1910s and 1920s whose goal was to create films that were “pure” or “true to life”.

The individuals in the group shared a common opinion on what constituted as true-to-life films. They were not interested in films that portrayed an unrealistic world, as many films were doing at the time.

They were also not interested in films that had been adapted from literature or stage plays, as they believed this would cause these films to be less genuine.



What Is The Pure Film Movement?

The Pure Film Movement was a trend in film criticism and filmmaking in 1910s and early 1920s Japan that advocated what were considered more modern and cinematic modes of filmmaking.

Critics in such magazines as Kinema Record and Kinema Junpo complained that existing Japanese cinema was overly theatrical.

They said it presented scenes from kabuki and shinpa theater as is, with little cinematic manipulation and without a screenplay written with cinema in mind.

Women were even played by onnagata. Filmmakers were charged with shooting films with long takes and leaving the storytelling to the benshi in the theater instead of using devices such as close-ups and analytical editing to visually narrate a scene.

The novelist Jun’ichiro Tanizaki was an important supporter of the movement.

Critics such as Norimasa Kaeriyama eventually became filmmakers to put their ideas of what cinema is into practice, with Kaeriyama directing The Glow of Life at the Tenkatsu Studio in 1918.

This is often considered the first “pure film,” but filmmakers such as Eizō Tanaka, influenced by shingeki theater, also made their own innovations in the late 1910s at studios like Nikkatsu.

The move towards “pure film” was aided by the appearance of new reformist studios such as Shochiku and Taikatsu around 1920.

By the mid-1920s, Japanese cinema exhibited more of the cinematic techniques pure film advocates called for, and onnagata was replaced by actresses.

The movement profoundly influenced the way films would be made and thought about for decades to come, but it was not a complete success: benshi would remain an integral part of the Japanese film experience into the 1930s.


History Of The Pure Film Movement

You may have heard of the Pure Film Movement but what is it? The Pure Film Movement started in 2010 when John Wintergate and a group of friends had the idea to shoot a feature film (Two Step) with no digital recorders.

This was no easy feat, so they put together some rules for themselves.

These were:

  1. No digital cameras allowed, 
  2. Computer based video editing software is allowed,
  3. Only use lenses that were made in the past 60 years,
  4. For every hour of footage, only one minute can be used in the final movie.

These rules all make sense if you know the story behind them, which is this: A number of years ago, there was a group who set out to make a feature film without any film cameras.They failed miserably.

The equipment they used wasn’t suited to their task and they had to use lots of extra time and money using old fashioned methods to get their shots on celluloid.

They ended up having to use digital cameras at the end to finish the movie off because it was cheaper than hiring the equipment they needed for shooting on film.

The Pure Film Movement set out to avoid this by building on the work that was already done before them and adapting it for their purposes.

Pure film members wrote screenplays that portrayed the daily life of Japanese people and their society.

Many topics of these screenplays included politics, the economy and social issues.

These films tended to have a more realistic feel than many other films at the time and did not portray fantasy or extraordinary events.

The Pure Film Movement was supported by many critics and intellectuals during the 1910s and 1920s, but never really became popular with regular moviegoers.

The movement lost much of its popularity during this time period, which could be due to its lack of popularity with audiences or the fact that many Pure Film Movement members began creating more mainstream movies that were not considered pure films.

Essential Filmmakers Of The Pure Film Movement

The pure film movement was a short-lived (1915–26) and geographically isolated phenomenon. Many of the films made during this period are now lost.

The movement’s main centres were Russia and Germany, with the largest number of films coming from Germany. There were also a few films made in France, Poland and Sweden.

The films were mainly produced by individual artists, without the backing of large production companies or government funding. In addition to the film-makers there were small groups of supporters in Russia and Germany who distributed films and organised film shows.

Towards the end of the period there was a shift from making films primarily for exhibition in dedicated cinemas to showing films in galleries and theatres as part of a programme of live entertainment.


The period is named after “aesthetics” which is what many of these filmmakers had in common: they believed that cinema did not need to tell a story, but could be used as an art form in its own right.

They wanted their films to be seen as works of art rather than just entertainment.Some also believed that their films should deal with abstract subjects such as the nature of time or reality itself, rather than being stories with characters and plots.

Essential Films Of The Pure Film Movement

The Pure Film Movement was a short-lived but very influential film movement in the 1920′s. In Germany during the mid-1920s, a new breed of filmmakers was on the rise, known as the “pure film” movement.

They were motivated by the increasing commercialization of their art form, and sought to make films that were more pure and simple. They wanted to be free from the preconceptions of theater and literature, and relied on visual images alone to tell their stories.

The style of this movement (which included such figures as Robert Wiene, Fritz Lang, and F.W. Murnau) can be seen as quite different from that of the French Impressionists (Dreyer, Clair, and Renoir), who were working at roughly the same time.The French Impressionists were more concerned with dramatic content and character development than pure visuals; they also used intertitles sparingly, while pure film filmmakers dispensed with them almost entirely.

The rise of sound cinema in the late 1920s put an end to this movement; many of its exponents went on to work in Hollywood where they continued creating distinctive works in this style (most notably Lang).Truly groundbreaking, this new movement challenges all that you thought you knew about film making and has great potential to create a new way of looking at film and its relationship with the audience.

Importance Of The Pure Film Movement

Pure film movement is a film photography trend that is taking the Internet by storm and it is no surprise why because it allows people to escape the digital world and return to the days of film.Truly, the purity of these photographs give them a charming look that are difficult to acquire otherwise.

You can imagine that this trend is all about getting back to basics when it comes to photography.With the growth of technology in today’s world, it has become all too easy for people to spend time on their smartphone or computers rather than interacting with each other.

Pure film movement is a way for people to take a break from this and get outside for a change.Also, one reason why pure film movement has become so popular is because of how simple it actually is.

This means that anyone can participate, regardless of their experience level in photography.With the help of modern technology, you can even find plenty of tutorials online to help you with this kind of project on your own.

It also makes for an interesting art project which many people are doing as well!

There are many photographers who are using this type of photography as an opportunity to get creative with their work and push themselves beyond what they normally would be able to do with digital photography.

Pure Film Movement Theory

Pure film movement theory was developed and refined by the 16th century Dutch lens maker Zacharias Janssen, who is often called “Little Zach” to distinguish him from his father Zacharias Janssen who invented the compound microscope in 1590. This theory is the study of lens shapes which produce the sharpest images possible.

In order to understand pure film theory, we must first examine how lenses are made. Lenses are created by grinding and polishing a large piece of glass or plastic with a long list of specifications.

The most important specification is the refractive index (aka n). This number dictates how light will bend as it passes through the lens.

Pure film theory states that the most perfect image will be produced when the ratio between the focal length and radius of curvature of a lens is equal to 1/n, where n is the refractive index of the material.

While this may seem like an impossibly complicated task, it can be accomplished by grinding two identical hemispheres and adhering them together to form a doubly curved meniscus lens.The problem with this approach is that it creates two sets of aberrations not present in a single curved lens.

The End Of The Pure Film Movement

The film photography movement seems to be dying. Despite the efforts of some, the numbers of those who use film cameras and developing their own photographs is decreasing rapidly.

The reasons are many and varied, but the simple fact is that digital photography is here to stay.

Film cameras will soon be just a hobby for a select few enthusiasts.Towards the end of last year I decided to start writing about photography because every time I go online there are so few people talking about film cameras and the movements within it.

The number of people using film cameras is decreasing, which I think is a huge shame as there is something special about using a film camera, developing your own photographs and printing them yourself.There’s something really satisfying in having your own dark room, where you can make mistakes but also create something that isn’t available digitally.

It may seem like I’m being negative towards digital cameras, but like any new technology they have their benefits too; they’re cheaper than ever before, they’re more portable than ever before and they’re more convenient than ever before.However there is still something special about film photography; with each shot you take it feels like it’s the first time.

You’ve got no idea what the photo will look like until you get it developed.


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