THE ADVERTISING OF ATTRACTIONS
By Pjotr Barakov
Pioneering Soviet Russian film theorist and film director Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein used the term ‘attractions’ in attempt to describe a ‘unit of impression’ of theatrical art. According to Eisenstein, an attraction aggressively subjected the spectator to “sensual or psychological impact”. The term ‘cinema of attractions’ was coined in the mid-1980s by film theorists Tom Gunning and Andre Gaudreault and related to a type of film shot from 1895 to 1906.
The cinema of attractions bases itself on the quality that French filmmaker Fernand Léger celebrated: its ability to show something. As a consequence, the cinema of attractions has purely exhibitionist nature as opposed to the narrative films, where plot has the greatest value. The main aim of the exhibitionist filmmakers was to show the possibilities and power of the ‘new’ technology, usually to the detriment of the plot.
Besides fascination with the possibilities of the ‘new’ technology and the lack of narrative, interaction with the audience is another distinctive feature of the cinema of attractions. It is expressed in lots of attention paid to eye contact, which is meant to give the viewer the sense that they, in turn, are being watched by what they are watching, making them self aware as an audience.
Cinema after 1906 pushed towards the structure of linear narrative, and away from the immediacy of the “spectacular image”. The period from 1907 to about 1913 represents the true narrativization of the cinema, culminating in the appearance of the feature films which radically revised the variety format.
If you’re still reading this, you might ask ‘So what?’. That’s a good question. See, pre-roll ads are a big part of advertising on Google (read online), but they present a challenge when it comes to capturing the viewer’s attention. Why? Because they’re only 6 seconds long. Considering that including a proper narrative in such time frame is barely possible, maybe the cinema of attractions is something we should learn the tricks from