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Essay Topic: The Attraction:  Discuss the similarities and differences between the early cinema of attractions and contemporary spectacle films with reference to Tom Gunning’s article


The concept of cinema of attraction was introduced by Tom Gunning to refute the argument that older films were not appealing. According to the scholar, the concept of cinema of attraction refers to movies relying on the visual component more than the narration to acquire an opportunity of soliciting the attention of the spectators. The emergence of the concept led to the perception that a film is not only created for entertainment but is also developed for purposes of getting the attention of the audience. Such attraction is essential in any film since its facilitates a relationship with the spectators that is entirely different from the experience of an illusory film. An argument is thus presented that the concepts of cinema of attraction are relevant in contemporary filmmaking. Using examples from two different time periods, specifically the L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat by Louis and Auguste Lumièreand the modern The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the study will identify the similarities and differences observed in reference to the concept of cinema of attraction. The major focus of the essay is to identify the elements of cinema of attractions that are vital in the development of contemporary, unique film features. For instance, Lumière in early filmmaking were not concerned with narration at all. They filmed ordinary occurrences, such as a train coming to the station. In contrast, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is wholly dedicated to telling a complex story. Moreover, the mise-en-scène of the earliest filmmakers are stark, almost documentarian, while The Diving Bell and the Butterfly creatively assumes first person point of view to tell the story. The cinematography of the latter is particularly impressive, because it assumes the perspective of a paralyzed man, allowing the audience to fully identify with the protagonist. Such unique experience is only amplified by editing that coincides with the main character opening and closing his eyes. However, one must remember that just as the experience of watching the world through the eyes of another is novel for modern viewers, so seeing images moving on the screen was for people at the turn of the century.

Part 1

List of sources


Strauven, Wanda. The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.

Essay in anthology (edited book)

Gunning, Tom. “Attractions: How They Came into the World.” In The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, edited by Strauven, Wanda, 31-40. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.

Scholarly journal article

Musser, Charles. “Rethinking Early Cinema: Cinema of Attractions and Narrativity.” The Yale Journal of Criticism 7, no. 2 (1994): 203.

Popular or trade magazine article

Chiasson, Wanda. “2001: A Space Odyssey”: What It Means, and How It Was Made.” The New Yorker, April 23, 2018.

Newspaper Article or Review

Hess, Amanda. “The Silent Film Returns — on Social Media.” The New York Times, September 13, 2017.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Directed byJulian Schnabel. Paris, France: Pathé Distribution, 2007.

Scholarly and reliable webpage

Sun, Vincent Li. “Cinema of Attractions.” Film Theory. Last modified April 27, 2010.

Unreliable internet webpage

Miller, Frank. “This is Sparta” a Contemporary Cinema of Attractions.” Accessed February 19, 2018.      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Part 2: Quotation

“The cinema of attractions solicits a highly conscious awareness of the film image engaging the viewer’s curiosity.” Instead of having the audiences focusing on the narrative, I think the films from cinema of attractions encourage the audiences to remain aware of the act of looking, the impulse and excitement from the image” (Sun 2010).

“As for the scenario, the “fable,” or “tale,” I only consider it at the end. I can state the scenario constructed in this manner has no importance, since I use it merely as a pretext for the “stage effects,” the “tricks,” or for a nicely arranged tabreau” (Gunning 2006, 382).

“Fictional situation tend to be restricted to gags, vaudeville numbers of recreations of shocking or curious incidence (executions, current events). It is the direct address of the audience in which an attraction is offered to the speculator by a cinema showman that defines this approach to film making”(Gunning 2006, 384).

Dan Chiasson discusses the role of cinema of attractions in the early years, namely the desire of filmmakers to showcase the power of the medium through simple shots of ordinary life that would seem mundane to the modern viewer.

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