"Pudovkin has said film strives to lead the spectator beyond the sphere of ordinary human conceptions. For the ordinary person in everyday life, sight is merely a means of finding his bearings in the natural world. Roughly speaking, he sees only so much of the object surrounding him as is necessary for his purpose. If a man is standing at the counter of a haberdasher's shop, the salesman will presumably pay less attention to the customer's facial expression than to the kind of tie he is wearing (so as to guess his taste) and to the quality of his clothes...." (Rudolf Arnheim Film as Art). The first sentence seems fine, but the second is false. The ordinary person in everyday life might use sight just to find his bearings in the natural world: for example, I am walking in the woods and I want to know where north is, so I look to see where the sun is setting. But this is not the only ordinary use of sight. Sight is ordinarily often used just to entertain oneself ...for example in observing the people in a museum during an interval between looking at artworks. The next sentence may be true, although not only for the ordinary person in everyday life but for everyone at least some of the time: for example, a great pianist may focus just on what is necessary for realizing this work by Beethoven in front of this audience. Also the mind of the ordinary person often wanders from the purpose is at hand. The next sentence seems wrong too since the salesman, although clearly focusing on what is necessary for the situation, is in fact focusing on aesthetic qualities. He is simply focusing on aesthetic qualities of the clothes and not on the aesthetic qualities of the face. So, what does this say about the first sentence? The film maker could focus on the aesthetic qualities of the face, but could equally well focus on the same aesthetic qualities of the clothes that the salesman would focus on. The filmmaker could give us the world through the eyes of the salesman. Yes, films take us beyond the ordinary, but let us not think that the ordinary itself is so mechanical and bland. As Dewey would say, film as art abstracts and intensifies the aesthetics of everyday life.
Arnheim is not out of accord with this. For he also gives an excellent description of how a film maker can make something ordinary extraordinary and, through doing so, can highlight features of the world surrounding us that we do not normally notice.
"If an ordinary picture of some men in a rowing boat appears on the screen, the spectator will perhaps perceive that there is a boat, and nothing further. But if, for example, the camera is suspended high up, so that the spectator sees the boat and the men from above, the result is a view very seldom seen in real life. The interest is thereby diverted from the subject to the form. The spectator notices how strikingly spindle-shaped is the boat and how curiously the bodies of the men swing to and fro. Things that previously remained unnoticed are the more striking because, the object itself appears strange and unusual. The spectator is thus brought to see something familiar as something new." (Arnheim Film as Art)
Notice that this transformation is not fully described when it is described as a change from subject to form. It could better be described as a change from seeing the subject just in terms of conventional labels and noticing other features of the subject through seeing it "as something new." Seeing something formally is not the same as seeing "as something new"!
To continue on the same quote: "At this moment, he becomes capable of true observation. For it is not only that he is now stimulated to notice whether the natural objects have been rendered characteristically or colorlessly, with originality or obviously, but by stimulating the interest through the unusualness of the aspect the objects themselves become more vivid and therefore more capable of effect. In watching a good shot of a horse I shall have a much stronger feeling that 'here is an actual horse - a big beast with satiny skin and with such a smell...' That is to say, therefore, not only form but objective qualities will impose themselves more compellingly." (Film as Art 43-44)
Thanks to Noel Carroll Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory (Princeton U. Press, 1988) for drawing my attention to these quotes.