From turn-of-the-century art theories through the beginnings of film theory to the film stylistics of the 1910s we clearly note an overarching aesthetic sensibility. In this essay, I have highlighted the marked interest of the period’s theorists in the relationship between effects of surface and depth in the two-dimensional image. I have shown that art theorist Adolf Hildebrand and film theorist Hugo Münsterberg outlined a dialectical conception for which it is crucial that the gaze oscillates between the image surface and an effectively shaped, imaginary spatial depth. Herbert Tannenbaum proposed to design the image surface not just with view to suggesting deep space but also as a surface in its own right, as a specific aesthetic entity. The analysis of Emerich Hanus’s film "Die Liebe der Maria Bonde" (Germany 1917/18) reveals that the film’s visual-stylistic qualities put great emphasis on the careful stimulation of such an oscillating gaze between surface aesthetics and depth illusion. Pars pro toto, this testifies to the aesthetic zeitgeist in the 1910s connecting various media and discourses.