Perspectives on Film: Introduction
The concept of film studies is about understanding why a film makes us feel in a particular way and evaluating why we have a specific opinion towards a movie instead of focusing on the feeling and opinion themselves. In order to do this, there's a need to focus on the form of the film rather than the story. The film's form refers to how the story, which is the content of the film, is expressed. It represents the set of conventions based on established related patterns used to evaluate, perceive, and define a work of art.
Two primary senses are explored in movies: hearing and sight. There are countless elements that can stimulate either of these senses, and filmmakers combine and exploit these elements to create different film styles, which usually fall into three possible forms.
Forms of Film
There are three categories that a film can fall into when it comes to forms. They are:
1. Narrative form: This is the most common form of filmmaking and refers to the films that tell a story. These sorts of movies are also called fictional films. However, the term fictional doesn't mean they are bared on fictitious events. Instead, it means the filmmaker has complete freedom and discretion when it comes to storylines and how the historical facts can be altered. These films are usually structured based on a system of cause and effects, no matter how random it may appear at first.
2. Documentary form: This is an expository type of filmmaking where historical events and real facts are exposed and analyzed. This is not to say the films in documentary forms present the complete truth at all times. There are times when the filmmaker's creativity leads to manipulation of the truth, sometimes unwittingly. Most documentary films rely heavily on interviews, and expert witnesses accompanied the Voice of God feature.
3. Experimental form: This form of filmmaking is as rare as it is unpopular. Also called avant-garde, films in these forms usually have a chaotic, incoherent, and disorderly, with ideas combined in an arbitrary manner with no regard for structure, theme, or characters. For any viewer seeing them, the general feeling is usually confusion and annoyance, which explains why they are not viable commercially and rarely aired on TV or screened in theatre.
Importance of form
Expectations: The form of a film can create expectations as regards the patterns that exist between different elements of the film and how they relate. On the basis of form alone, we develop curiosity regarding what will happen next and form ideas about what has happened in the past, leading to engagement with the movie. The curiosity can later be gratified or left ungratified as suspense.
Convention: Expectations are not only based on the elements that exist in the particular film we see alone, but rooted in general experiences derived from life, movies, and artworks in general. While most films reinforce conventions, there are those that break them to create new conventions too.
Meaning: Form also lends a film its meaning. As humans, we are naturally bound to look for meaning in everything we see. This meaning can be in two forms: Implicit meaning, which is the deeper meaning that a work of art has, and the explicit meaning, which can be likened to the basic description of the film. These meanings can always be traced to the film's form.
This refers to the different film techniques employed by a filmmaker to give a specific value or make a particular change in a film. It covers all aspects of filmmaking from the sound, cinematography, dialogue, mise-en-scene, attitude, and editing. When it comes to style, there are certain standards that exist. However, most directors have a distinctive style similar to the unique writing style of an author. With so many technical possibilities that could be explored in filmmaking, there are wide disparities in techniques used over time. Historical circumstances play a significant role in determining the techniques used in making a movie and the style that results from such techniques. For instance, the inability to synchronize dialogue until the late 1920s when sound became possible, led to the creation of the silent film style such as the ones done by Charlie Chaplin. Also, the black and white film style was popular before the 1930s due to the fact that color tints were not available.
Types of film style
Film noir: This is a film style adopted by the Hollywood crime dramas of the 1940s and 1950s. Its origin was traced to the German expressionist cinematography, and it was characterized by the black and white low-key visual style. Films in this category include The Setup, The Big Heat, Night and City, The Big Combo, etc.
Italian Neorealism: This represented a post-second world war film movement in which the story revolved around the working class and poor people. This style was characterized by themes revolving around Italy's difficult moral and economic conditions at that time. It used mostly nonprofessional actors and was filmed on location.
Art film: This film style comprises the independent film created for a niche market instead of general film audiences. They are serious films created for an aesthetic and experimental reason rather than commercial profit.
These refer to the creative approach in which shots and sounds are compiled to create a film. It covers essential techniques such as camera lighting, camera movement, shot composition, sound, editing, and many others. Film techniques are how directors establish their distinct styles.
Even the most basic of these techniques have helped make movies more interesting and filmmaking easier. Editing was one of the first film techniques to be used and since then has made it possible to have multiple shots which can be combined into one seamless piece of film. one of the first films where editing was used was Come Along Do in 1898.
Author: Frank Taylor