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PSA201 Film Theory & Appreciation

WEEK 2 - Theory

Film Theories
It sheds light on what is the essential nature of cinema Most theories of film are concerned with the wider context of the medium its social, political and philosophical implications. Theorists explores the essential nature of cinema What differentiates it from other art forms? What are its basic properties

Theory Is an intellectual grid, a set of aesthetic generalizations, not eternal verities.

Traditionally, theorists have focused their attention on 5 areas of inquiry


a) the work of art b) the artist c) the audience d) the content e) the technology determinism

Film Theories
Theories of Realism (realists) Formalist Film Theories (formalists) The Auteur Theory Eclectic and Synthetic Theories Structuralism and Semiology Historiography

Theories of Realism
Most theorists of realism emphasize the documentary aspects of film art Subject matters is paramount in the cinema of realism- actual events, situations & happennings. Movies are evaluated primarily in terms of how accurately, they reflect external reality

Theories of Realism
Movie is shot at actual locations and there are many exterior shots with no additional lights used (natural light). The structure of the movie is episodic- a series of vignettes. (a short pieces of writing, music, acting which clearly expresses the typical characteristics of something or someone).

Example of Realist Movies


Open City (Italy, 1945), directed by Roberto Rossellini. Umberto D, directed (Italy, 1952) by Vittorio de Sica. The rules of the game (France, 1939), directed by Jean Renoir. Pather Panchali The song of the road (India, 1955), directed by Satyajit Ray. The tree of the Wooden Clogs (Italy, 1978) by Ermanno Olmi.

Apus trilogy

Apus trilogy

Realist Theorist & Film Makers


Andre Bazin Cesare Zavattini- defined the ordinary and the everyday as the main business of the cinema. Siegfried Kracauer- the cinema is characterized by a number of natural affinities.

Realist Theorist & Film Makers


Roberto Rossellini- This is the way things are. Luchino Visconti & Vittorio De sica- Other realist theorist.

Neo-realism
Themes of poverty and other social conditions of people on the streets. The usage of non-actors in their own settings. Economised the uses of raw stock film and the camera style. Capturing the human emotions of the poverty stricken/unemployed characters.

Characteristic-Neo-realism
Avoidance of neatly plotted stories in favour of loose, episodic structures that evolve organically from the situations of the characters. A documentary visual style. The use of actual locations, usually exteriors rather than studio sets.

Characteristic-Neo-realism
The use of non professional actors, sometimes even for principal roles. Avoidance of literary dialogue in favour of conversational speech, including dialects. Avoidance of artifice in the editing, camera work and lighting in favor of a simple style less style.

Formalist Film Theories


Valued cinema as an creation of art form. Advocates the artistic and aesthetic purpose of films. Raw material is provided by the limitations of film. (2D, lacks of colour/sound, framing, temporal and spatial corruption) This limitation makes film more suited for artistic purpose.

Formalist Film Theories


Representation can never be real. Film as abstract- lack of sense of touch, taste and smell. Expressive over representation. Sound and other technology advancement destroy PURITY. Mind can see more than eyes- basis of Gestalt psychology

Gestalt psychology

Formalist Film Theories


Formalist believe that the art of cinema is possible precisely because movie is unlike everyday reality. Exploitation of the limitation of the medium, its 2D, its confining frame, its fragmented time space continuum. Not representation of reality but translation of observe characteristics into the forms of medium.

Formalist Film Theories


Movies cannot be real. - Reason 1: Camera has its own platform and reality has its own platform. - Reason 2: In reality, space and time are continuous . Through editing, film makers can chop up space and time and rearrange in more meaningful manners, creating continuity that doesnt exist in raw nature.

Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Auteur Theory


Auteur critics claimed that what makes good film is not the subject matter as such but its stylist treatment. The director dominates the treatment, provided he or she is a strong director an auteur. Movies ought to be judge on the basis of how it is get done not what it is?

The Auteur Theory


The greatest movies are dominated by the personal vision of the director. A filmmakers signature can be perceived through an examination of his or her total output, which is characterized by a nity of theme and style. Eg: Hitchcocks thrillers : Spielberg's science fiction

Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)

The birds (1963)

Auteur Theory Weaknesses


Emphasizes history and a directors total output, which tends to favour older directors at the expense of newcomers. They were fond of ranking directors and their listings could be bizzarre. Some films are dominated by stars (Tom Cruise), producers (George Lucas) and financiers (Disney) rather than directors.

Conclusion- Auteur Theory


Despite its shortcomings and excesses, the auteur theory had a liberating effect on film criticism, establishing the director as the key figure at least in the art of cinema, if not always the industry. The concept of directional dominance remains firmly established at least with films of high artistic merit. (eg. Spielberg, Spike lee, Scorsese, Ang Lee)

Eclectic and Synthetic Theories


Eclectic critics reject the notion that a single theory can explain all movies. Eclecticism isnt really a theory so much as a method of practical criticism. A favoured approach of many film critics in United States. Eclectic critics often combine movie criticism with social movements such as feminism. Personal taste is the main determinant of value in eclectic criticism

Structuralism & Semiology


Semiology is the study of how movies signify. Structuralism theorist borrowed their methodology from diverse disciplines such as linguistics, anthropology and philosophy.

Structuralism & Semiology


Semiology is concerned with systematic classification of types of codes used in the cinema. Structuralism is a study of how various codes function within a single structure within a movie. Icon (sickle and hammer), Index (smoke) & Symbol (red lights).

Ju Dou (1990)

Hero (2002)

Structuralism & Semiology


Movies made up of many small elementsshot, scene, plot, story. As well as, colour design and camera techniques. Fascinated by concept of deep structuretext and intertextual, this can be analyzed based on Fruedian & Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxist economics & etc.

Dialetical conflict
Japanese film
Traditional Japanese Feudal Hierarchy Nature Duty Self-sacrifice Consensus Conservative Obedience Modern Western Democratic Equality Technology Inclination Self-expression Diversity Liberal Independence

Dialetical conflict
Western Movies
West Wilderness Individualism Self Interest Freedom Private honour Nature East Civilization Community Social welfare Restriction Institutional Justice Culture

Weaknesses- Structuralism & Semiology


It cannot tell us the value of the signs and codes within the film. However they allow theorists the tools to analyze films with more precision. Its overuse terms: eg, signs, signifier, signified, syntagm or paradigm. It has its own technical term.

Histography
Deals with theory of history- assumption, principles and methodologies of historical study. There are many film histories and each is defined by the historians particular interest, biases, and prejudices.

Film history- 4 types


Aesthetics Film- Film as art. Technological- motion pictures as inventions and machines. Economic- film as industry. Social- movies as a reflection of the audiences values, desire and fears.

Thank you