Film: A popular art form

Film is nothing but tiny pictures until someone sees it

You are sitting in a film theatre. Only when the action on the screen and the reaction in your mind are united as one, “film” is taking place.

This ‘communication’ begins with the screenwriter who created the idea for the film and uses film as the medium (the element that the artist uses to express ideas) for communicating and expressing the idea.

Film is two entities:

  • A long strip of celluloid with small pictures on it, which is projected with the aid of light and a lens, onto a screen.
  • It is also a communication between the filmmaker and the audience.

Just as a book is nothing but words until someone reads it, the film is nothing but tiny pictures until someone sees it.

Why are films popular?

  • Film today is an art form:  Along with such other art forms as painting, sculpture, music, writing, architecture, dance and theatre, the art of film is a continuing endeavour by creative people to find ways to express themselves and communicate their ideas.
  • The very nature of the film medium itself perpetuates its popularity: The size of the image  – IMAX versus a small screen – the use of colour, the stars of the film, and the interest in popular story lines, such as sequels, all contribute to film’s universal acceptance and popularity.
  • It is easy for an audience to become involved in a film:  There seems to be little to do except let it pour into their head.
  • To most people, films seem to be real: It is if the action were taking place as they are watching. When you are telling someone about a film you have seen, you often say: I saw the most amazing film last night…Have you seen it yet?” You ask the question in the past tense, yet describe the film in the present tense… In Starman an alien comes to observe life on earth and gets stranded near the home of a young widow…. You are describing the film’s action as if it is still happening.
  • Films are an arena in which magical things can happen: Jeff Kitchen, the author of Writing A Great Movie says: “That’s part of their enchantment – the things that could never happen in real life can happen in film and theatre, even only for a few special hours… People naturally seek closure and meaning in life – sometimes a film can provide this if ‘real life’ cannot.”
  • Drama is a crucible: We can experiment with powerful situations, explosive reactions, radical solutions, and forbidden ideas. People often need drastic changes in their lives, but experimenting can be risky. Films are a ‘let’s pretend’ arena: We can engage in an experiment from a safe distance.
  • Films have become part of our culture: They influence how we think and what we do. It is chic to be able to talk to others about the Terror Dogs in Ghostbusters, the dinosaurs in The Lost World, the volcano in Dante’s Peak; or the latest festival of operas a Cinema Nouveau. A kind of belonging and a closer relationship develops among people when they talk about mutual experiences. When people talk about films, they like to believe they are experts. They speak with authority and they tell each other their opinions and reactions.
  • Films influence people in many fads, clothing styles, mannerisms, and lifestyles that they copy from actors and actresses: Think of the influence of Marlon Brando’s jeans and leather jacket, Marilyn Monroe, the Spice Girls… Merchandising has become a major part of our culture. If you buy a burger at Mac Donald’s you can get the latest  Kung Fu Panda action figures.
  • People go to films because it’s a way of escaping the realities of life: If only for a short time, a film allows you to experience undreamed-of excitement, adventure, drama, comedy, and romance in your not-very exciting life. During the Depression of the 30s, thousands of people flocked to films to see beautiful people tap dance across gigantic, lavish stages in the pure-escape films of Bushby Berkeley. During the 70s people flocked to see spectacular “disaster” films, such as Earthquake, The Towering Inferno. Today people flock to see special effects ‘never seen before’,  the science fiction world of the Fifth Element; dinosaurs in The Lost World, giant insects attacking the world in Starship Troopers; tornadoes in Twister, and the futuristic computer-generated world of George Lucas in the first instalment to the Star Wars saga, The Phantom Menace.
  • Film has the ability to transport us in time and it can also reflect the society of an earlier day: David Lean gave us a vivid picture of Czarist Russia in Doctor Zhivago; Amadeus took us back to the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • Film is the art of the world that we can share easily with all other people: A film scene of a child smelling a flower means nearly the same thing to the Russian, Japanese, French, African and American audiences.
  • The moving picture camera can make a flower bloom before your eyes: It can capture the grace and beauty of a flying bird.
  • The moving image can transport us to any place on earth, or beyond, or underneath, or even out of the galaxy.
  • The camera can see the world through other people’s eyes. A thousand words can be written about a girl’s beauty. Yet, a picture of her face, showing her responding emotionally, tells us so much more about what she is like.
  • The world of film allows several generations of people around the globe to experience and remember films. As people look back in their lives, they remember a line, a scene, or perhaps a sequence from a favourite film. These reflections, like the recollections associated with a melody or song, bring memories of happiness, sadness, joy, fear, and even hate.
  • Film is now. It is in tune with the present.
  • Film shows us what it is like to be human.

Explore the World Of Film in our FILM APPRECIATION COURSE