Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Concepts and Theories Of Film


Earlier photographic optics and chemistry prohibited the recording of moving subjects except for a few experiments under special circumstances. Anything that moves produces a blur on the photographic plate or paper, and this was seen as limiting the medium's inherent capacity for Absolute Realism. The camera's inability to record motion perceived as a problem similar to its inability to record color was addressed almost immediately after the birth of the medium and solved step by step. The solution had widespread consequences: it made vulnerable the assumptions about the veracity of the medium; it produced a new graphic system to represent movement and it lead to be invention of Motion Pictures.

In the beginning all of motion pictures are screened silent until the global diffusion of sound recording technology in the period of 1927-32. This changed the structure of film industry and aesthetic dynamics of film industry. After the film became popular medium of entertainment. Film became influential and popular among mass so, some rulers as Hitlor, Stalin used film as propaganda tool during their rule.


Films are produced by recording images from the world with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or special effects. Films are cultural artifacts created by specific cultures, which reflect those cultures, and, in turn, affect them. Film is considered to be an important art form, a source of popular entertainment and a powerful method for educating — or indoctrinating — citizens. The visual elements of cinema give motion pictures a universal power of communication. Some films have become popular worldwide attractions by using dubbing or subtitles that translate the dialogue.

Traditional films are made up of a series of individual images called frames. When these images are shown rapidly in succession, a viewer has the illusion that motion is occurring. The viewer cannot see the flickering between frames due to an effect known as persistence of vision, whereby the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after the source has been removed. Viewers perceive motion due to a psychological effect called beta movement.

The origin of the name "film" comes from the fact that photographic film (also called film stock) had historically been the primary medium for recording and displaying motion pictures. Many other terms exist for an individual motion picture, including picture, picture show, photo-play, flick, and most commonly, movie. Additional terms for the field in general include the big screen, the silver screen, the cinema, and the movies.

Famous Indian Film maker Satyajit Roy identified film as a mirror of society. He opines that film should capture the social reality not only superficial. Another expert George Paul have own definition and meaning about film, he opine that film neither teach society nor life but only gives amusement. Using 'Film Liberty' it makes impossible as possible.

Renown Nepalese Film maker Nabin Subba analyze film interrelated with Culture, Market, Science and Art. He opines these all are basic component which makes film a film.

Film and Society

Capacity of capturing movement made revolution in human society. It's not only the tool amusement and propaganda but it captures history and transfers culture in generation to generation. All communicative acts and means have significance in human society. Film is not differ than others. In 1920s when film became a part of lifestyle in America, its massive effects were seen on children. Lumieres brothers invented film in 1895 and first show was held in 1903. Since then there is a debate about the relationship between film and society. Some experts opine film influence the people and others film is just a mirror of society, they are guided by normative values of society. There is divergent perspective in theorizing film.

Theories of Film

The word Theory has its etymological root in the Greek word Theoria. In ancient Greece, Theoria was a term used to refer to a group of envoys who represented each city states on the occasion of religious festivals or games. Theory is proposed explanation for set of coordinated occurrences and relationships of matters or phenomenon. In other words, a theory is systematic understanding. In this sense, theories provide "explanations of how or why things happen the way they do." Same applies in the sector of Moving Pictures. Film theories describe how and why films are. As other sector, there are divergent perspectives on film and film theory. Some experts opine film can portray the reality of society other emphasize on positive message. Some as George Paul describes film as a tool of entertainment. Giving emphasis to Film Liberty Paul opine that film nether teaches neither society nor life, it only provides amusement; there is no logics behind its arrangement.
Film theory seeks to develop concise, systematic concepts that apply to film and video. Classical film theory provides a structural framework to address classical issues of techniques, narrativity, diegesis, cinematic codes, "the image", genre, subjectivity, and authorship. Recent analysis has given rise to psychoanalytic film theory, structuralist film theory and feminist film theory. Behavioral, Structural and Cultural patterns are taking place in film study recently.
Here we discuss some of Film Theories:

1. Socialist Realism Theory — Socialist realism is a teleological-oriented style of realistic art which has as its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism. Although related, it should not be confused with social realism, a type of art that realistically depicts subjects of social concern.

Socialist realism was the officially approved type of art in the Soviet Union for nearly sixty years. Communist doctrine decreed that all material goods and means of production belonged to the community as a whole. This included means of producing art, which were also seen as powerful propaganda tools. During the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks established an institution called Proletkult (the Proletarian Cultural and Enlightenment Organizations) which sought to put all arts into the service of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Socialist realism became state policy in 1932 when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin promulgated the decree "On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations".

The Soviet Union exported socialist realism to virtually all of the other Communist countries, although the degree to which it was enforced there varied somewhat from country to country. It became the predominant art form across the Communist world for almost fifty years. The doctrine of socialist realism in other Soviet-controlled new People's Republics was legally enforced from 1949 to 1956. Today, arguably the only countries still focused on these aesthetic principles are North Korea, Laos, and to some extent Vietnam. The People's Republic of China occasionally reverts to socialist realism for specific purposes, such as idealised propaganda posters to promote the Chinese space program. Socialist realism had little mainstream impact in the non-Communist world, where it was widely seen as a totalitarian means of imposing state control on artists.

Socialist realism had its roots in neoclassicism and the traditions of realism in Russian literature of the 19th century that described the life of simple people. It was exemplified by the aesthetic philosophy of Maxim Gorki. The work of the Peredvizhniki ("Wanderers," a Russian realist movement of the late 19th / early 20th centuries), Jacques-Louis David and Ilya Yefimovich Repin were notable influences.
Socialist realism held that successful art depicts and glorifies the proletariat's struggle toward socialist progress. The Statute of the Union of Soviet Writers in 1934 stated that socialist realism. It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development. Moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism.

Its purpose was to elevate the common worker, whether factory or agricultural, by presenting his life, work, and recreation as admirable. In other words, its goal was to educate the people in the goals and meaning of Communism. The ultimate aim was to create what Lenin called "an entirely new type of human being": New Soviet Man. Stalin described the practitioners of socialist realism as "engineers of souls". The political doctrine behind socialist realism also underlay the pervasive censorship of Communist societies many then joined Western observers in denouncing socialist realism as mere propaganda. Maxim Gorky's novel Mother and films based on it is usually considered as socialist realism.

2. Structuralist Theory —
The structuralist film theory emphasizes how films convey meaning through the use of codes and conventions not dissimilar to the way languages are used to construct meaning in communication. An example of this is understanding how the simple combination of shots can create an additional idea: the blank expression on a person's face, a piece of an appetising cherry-topped chocolate fudge cake, and then back to the person's face. While nothing in this sequence literally expresses hunger—or desire—the juxtaposition of the images convey that meaning to the audience. Unraveling this additional meaning can become quite complex. Lighting, angle, shot duration, juxtaposition, cultural context, and a wide array of other elements can actively reinforce or undermine a sequence's meaning.

3. Apparatus Theory — Apparatus theory derived in part from Marxist film theory, semiotics, and psychoanalysis, was a dominant theory within cinema studies during the 1970s. It maintains that cinema is by nature ideological because its mechanics of representation are ideological. Its mechanics of representation include the camera and editing. The central position of the spectator within the perspective of the composition is also ideological. Apparatus theory also argues that cinema maintains the dominant ideology of the culture within the viewer. Ideology is not imposed on cinema, but is part of its nature. Apparatus theory follows an institutional model of spectatorship.

4. Auteur Theory —
Auteur theory holds that a director's films reflect that director's personal creative vision, as if he or she were the primary "Auteur" (the French word for "author"). In some cases, film producers are considered to have a similar "Auteur" role for films that they have produced. In law the Auteur is the creator of a film as a work of art, and is the original copyright holder. Under European Union law the film director shall always be considered the author or one of the authors of a film. The Auteur theory was used by the directors of the nouvelle vague (new wave) movement of French cinema in the 1960s (many of whom were also critics at the Cahiers du cinéma) as justification for their intensely personal and idiosyncratic films. One of the ironies of the Auteur theory is that, at the very moment Truffaut was writing, the break-up of the Hollywood studio system during the 1950s was ushering in a period of uncertainty and conservatism in American cinema, with the result that fewer of the sort of films Truffaut admired were actually being made.

5 Feminist film Theory —
Feminist film theory is theoretical film criticism derived from feminist politics and feminist theory. Feminists have many approaches to cinema analysis, regarding the film elements analyzed and their theoretical underpinnings. The development of feminist film theory was influenced by second wave feminism and the development of women's studies within the academy. Feminist scholars began applying the new theories arising from these movements to analyzing film. Initial attempts in the United States in the early 1970’s were generally based on sociological theory and focused on the function of women characters in particular film narratives or genres and of stereotypes as a reflection of a society's view of women. Works such as Marjorie Rosen’s Popcorn Venus: Women, Movies, and the American Dream (1973) and Molly Haskell’s From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in Movies (1974) analyzed how the women portrayed in film related to the broader historical context, the stereotypes depicted, the extent to which the women were shown as active or passive, and the amount of screen time given to women.

6 Formalist Theory —
Formalist film theory is a theory of film study that is focused on the formal, or technical, elements of a film: i.e., the lighting, scoring, sound and set design, use of color, shot composition, and editing. It is a major theory of film study today. Formalism, at its most general, considers the synthesis (or lack of synthesis) of the multiple elements of film production, and the effects, emotional and intellectual, of that synthesis and of the individual elements. For example, let's take the single element of editing. A formalist might study how standard Hollywood "continuity editing" creates a more comforting effect and non-continuity or jump-cut editing might become more disconcerting or volatile.

7. Marxist Theory — Marxist film theory is one of the oldest forms of film theory. Sergei Eisenstein and many other Soviet filmmakers in the 1920s expressed ideas of Marxism through film. In fact, the Hegelian dialectic was considered best displayed in film editing through the Kuleshov Experiment and the development of montage. While this structuralist approach to Marxism and filmmaking was used, the more vociferous complaint that the Russian filmmakers had was with the narrative structure of Hollywood filmmaking.
Eisenstein's solution was to shun narrative structure by eliminating the individual protagonist and tell stories where the action is moved by the group and the story is told through a clash of one image against the next (whether in composition, motion, or idea) so that the audience is never lulled into believing that they are watching something that has not been worked over. Eisenstein himself, however, was accused by the Soviet authorities of "formalist error," of highlighting form as a thing of beauty instead of portraying the worker nobly.

8. Psychoanalysis Theory —
the concepts of psychoanalysis have been applied to films in various ways. However, the 1970s and 1980s saw the development of theory that took concepts developed by the French psychoanalyst and writer Jacques Lacan and applied them to the experience of watching a film. The film viewer is seen as the subject of a "gaze" that is largely "constructed" by the film itself, where what is on screen becomes the object of that subject's desire.
The viewing subject may be offered particular identifications (usually with a leading male character) from which to watch. The theory stresses the subject's longing for a completeness which the film may appear to offer through identification with an image; in fact, according to Lacanian theory, identification with the image is never anything but an illusion and the subject is always split simply by virtue of coming into existence.

9. Screen Theory —
Screen theory is a Marxist film theory associated with the British journal Screen in the 1970s. The theoreticians of this approach -- Colin MacCabe, Stephen Heath and Laura Mulvey -- describe the "cinematic apparatus" as a version of Althusser's Ideological State Apparatus (ISA). According to screen theory, it is the spectacle that creates the spectator and not the other way round. The fact that the subject is created and subjected at the same time by the narrative on screen is masked by the apparent realism of the communicated content.

10. Culture theory
The '60s saw the humanities undergo considerable expansion. Film programs were established in Western countries. Many film scholars came from other fields of study, which meant that many new theoretical questions were raised. More important was the sheer proliferation of theories and epistemologies, and the shift toward a new focus in cinema studies. The question of the essence of cinema was still an undercurrent in many writings but the legitimisation of cinema studies as a scientific enterprise seemed more urgent. The domination of structuralism followed by semiotics and psychoanalysis meant that cinema studies were connected to new fields. Also the politicisation of the humanities meant the import of new theories concerned with cultural philosophy and ideology, which were essentially taken from different strands of Marxism. The questions throughout that period were, therefore, scientific and political in nature.


Books in English:

1. Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema, Dwyer, Rachel. 2006. London: Routledge
2. International Encyclopedia of communications, Vol 3, Barnouw, Erik, George Gerbner, Wilbur Scharmm, Tobia L. Worth and Larry Gross. Eds. 1989, New York and Oxford ; The Annenberg school of communication university of Pennsylvania and oxford university press
3. International Communication, Continuity and Change, Thussu, Daya Kishan, 2000. London: Arnold
4. McQuail's Mass Communicaiton Theory, Denis McQuail, 2005. New Delhi : Vistaar

Books in Nepali:
१. जक्स्टापोजिसन । राई, मोहन । २००४. काठमाण्डौं शान्ती चेमजोङ्ग
२. चलचित्रकला । शर्मा, लक्ष्मीनाथ । २०३८. काठमाण्डौं साझा प्रकाशन

Presentations in Nepali:

१. वैकल्पिक चलचित्र निर्माण सम्बन्धि अवधारणापत्र । गौचन, दिपेन्द ।, २०५८, चलचित्र विकास बोर्डद्वारा काठमाण्डौंमा आयोजित 'राष्ट्रिय चलचित्र महोत्सवमा प्रस्तुत'
२. नेपालमा चलचित्र वितरण र प्रदर्शनका समस्या तथा समाधान । पौड्याल, उद्वव । २०५७, चलचित्र विकास बोर्डद्वारा विराटनगरमा आयोजित क्षेत्रिय गोष्ठिमा प्रस्तुत
३. चलचित्र र समाज । भट्टराई, प्रदिप । २०५८. नेपाल रसिया फिल्म सोसाइटी एवं चलचित्र समिक्षक समाज नेपालद्वारा आयोजित 'चलचित्र र समाज' गोष्ठिमा प्रस्तुत


1. http://www.answers.com
2. http://www.wikipedia.com
3. http://www.cinemateca.org