Film theory

Film theory

Film theory is an academic discipline, closely allied with Marxist critical theory, that aims to explore the essence of the cinema and provides conceptual frameworks for understanding film's relationship to reality, the other arts, individual viewers, and society at large. Film theory is not to be confused with general film criticism, though there can be some crossover between the two disciplines.

Contents

History

French philosopher Henri Bergson's Matter and Memory (1896) has been cited as anticipating the development of film theory during the birth of cinema. Bergson commented on the need for new ways of thinking about movement, and coined the terms "the movement-image" and "the time-image". However, in his 1906 essay L'illusion cinématographique (in L'évolution créatrice), he rejects film as an exemplification of what he had in mind. Nonetheless, decades later, in Cinéma I and Cinema II (1983–1985), the philosopher Gilles Deleuze took Matter and Memory as the basis of his philosophy of film and revisited Bergson's concepts, combining them with the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce.

Early film theory arose in the silent era and was mostly concerned with defining the crucial elements of the medium. It largely evolved from the works of directors like Germaine Dulac, Louis Delluc, Jean Epstein, Sergei Eisenstein, Lev Kuleshov, and Dziga Vertov and film theorists like Rudolf Arnheim, Béla Balázs and Siegfried Kracauer.[1] These individuals emphasized how film differed from reality and how it might be considered a valid art form. In the years after World War II, the French film critic and theorist André Bazin reacted against this approach to the cinema, arguing that film's essence lay in its ability to mechanically reproduce reality, not in its difference from reality.[2]

In the 1960s and 1970s, film theory took up residence in academia importing concepts from established disciplines like psychoanalysis, gender studies, anthropology, literary theory, semiotics and linguistics. However, not until the late 1980s or early 1990s did film theory per se achieve much prominence in American universities by displacing the prevailing humanistic, auteur theory that had dominated cinema studies and which had been focused on the practical elements of film writing, production, editing and criticism.[3] American scholar David Bordwell has spoken against many prominent developments film theory since the 1970s, i.e., he uses the humorously derogatory term "SLAB theory" to refer to film studies based on the ideas of Saussure, Lacan, Althusser, and/or Barthes. Instead, Bordwell promotes what he describes as "neoformalism."

During the 1990s the digital revolution in image technologies has had an impact on film theory in various ways. There has been a refocus onto celluloid film's ability to capture an "indexical" image of a moment in time by theorists like Mary Ann Doane, Philip Rosen and Laura Mulvey who was informed by psychoanalysis. From a psychoanalytical perspective, after the Lacanian notion of "the Real", Slavoj Žižek offered new aspects of "the gaze" extensively used in contemporary film analysis.[4] There has also been a historical revisiting of early cinema screenings, practices and spectatorship modes by writers Tom Gunning, Miriam Hansen and Yuri Tsivian.

Television writer/producer David Weddle[3] suggests that film theory as practiced in the early 2000s is a form of bait and switch, taking advantage of young, would-be filmmakers: anyone in Hollywood filmmaking who used film theory terms like "fabula" and "syuzhet" would be "laughed off the lot." Weddle also quotes Roger Ebert's opinion that "Film theory has nothing to do with film" and is an obscuricantist "cult;" and quotes silent film historian Kevin Brownlow's alarm that academic film theorists are typically "quite aggressively Marxist."

In 2008, German filmmaker Werner Herzog[5] suggested that "Theoretical film studies has become really awful. That’s not how you should study film. Abolish these courses and do something else which makes much more sense."

Specific theories of film

See also

References

  1. ^ Robert Stam, Film Theory: an introduction", Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.
  2. ^ André Bazin, What is Cinema? essays selected and translated by Hugh Gray, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.
  3. ^ a b Weddle, David. "Lights, Camera, Action. Marxism, Semiotics, Narratology: Film School Isn't What It Used to Be, One Father Discovers." Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2003; URL retrieved 22 Jan 2011.
  4. ^ Slavoj Žižek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, London: Verso, 2000.
  5. ^ "Wrath of Herzog", UPenn Gazette, Jan/Feb 2008.

Further reading


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • film theory — Theory developed to explain the nature of films and how they produce emotional and mental effects on the audience. It recognizes the cinema as a distinct art form. See also auteur theory, documentary film, Sergei Eisenstein, film noir, New Wave.… …   Universalium

  • 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 analysed and their theoretical underpinnings. HistoryThe development of feminist film …   Wikipedia

  • 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. Basic Theory… …   Wikipedia

  • Oneiric (film theory) — The 1950s genre of film noir is noted for its use of dream like imagery (pictured here: two silhouetted figures in the 1955 film The Big Combo). In a film theory context, the term oneiric (/oʊˈnaɪrɪk/; pertaining to dream ) refers to the… …   Wikipedia

  • 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 …   Wikipedia

  • Formalist film theory — means a number of different things: A certain school in the philosophy of mathematics, stressing axiomatic proofs through theorems specifically associated with David Hilbert. A school of thought in law and jurisprudence which emphasises the… …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • Structuralist film 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Psychoanalytical film 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Theory of everything (disambiguation) — Theory of everything (TOE) is an hypothetical physical theory that would explain all known physical phenomena.Theory of everything may refer to: * Theory of everything (book), a book by Ken Wilber dealing with his Integral theory * Theory of… …   Wikipedia

  • Film criticism — Film review redirects here. For the magazine, see Film Review (magazine). For the similar sounding Film revue, see Revue#Film revues. Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films, individually and collectively. In general, this can be… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.