Cinema wanted to use a combination of films

Cinema is a very complicated art. While writing a book, an author must piece together a cohesive plot, captivating characters and interesting themes. While making a movie, however, the director must encompass all of this while adding a visual aspect to it all. This is perfectly summed up by Conrad Hall (director of American Beauty) when he said, “It is also difficult to articulate the subtleties in cinema, because there aren’t words or metaphors which describe many of the emotions you are attempting to evoke.” In this essay, I will be analysing four films, to show examples of subtlety used well, and to show examples where it is not well used. The films I will be using as positive examples are Eraserhead by David Lynch and Amour by Michael Haneke. My negative examples will be World War Z by Marc Forster and Clouds of Sils Maria by Olivier Assayas.I have chosen this list of films due to several reasons, firstly I thought it would be best to choose films that are recent so that the analysis is more relevant and also due to the fact that they are relatively new, I can make more original points as they have not been analysed as much as older films, instead of rehashing the same points made over and over.To make the analysis as interesting as possible I wanted to use a combination of films which are critically acclaimed to give a sense of familiarity to people who recognize or have already seen these movies, this is why i picked Eraserhead.I also wanted to introduce people to a movie they might not even know existed, which is why i picked Amour.I wanted to express an opinion of mine which is not so widely shared, which is why i picked World War Z, as it received a 7/10 on IMDb and a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I find is way too high for this generic, predictable, badly written and lazy movie. This is also why i picked Clouds of Sils Maria, as it received a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The art of cinema is a very subjective medium, which makes it hard to make concrete statements about a film’s quality. However there are some rules that directors must follow in order to make a film effective and one of the biggest, overarching things is subtlety. Section 1: The FilmsAmourAmour is said to be one of Michael Haneke’s best films and was released in 2012. Michael Haneke, born 23 March 1942, is an Austrian film director and screenwriter also known for films such as Funny Games(1997), Caché (2005) and The White Ribbon (2009). His work often examines social issues, and depicts the feelings of estrangement and ostracization experienced by individuals in modern society, which is extremely evident in Amour.Amour tells the story of two retired music teachers; Georges and Anne who have spent their lives devoted to their careers and to each other. Their relationship is severely impacted and damaged when Anne suffers a debilitating stroke. Though Georges himself suffers from the aches and infirmities that come with old age, he ignores his own discomfort to take care of his wife, and is determined to keep his promise to her that she never go back to the hospital. His determination to keep this promise becomes obsessive as the film goes on and even though George’s’ actions are generous, as he tries to care for his wife, they become darker and morally ambiguous.Amour tells us that society has made many people think that just because a person is old, they cannot make rational decisions on their own and they do not know what is best for them. This is conveyed when the wife’s non-desire to keep on living in a vegetative state is ignored by her husband as he thinks he knows best. This is a technique that Michael Haneke uses through the run of many movies, including The White Ribbon and Cache.The wife and the husband’s relationship evolves as the film goes on. Emotions evolve in a surprising, but logical way (nothing seems forced), for example the pity of the husband turning into anger when his wife refuses to eat shows the lack of understanding that society has for old people who do not want to continue on with their life when they have a condition that makes life hard to live through. The dilemma that is the focal point of Amour is not about the morality of euthanasia, encompassing its positives and its negatives, it is rather about a choice between life and death. Haneke presents us with the idea that, even if Anne wanted to die, the way in which Georges did it was an act of selfishness, this may not be the case, as many people have different interpretations: but it is definitely a viewpoint that Haneke acknowledges. Georges could have ended her suffering because he couldn’t stand facing his own inadequacy in caring for her, or he could have reached a point where he understands what she’s going through and sees that what he was doing was wrong.   Michael Haneke is a director who focuses a lot on spacial awareness, which plays a key part in all of his movies, shots are often framed so that a character is in the centre of an empty room, creating a feeling of isolation and emptiness.Much of the symbolism in the movie is derived from the wife’s dreams, in these she wanders around a dream version of her apartment building, but it’s flooded. This could represent the sadness that comes from her being locked in and treated in an infantile way.World War ZWorld War Z is a 2013 American action horror film directed by Marc Forster. The screenplay is based on the title of the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator who must travel the world to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic. The plot follows former U.N. investigator Gerry Lane and his family. The main plot begins when they get stuck in urban gridlock, and Gerry suspects that there is something bigger at play. His suspicions are confirmed when, suddenly, the city erupts into chaos because of a lethal virus which can be spread through a single bite. This turns healthy people into vicious and feral zombies. As the pandemic threatens to consume humanity, Gerry leads a worldwide search to find the source of the infection and eventually finds “patient zero” and finally, the cure. This may not seem like the type of film that should be analysed in an essay about cinema, as it’s a mindless action-thriller, but I felt like it even failed on that premise. Since my second negative example is a “serious” film, I thought I would pick apart a more mindless movie. The film starts with a scene in Gerry’s house and serves to deliver exposition to the audience, which isn’t a bad thing on it’s own, however, when the family interacts at the start of the movie, it seems extremely wooden and information about their characters are lazily shoved into the dialogue with no regard for subtlety (this may be due to the re-writes that happened during the production).In general the camera work is average, using mid shots during dialogue and other camera angles you have come to expect in most movies. However, there are a few exceptions, for example the overhead shots in Cairo, or the hand-held shots in the military base at night. These naturally build tension by either avoiding showing the threat, or clearly showing it in the open, a very effective contrast.EraserheadEraserhead is a 1977 “surrealist body horror film” written, produced, and directed by filmmaker David Lynch. The plot is extremely hard to describe without showing the entire film beforehand, but the basics are that Henry (played by John Nance) lives alone in a bleak apartment. When he discovers that an earlier affair with Mary X (played by Charlotte Stewart) left her pregnant, he marries her and has her move in with him. Things become stranger and stranger when the couple’s baby turns out to be a bizarre lizard creature that won’t stop crying. Other characters, including a disfigured lady who lives inside a radiator, inhabit the building and add to Henry’s story.Symbolism can be found in every single shot of Eraserhead if one looks hard enough, it challenges you to interpret what you are seeing and you know that you’re in for a surreal experience. During the whole film, we constantly revisit what’s going on inside the strange mind of Henry Spencer, the films main character, which is why the film starts out by showing us one of Henry’s dreams. In this first dream, we see Henry’s head, floating through space. Henry seems to be having a nightmare involving something that resembles a giant sperm coming out of his mouth, floating through space. This is not the only reference to sperm that we see in the film. We then see an ominous looking man called “The Man in the Planet”, he pulls a lever, and out comes the sperm from Henry’s mouth, flying through space. The Man in the Planet could represent many things, but since the film addresses sexual themes, the Man could represent Henry’s sexual desires. Throughout the film, Lynch explores situations that commonly happen to people all over the world, but twists and distorts them to make us feel uneasy and disturbed. The two biggest examples of this are the dinner scene that Henry has with Mary’s family and the whole concept of Henry’s child. Everyone who has had a relationship with someone has had to sit down for dinner with their partners parents; sometimes it’s awkward, but Lynch makes us feel estranged as Mary’s parents seem suspicious of Henry for no apparent reason. The strange lizard-like child is a representation of a parent’s fear and worry about their child, as Lynch himself unexpectedly fathered a disabled child. Generally, people see childbirth as something beautiful and one of the happiest things that can happen to someone, the child in Eraserhead completely subverts those expectations. Henry’s incapability of caring for something is shown by the de-potted dead plant beside his bed, heavily implying that if he cannot take care of a plant, how can he take care of a child. The end of the movie (where Henry’s head falls off and his head is used to make erasers) is symbolic of his refusal to change his inability to nurture and his inactivity in the raising of his child, he ignores it (maybe “erases” it). My interpretation of the movie is that Henry is afraid of fatherhood, which manifests itself through his child, which we fear due to seeing it through the eyes of Henry.The subtlety in Eraserhead comes, not from hiding information, but by exposing you to the raw themes and letting you come up with the information by yourself. Nothing is hidden, almost everything has a meaning and instead of spoon-feeding everything to the audience, David Lynch lets us pick it apart and find our own meaning. Clouds of Sils MariaClouds of Sils Maria tells the story of Maria Enders, a famous film star and stage actress who travels with her assistant, Valentine. 20 years prior, Maria Enders played the main role of Sigrid in Maloja Snake, a play and film. She is approached by a popular theatre director who wants to persuade her to appear on stage in Maloja Snake again, but this time in the role of Helena, the older woman. The story explores themes of age and time, as the role that she previously played is given to a younger actress. The film tries to comment on the state of cinema in modern times (pointing out the stupidity in Superhero films for example) while not understanding what makes those movies what they are.When a director uses cinema to express a view or to make a point, they are usually woven into the film and integrated into the dialogue to make it come across naturally. In Clouds of Sils Maria, most of the commentary comes from the characters acting as a microphone for the director to spell out his grievances with the world of cinema.  Section 2: Use of Cinematic TechniquesA director can, and must, use many techniques to make their film interesting and cohesive. This section will focus on examples of these techniques and how they are used differently by different directors. Subtlety is woven into any good directors techniques, this can be anything from dialogue, to camera-work, to the aspect ratio used. For the purpose of illustrating my point better, I will not limit myself to the 4 films for this section and will be analysing the works of a few more directors.Importance of Aspect RatiosThe aspect ratio of a movie is often overlooked as something which doesn’t affect a film, which is partly true since a good film probably won’t be ruined by an unconventional aspect ratio. However their importance is clear in many movies, my favorite being the Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson. In this film, Anderson subtly changes the aspect ratio of each shot, depending on the time in which the scene takes place. The movie happens over three timelines: one in the ‘present’ (but in the movie being 1985) (presented in 1.85:1), one in the 1960s (presented in 2.35:1) and the final timeline being in the 1930s (presented in 1.37:1). The shift between different aspect ratios is never shoved into the audience’s face, acting as a frame of reference for when the movie is happening. An interesting detail is that each aspect ratio is what would have been commonly used in cinema at the time were the scenes take place.Shots and FramingThe way a scene is shot and framed can make or break the entire scene, there is a clear difference between amateur directors and good directors in these small details. A good director will try to incorporate multiple interesting angles to make the contents of the scene more suspenseful, sad or visually distinct, whilst an inexperienced director will mainly keep characters talking at the centre of the scene with a fixed angle. There are many options for framing actors, from full body shots to shots which focus on a specific body part (usually eyes or hands). This can be summarized by 3 different sizes of shots: Long, Medium, and Close. Long shots, usually known as wide shots, shoot at a distance, this brings attention to the background and where the character is located,  medium shots are most commonly used because they can be applied to more situations more easily than other shots, showing not only the characters being filmed, but also showcasing the place in which they are. Close shots are used sparingly, but put focus on details which couldn’t be picked up by other shots: emotions are clear (and sometimes exaggerated) Due to the focus of the camera. Here is a list of commonly used shots and in what context they should be used.Medium shotMedium shots are a perfect middle ground for a director wanting to focus on action and characters at the same time, the distance is far enough for the audience to appreciate the surroundings and what is happening in them, but also not so far that characters are out of focus, and can’t be heard. Over-the-shoulderOver the shoulder shots are very intimate, as not only are you close to the characters, but you also feel connected to them, as you see things from their perspective, this is most commonly used for shot reverse shot, where the camera pans between several characters to show a conversation from multiple angles, while still feeling natural. While other shots put focus on one specific character, as they emphasise the difference between foreground (characters) and background, but over the shoulder shots put the focus on multiple characters, as they are all framed and are the focus of the shot.The Dolly ZoomThe Dolly Zoom is a complicated shot t set up as it involves the camera moving towards the actor whilst, at the same time, zooming out (the same can be done by moving the camera away from the actor and zooming in). The effect is that the foreground stays in place while the background becomes distorted, either increasing or decreasing in size. Alfred Hitchcock was the first to use the Dolly Zoom in Vertigo. This has a disorienting effect on the audience and has become a very popular technique for filmmakers. Editing a SceneIt takes many people to create a movie, the director is the first person that comes to mind when thinking of key roles in the creation of a movie. Whilst this is true for the creative aspects of a film, the editor(s) may have one of the hardest jobs, as their work can drastically change the direction of a movie. This isn’t only to do with special effects or making a scene look prettier (even though these are also important). An editor must cut apart and piece together all the filmed material approved for a movie, cutting out padding and unnecessary parts, while trying to find the perfect shot to cut to after another. Sound is a key part of any movie, sound levels need to be adjusted differently for different scenes, depending on the location, tone or even if the scene is supposed to to be surrealist.A question asked by many people about editors is, “When do you know when to cut”, while many cut on instinct, there are patterns which can be noticed and can be used to know when to cut in a scene. So how does an editor think and cut? Many editors say that editing is all about the eyes, noticing subtleties in an actor’s performance, great actors understand that they convey more through their eyes than through dialogue, moments where a change can be seen in the actor’s eyes help editors choose where to cut and where to let the scene run on. Shots where actors show a change without using dialogue are powerful because they can easily be cut with other shots. For instance, if we cut from an actors eyes to what they’re looking at it tells us without words what they might be thinking.             

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