Why films are important and worthy of study – a tribute to films and film makers
A video presentation of these notes is available here
In art, one can enjoy a painting for its obvious qualities – the form, the colours and the precision – or one can delve beneath (or beyond) the obvious and appreciate the emotion, ideas and meaning the artist has tried to capture and encapsulate within his image.
So, too, with film.
A film may simply tell a story or it may educate and inform us. It may explore character and deeds, or it may challenge perceptions and understanding. It may entertain and amuse, or it may expand and spread culture and philosophical ideas. It may engage and develop an emotional response or it may invite empathy and understanding. It may manipulate viewer response while inspiring or disgusting its audience or it may warn of future dangers to society or provide lessons from the past.
The scope of film, then, along with its uses and interpretations, is vast.
I have long been fascinated by film and the various messages or comments film-makers try to impart. At their best, film-makers try to capture and encapsulate through metaphor and allegory what makes us tick, and as one interested in humanity and the human condition, I can’t help but be drawn to films and their take on all facets of our lives.
For example, “Judgment at Nuremberg” tells a story (of a number of judges in Nazi-dominated Germany who passed and acted on laws designed to allow the Nazi party to thrive and commit atrocities against humanity, and who are now being held to account at the Nuremberg war crimes trials of the late 1940s), but its intention is clearly to inform and educate. It also stands as a warning for the future based on lessons from the past.
In “Chinatown”, we have a complex tale of mystery and intrigue underpinned by character development and emotional engagement and subplots involving political chicanery and questioning the very existence of morality.
“The Matrix” is a fascinating and unique film (spoiled to some degree by its inferior though much more expensive and spectacular sequels). It presents as a science-fiction film but is actually a “philosophy-fiction” film in that it is clearly based on Plato’s division of the body and the soul (or mind), with the soul/mind being infinite as opposed to the finite and limited body. The stage is thus set for a highly entertaining but also intriguing exploration of the nature of reality and identity.
In “Les Choristes”, we visit French education in the late 1940s. Through emotional engagement we empathise with the humane Clément Mathieu who embodies flexible humanity as opposed to the rigid authority of his superior. We are thus invited to adopt a similar outlook in our dealings with others.
Science-fiction films, so often derided and rejected out of hand, commonly deal with topics and themes of contemporary or universal interest, but set in another time and place in order to lend clarity to the proceedings. For example, essential to the continuous storyline of the “Alien” franchise is big business and the lengths (and inhumanity) to which large corporations are willing to go in order to ensure profit. “Metropolis” explores the effect on man of factory working, while “Star Trek” has dealt with any number of social issues, including racism, politics, friendship, religion and the environment to name but a few.
While French cinema excels in the area of character development and the themes of emotion, society and humanity, few works can better sum up the need for love and tolerance than “Les Misérables”.
With reference to these few films, I hope I have made the case for an interest in cinema, an interest which, in my humble opinion, shares its roots with an interest in humanity itself.
Many thanks for taking the time to read this page – I hope you found it of some interest.
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Due to technical problems (and my inability to cope with them), new material will be posted on My Blog. Please check for regular updates. These include various articles, discussions of "Dunkirk", "Dances With Wolves", “The Prisoner” (1967 TV series), “Inherit the Wind” (1960 film), a little Flash Fiction and some of my memoirs as a teacher in a small Highland school for some 35 years.