Posted: August 29th, 2013
Film and Theatre
The Birth of a Nation is a 1915 silent film that portrays the success of the film industry during the silent era after it fetched a gross income return of $10,000,000. The film, directed and produced by D W Griffith, was first premiered as The Clansmen in Los Angeles California before taking up its current title when it premiered in New York. The film expresses different cinematic techniques, which were used to bring out the different themes and their effects to the audience.
The triggered a lot of controversy especially as it posed as a film full of racism. As one watches it, there are a number of scenes that portray complete racism. For example, the black militia was led by a white man. The themes of post war and war, assassination as shown through the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the reconstruction of a nation have been portrayed in the film. Such depiction of these themes shows that the film makers of the past were concerned with depicting the happenings in the society either in the present or in the past in order to strike an audience’s attention.
The use of the themes named above has kept the movie to be named one of all time movies. Its main subject, which is the reconstruction of the United States thus making it to be the way it is currently greatly conveys the struggles that a country goes through as it strives perfection. Griffith incorporation of the numerous themes into the film served as a teaching device to not only the people of the United States but other countries going through the same challenges. Such techniques keep such a film in relevance for a very long time.
The film has incorporated film and editing in the creation of a narrative, parallel editing, night photography, tinting, close-ups, panning and subtitles just to mention but a few. Ornate title cards as the most evident technique as one watches the film. An example of a parallel action is shown in Flora’s attempted rape and the rescuing of Margaret and Elsie by the Ku Klux Klan. The use of natural landscapes in order to bring a natural background and effect in the film has also been used. Some different angles given to the camera have also brought out different effects desired in particular scenes.
Another simple technique of using the mode of clothing of the 19th Century to bring out the history of the themes is quite evident. The ladies clothing as they go to visit Abraham Lincoln in order to enquire for a pardon is of the 19th Century differentiates between the period the film was produced and period in question. The costuming also enables the audience to differentiate the diverse periods in the movie since the characters in the movie are not having a conversation.
The film Strangers on a Train produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Farley Granger, Robert Walker and Ruth Roman, brings in mind other films such as Casablanca and The Graduate, which have been watched in class. The film, which is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith with the same title, brings forth themes and techniques that were used during that period.
The Graduate and Casablanca are both dramas but of different kinds as the former is a comedy drama while the latter is a romantic drama. When compared with Strangers on a Train, they reveal some similarities. One major, theme in all three films is the theme of love. Characters actions are driven by the love they have for some of the characters. For example, Benjamin Braddock’s actions are driven by the love he has for Elaine in the film The Graduate. In the film Casablanca, Rick Blaine actions are directed and controlled by the love he feels for Ilsa Lund.
The theme of love and its influence on characters’ decisions has been used in many films for a long time. It is used to continue the storyline in a film and the audience’s concentration. Another similarity evident in two of the films, Strangers on a Train and The Graduate is that there is a cameo appearance of Buck Berry as clerk in a hotel evident in The Graduate and Alfred Hitchcock as he wrestles to enter the train carrying a double bass.
Although the techniques may not have been identical in all films, the themes of the techniques used in each movie responded to the society and the technology in that period. The theme of love, intentional murder, adultery and seduction, blackmail, just to mention but a few are evident in these films. Such techniques are lighting, use natural landscaped to portray a natural background, night photography and music in order to create the suspense effect have also been used in this films.
The Tree of Life, which was named as the best film of 2011 by Sight and Sound Magazine is a story about an eldest son in a Midwestern family, who tries to reconcile his relationship with his father as he takes the audience through his childhood and his adult life.
One major cinematic technique that is striking in this film is that the movie has a lot of emphasis on the things surrounding the characters rather than focusing on the actors only. There a couple of time when the actors are having a conversation or simply narrating while the screen depicts a reflection of the sun or wind. There was a scene when there concentration was on the rain rather than the character.
Camera angles have been greatly used so that the audience is able to view both the character and another thing such a reflection or a background. The use current computer technology techniques enable the viewers to see such an image as the galaxy during the making of the universe. All these techniques have been used to spread the concentration of the viewer since this is a back and forth kind of film. The viewer can connect and follow the whole film without getting lost. Removing the focus from the actors allows viewers to work with their own imaginations as they relate with the story.
The incorporation of a theme that is of significance to today’s society is also a good technique that keeps the audience interested. A number of people have distant relationship with their parents as is seen with the man in this film. The effort made by the son to reconcile with his father encourages the viewers with the same kind of relationships to start the healing process. This is a motivational movie.
In the documentary the Hollywood Style, directors Sydney Pollack and Martin Scorsese explain the pivotal roles of different parties before the audience view the movies on the screens. During the silent era, the screenwriters were of no significance since there were no conversations to be made; the only party needed was a scenarist who came up with humorous scenarios. When sound started being incorporated in the films, writers from all over the world including those in Broadway came to Hollywood so that they could write the scripts of the film. During the initial sound period, the world’s famous writers were engaged in the art of script writing.
At some point, screenwriters were gauged by their abilities to direct movies. When the movie stars began to have a higher status in the film industry, they started asking for films from specific writers as in the case of Katheirne Hepburn concerning the movie Woman of the Year. As the industry grew, scriptwriting in Hollywood stopped becoming a matter of getting works from a renowned writer but rather incorporating talent in the scriptwriting.
The directors of films are also highly significant. Although they come in after the script has been written, they are sometimes consulted during the conception of the script. Today, the directors come in even before the script is written down. Once the producer has a story and buys the rights, the story can now be written. The presence of a talented director should not be felt. The director reads a script visualizes its outcome in his/her mind until he/she reads the last words. It is the director who brings out the real story on the script.
The producer’s work is to administrate, communicate and to guide. His or her main goal is to enable all the parties in the film production reach a desired goal. In most of the Hollywood films, the roles of the director and the producer have been taken by the same person so that the same directing the movie is the same producing it. In most cases, this is undertaken in order to avoid extra costs. In other cases, the people taking up both roles come up with the story, and therefore so prefer finishing the work themselves.
This documentary has greatly shown the significance of each party when it comes to assembling a quality movie in Hollywood. In the early film periods, film stars were not taken with much seriousness as they are now. As the industry approached the mid 20th century, they started becoming more and more popular and as it is now evident, they are very influential in the assembly of a film. As earlier demonstrated, a star can determine the scriptwriter to be chosen or the director of a particular movie.
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