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Realism and Realistic Films in Cinema

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Good morning, we begin our today’s lecture on realism. So, realism as an artistic device has its roots in the writing of French writers, such as Balzac, Honore de Balzac, Flaubert, Gustave Flaubert and Emile Zola. Of course they are also related, they are also associated with the concept of naturalism. So, realism and naturalism are two concepts which people usually use interchangeably, but they are not always so and perhaps one of these days; I will discuss in details some movie which is more naturalistic and less realistic. So, that is one aspect. Realism is generally understood as an illusion, when we talk about a film studies as an illusion that, what is shown on a screen is connected to reality. We are watching something which is very real, true. So, people have often argued, what is recognizable and what is real? Is there difference between or can they be used interchangeably? Is everything that is recognizably, real and vice-versa? So, realism is a mix of the devices to which filmmakers use, to disguise the fact that; after all whatever we are watching is not real and there is lot of controversy about realism and cinema, how realistic can you be, that is the idea. Now, naturalism is a concept is based on Darwin’s idea about nature. That is natural conditions play a significant role in the shaping of the individual’s mind and character. Realism however derives its ideology from Marx’s theory of economics, that is; economic condition of a person play a significant role in the conditioning of his or her mind and character. Remember, both these concepts have an element of fatalism. For example, you read a Tess and Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’in order to understand the subtle distinctions between these concepts better. Now, you just watched the clipping from Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon a 1973 film, based on a real life heist. What are the indications that this could be realistic movie? It is usually regarded as the realistic movie not just, because it is portrays something which actually happened. But what was the sign? What was the semiotics?You have already done, the codes, the signs, the symbols; which tell you that is very real.So, the initial Montage about people of Brooklyn.And what kind of people are those? Working class, that what we understand Brooklyn is;it is a predominantly not very affluent place, people are working class, low middle class,middle class, who struggle with their day to day life. What else? We will come to that later;I am just talking about the first five minutes, the credit sequences.Student: So things go on every day; we do not, we are not told that anything drastic will happen.So, we are never given any kind of indication,that anything drastic is going to happen today, and anything is startling happening today.It is like an everyday, it is regular average day in the life of an average New Yorker ora person from Brooklyn that is the idea.There is trash somewhere; there are beggars somewhere, homeless people.So, Sidney Lumet is very attentive to details, to everyday details,this was just an everyday, this was just regular day and then something like this happened.But while doing that, while showing us that this was just regular normal day, he showsus certain details of a Brooklyn which are extremely realistic; which if you go to thatpart of New York you will find that it is indeed true, even today.So, that is the idea to show reality. And how does he achieve that kind of realism?Now I am asking you a more technical question. When Sidney Lumet shows that Brooklyn is afterall not a very rich place, not a very affluent place then he shows you certain scenes, certainshots which depicts the lives of very ordinary regular people, also very poor people that is also there.But what does he do, to do that?Student: It looks like footage, like a video footage, the quality of the shots had the natural lighting, and it looks,Exactly, what she is trying to say is; it it had documentary feel to itShe is also trying to tell you that, it looks like the filmmakerresorted to using as much natural light as possible; so that means it was not shot insidea studio, remember that. So, the camera people, the cinematographer, and the director they musthave just gone out on the real streets and captured the lives of real people, and taken shots of the real garbage.They must have glossed over certain aspects, but it lookslike it was shot in a natural setting and in natural light, so that is one of the aspects,that is one of the devices used by those filmmakers who aspire to make a realistic film.As opposed to what? As oppose to what?Realism is oppose to;you know when you talk about artificially constructed sets,artificial lights to make people look prettier than they are,to make sets look place prettier than, places look prettier than they really are.So, there was a time when New York would be constructed, you know MGM was known for that.MGM studio, are you aware of that? So, there was a point when MGM was a city in itselfand they had replicas, miniature replicas of all the famous monument and landmarks of New York.They do not want to go outside and trouble their beautiful actors and female actressto get expose to real people and real life. So, whatever was then was done inside the set,on the set, inside the studio.This tendency to be as realistic as possiblestarted during the late 50’s, caught on during the 60's especially with Bonnie and Clyde,if you are aware of the movie; please watch it, note down the name Bonnie and Clyde.And then the so called Hollywood new wave cinema, Easy Rider is one.And then we had cinema of those new wave American auteurs; Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Taxi Driver.We had Sidney Lumet of course, and then we also had Coppola, who actuallywas audacious enough to go all the way on location and shoot his Apocalypse Now.Woody Allen also try to do as much shooting outside on real location, as oppose to creating a replica of.This is one way in which filmmakers try to attain realism.We will be talking about realism as a theory as we go on, key theoretician of realism;you can look at Raymond Williams’s book called key concepts, and he gives plenty ofdescription of what is realism, so it is good way to begin, understanding.It is not like a definitive book, but it is like a dictionary of terms, key concepts.So, please take a look at Raymond Williams’s key concepts.Rudolf Arnheim, Siegfried Kracauerand Andre Bazin, who we keep on referring to in this course, Andre Bazin, the French theoretician.Now, historical context of cinema and realism, it begins from 1839 with the invention of photography.1877 we had the invention of phonograph. And between 1889 and 1895 theLumiere Brothers initiated their cinema project. So, you can look these names up and see whattheir contributions towards the growth of cinema.They are the pioneers of course but you should understand what they did.And the idea was that with so much innovationin technology and the development in photography,camera would be able to capture an objective truth about the world.There is a difference between subjectivity and objectivity.So, the intention was or the ambition was to capture the objective truth.A realist film at least desires or aims to present what appears on the screen as real and as natural.So, one of the earliest efforts in this direction was the Lumiere's shot called,Workers leaving the Lumiere factory.And I quote one of the brothers, who said, 'The purpose of cinema is to capture life on the run',life as it moves, therefore workers leaving the factory.So, workers leaving the factory, real people on real location and captured in real lights in real time.So, they were not asked to put on some extra make up or wear some pretty cloths;they were captured as they were, capturing the objective truth.Now, I will take the leap from, because in between the cinema went through several stagesand we have already referred to some; you know the MGM studios system where everythingwas monumental, the idea was not to, not really, they did not aspire to be realistic, but aspireto be grand, grandeur was the operative word there, make things as big as impressive as possible.And then after several stages counterculture cinema,realistic cinema; we came to a spot where things started happening and peoplethought that why not capture life as it is, life on the run, going back to what Lumiere advises us to do.So, Andy Warhol one of, the other days someone was mentioning Andy Warhol.So, he made couple of shots, and one was called sleep, where his friend John Giornowas captured on camera in long takes, sleeping for five hours and twenty minutes.And if you go to the net, you will actually find clippings from the movie; it is a nicely donefilm and it’s experimental. It was called an Anti-Film.Why would you call such a film an Anti-Film?My question to you, a man is sleeping for five hours and twenty minutesand the camera rest on him and whatever he is doing while he is sleeping no one told him,no one tells you what to do when you sleep, you are captured as you are, the objective truth;but it was called, people called it an Anti-Film. What do you think it could be An Anti-Film?Think about it.Student: There no motion, there is no plot.Okay, there is there no plot,no entertainment;after all we go to movies to get entertain, that the truth, cannot be challenged.What else?No, he moved while sleeping, there was some motion.Student: Perhaps, the prevail.There are no problem, may be you looks at the concept of progressand interpret it threadbare, then you can even say; thatwell from the start to finish the man slept for five hours and he woke up, there is plot,there is progression, you say something was happening.Student: Aborted the idea of film at 1963Exactly, narrative, you known challenging theconcept of narrative and think of what we have done in this class, while we were discussing concept of narrative.They challenged or subverted everything, that the narrative should be, and why not.And again, his another shot, Empire. Are you aware of that?Are you aware of Empire?Watch Empire, look it up, Andy Warhol’s Empire.What is it about?Empire state building; a single shot of the famous empire state building from early evening one day totill 3 am next morning, and what was happening there.What change could have happened?Lights, natural light, a real monument captured in natural light.So, if you look it up, you will find the empire state building in all its glory captured throughvarious lights, all natural lights, dim lights, bright lights etc., but single shot.What was he trying to do?Try to be as objectives as possible. How real can you get, that is the idea.So, pushing the limits of reality and then telling us how monotonous reality could be.So, I refer again to Andre Bazin's anthology of photographic image,his essays from ‘What is cinema?’, 1952.And according to Bazin, photography does not create eternity as art does; it embalms time,rescuing it, simply from its proper corruption. So, in other words Bazin is tellingus that photography has historical purpose in capturing the view of world, forever it,embalm some moment, it frizzes a moment.In the essay he also compares photography withpainting and according to him photography and specially cinema is much more importantas an art in capturing reality than painting. For a variety of reasons, and it is a controversial ideabecause pure is would always dispute that, painting captures reality many wouldargue but this is what Bazin felt that; 'Photography and the cinema are discoveries that satisfyone’s and for all and in its very essence are obsession with realism as compared to painting',because in painting you know there is another hand that is at work.Cinema although is a collaborative art; when you watch a movie, you do not feel the intervention of and outsiders hand.So, again continuing with Bazin, Bazin feels that the film is a powerful medium with technicalprocess of production which allows it to represent an object rather than replace it;which painting does according to him.And ensures the sense of being true to life, and the word for being true to life is, very similitude.So, cinema according to Bazin is an art that comes closestto capturing realism of very similitude.Various cinematic movements which claim to be asrealistic as possible, so most important is the earliest Italian neorealism.Give me some example.Students: Bicycle Thieves Bicycle Thieves by Da SicaWe will be looking at these filmmakers, we will be discussing these film as we go on with the course, so Italian neorealismThere is a French pioneeras far as realism is concerned, Jean Renoir. Jean Renoir happens to be the son of the painterRenoir, therefore there is the painting, the painterly quality in his cinema, watch it.Do you know anything about the famous disciple of Jean Renoir, not the painter, but the son?There was a disciple; there was someone who learnt realism from Renoir, very famous personwho you should know about, Satyajit Ray. When Renoir was in India shooting the movie called The River,Satyajit Ray was one of his associates in India and it was, because of Renoir’sinfluence largely Ray got interested in poetic realism. Therefore, in spite of all allegationsabout Rays showing gross poverty, actually it is a poetic poverty, poetic realism.There is a difference between realisms also. There are various kinds of realisms, that we lookat but this was poetic realism; realistic, but poetically shown, aesthetically captured.We also have the politically motivated films of Cinema Verite. The name itself suggestVerite, true, real, a Cinema Verite; associated with documentaries in France.And then of course, there was spat of the so called new wave cinema. So, we have the Hollywood New Wave,we have The French New Wave, as associated with the works of Godard and Truffaut largely,Chabrol and Reznor; but we will be looking at those makers as well as.New Wave British cinema, extremely important.And then new wave in the India, the so called parallelcinema in India, especially in Hindi cinema; there was a particular period when cinemathere existed a kind of parallel cinema. Of course, today also we have version of parallel cinema,but there are more main stream. Today we have big stars like Ranbir Kapoor willingto act in a so called realistic film, but there was a time when parallel cinema hadits own exclusive niche with a its own exclusive directors and actors. There was no crossover there.Today there is crossover that is the difference.