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FILM FORM AND MEANING

FORMALISM AND REALISM

 

READ BORDWELL 56-67

CONTENT: What we see through the window

FORM: The frame. How the elements of the film are arranged to create patterns.

REALISM pays attention to the subject matter. We look at what the film depicts.

FORMAL CRITICISM (FORMALISM) pays attention to these patterns. We look at the film as a work of art.

FORM is a system based on patterns:

Examples:

  • Symmetry (spatial)
  • Song (a-b-c-b-d-b) (temporal)
  • Story: (exposition – development – climax – denouement)

A movie is a story that takes place in space and time, so there can be many patterns

Patterns create expectations which can be manipulated to create aesthetic responses.

What patterns exist in Night and Fog?

  • Color/Black and White
  • Present landscapes/Actual documentary footage.
  • Chronological Pattern of documentary footage: 1933 – 1945
  • Sections of the movie:  beginning, middle end.
  • Repetition (motif)
  • Rhythm
  • Others (Is N+F a narrative?)

What is the overall effect of these structural elements on the viewer?

Meaning:

  • Referential: From 1933 to 1945, the German state  under the Nazis exterminated millions of people in concentration camps
  • Explicit: A government comes to power, initiates laws that designate some people as “undesirable” and exterminate them.
  • Implicit: Human beings can be led to commit horrible crimes in the name of a “higher” cause. (There can be many implicit meanings)
  • Symptomatic:  Horrible crimes are obliterated by time. As we get farther and farther away, we forget what happened in the past. Today, in 1956, the camps are fading memories. If we forget, history will repeat.

EVALUATION

There is a difference between personal taste and evaluative judgment, between “I don’t like it.” and “This is my critical opinion of this film”.

Criteria: (a few, there are many)

  • Historicity
  • Moriality (ideology)
  • Narrative coherence (unity)
  • Intensity of effect
  • Complexity
  • Originality
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