Friday 30 July 2021

Home - Academic - Modern Filmmakers Who Challenge Classic Narrative Mode:

Cinema started as an entertainment business more than an art business; it was a brand new technology and an art form whose artistic potential was not suspected. There were no filmmakers, only people deeply interested in storytelling and moving images. These people who had never seen a film had to start somewhere and they used what they knew about other arts such as theater, literature and painting to start working. Using some elements of these art forms allowed the first filmmakers to be understood by the spectators who recognized the forms of the other arts.

In “Film History: An Introduction”, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson explain that this was the genesis of the Classical Narrative Mode. This is a series of conventions that are expected by the viewers when they enter the projection room. Filmmakers aligned to these conventions in order to help viewers understand the film and satisfy their necessity to find meaning in what they see.

The Classical Narrative Mode is described as a mode whose primary objective was to be universally understood, thus the films adhered to this Mode are “easy to see movies.” This does not mean that the films made in a classical approach are bad movies in any way,

These movies are not inherently bad in any sense, but they are designed to be seen in more passive positions by the viewer. With traits such as a clear timelines, conclusive endings, and characters with explicit and clear psychological patterns, the viewers do not ask many questions apart from what is going to happen next. This other important trait of the mode is a consistent story of a clear anecdote happening to a specific character or group of them. To be universally understood means being universally seen. That is why even though the mode was challenged during the 50s, 60s and 70s by several filmmakers, it is still hegemonic.

The Classical Narrative Mode is not necessarily easy to make, but indeed is easy to see. We have seen some of the greatest masterpieces of cinema use this mode but sometimes we want to be challenged. Sometimes we want to be confused and struggle to understand what are we seeing and why. For that times, here is a list of 10 still working directors who have broken or challenged the Classical Narrative Mode.

1. David Lynch
David Lynch attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) and started more like a plastic artist than a filmmaker before striking in with his first film: “Eraserhead” (1977). This film was an anticipation of what was to come in Lynch’s career. Negligent with the viewer when it comes to clear meaning, his ominous and dark films are full with inexplicable events such as the appearance of a singing girl with disgusting cheeks on a stage, or a human dirt-like monsters whose existence should be confined to dream.

Precisely, in the cinema of Lynch, the line between reality and dream, or more precisely nightmare, does not exist. Just like in nightmares, the movies do not end up explaining why we have seen those inexplicable horrors. Lynch is often described as a musical filmmaker, because his films do not rely on a clear meaning or explanation but in the accumulation of moments to create a dreamlike experience that we might not completely understand but surely feel.

2. Roy Andersson
When seeing a film from this Swedish filmmaker, we immediately understand that is not going to be a normal film. These films are not located in our reality but in another one, completely different but still eerily similar. By getting rid of realism, Roy Andersson manages to express latent but hidden truths.

Each of the scenes in the films of Anderson are made strictly from one take. He takes to the extreme the cinematic mise en scène described by André Bazin of conveying meaning not through cuts, but through the camera emplacement in relation to the actions and elements in the scene. Bazin explains that this technique rejects the “arbitrary fragmentation” of scenes, forcing the viewer to choose for himself how to arrange what he is seeing.

Giving freedom to the viewer is a trademark of Andersson’s films. In them we do not see a “single big story” but alternated fragments of the lives of some characters in a world where clearly something is going on, but where we are not seeing specifically what. He makes a focus on what would be the background of another kind of movie, and makes us wonder what makes all these characters behave the way they do and what is going on with that strange world.

3. Lucrecia Martel
This Argentine filmmaker defies the Classic Narrative Mode expectation that a clear and concrete anecdote has to happen in order to make a film. She is an observer of the ordinary, able to see what is commonly ignored. She writes and films characters with a unique intimacy, making them feel as human as ourselves.

A distracted viewer would say that nothing is going in the films of Lucrecia Martel, but the scenes and shots of her films are filled with life. Indeed she does not have dramatic excuses for some scenes, but this is just because the films do not focus on the dramatic development of a character or a plot, but (like a painting) in displaying intimacy and creating an atmosphere.

Martel focuses on the struggles and pleasures of daily life, as she is extremely naturalistic. As in real life, many moments that appear important are interrupted by unexpected events, and some are taken over, but others are forgotten. Only a few if any things are concluded. But this should not be confused with a random collage of moments; Martel creates a flow of atmospheres and feelings that, as with most of the filmmakers on the list, can be more similar to a piece of music than to a Classic Narrative Mode film

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