Film Studies

French New Wave

Film Studies Task 1 – Criteria 2.1

French new wave is a term used to describe a specific type of film making that dates back to the late 1950’s and early 60’s. The idea of French new wave all began with an article in Cahiers du Cinema, a French magazine that focused on film. In 1954, Francois Truffaut wrote a controversial piece in the magazine entitled ‘A Certain Tendency in French Cinema’, in this article Truffaut famously stated that ‘French cinema is dead’, calling it too ‘script lead’ and ‘literary’. Truffaut’s wanted to point out that cinema was too similar to other art forms and not it’s own, ‘why not simply read a book or watch a play if you want people just to talk?’ encapsulates his point. This article would go on to cause controversy through out the world of film making. After this article, Francois Truffaut went on to become a film director himself, he teamed up with fellow french film makers Andre Bazin and Jean-Luc Godard, and through a combination of long takes, frequent jump cuts and non-linear narratives they went on to create an entirely new genre of film that would influence film making for decades. Truffaut, Bazin and Godard did not use artificial lights, professional actors or scripts, which gave french new wave a fluid and natural feel to their films. New, never before seen techniques were used in the films, voice overs were used to explain what was happening and characters often broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the camera which almost forced the audience to realise this was a new type of film, different to anything they had seen before.

As a class, we were split in to small groups and told to make a short film that showcased techniques used in French new wave. To give us some ideas, we watched some clips one of the most well-known French new wave films, ‘Breathless’ or ‘A Bout de Souffle’ (shown below).

The natural aspect of French new wave was a very important part of this kind of film making so we purposly did not write a script or even think too in depth about a story. My group, consisting of Craig, Vicky, Pete and Joey used long, un-interupted shots and a voice over when we filmed our attempt. We also broke the fourth wall, frequently swapped clothes and moved positions in order to deliberately break continuity. It was good fun experimenting with different methods of film making like this. Our video is shown below.

French new wave is still used today and aspects of french new wave continue to make an appearance in films, proving that Francois Truffaut and French new wave was an influential and very important part of cinematic history.

The Narrative Structure of the Science Fiction Genre

Assessment Task 1 part A – (Fiction Criteria 1.1 & 1.2 and Film Studies Criteria 3.1 )

The purpose of this report is to analyse genre, specifically the science fiction genre. I chose to analyse this genre because I have watched science fiction films in film studies lessons and after group discussions and analysis, I thought this would be interesting to look into further. In this report I will be mainly looking at three films that we watched in film studies, Metropolis, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Blade Runner.  Science fiction in film has been around for decades, the first science fiction dates back to 1902 with George Melies’ silent film ‘La Voyage dans la Lune’, a 17 minute long film which tells the story of astronauts flying a canon propelled space ship to the moon. Man would not walk on the moon until 1969, 67 years after the film was made, so at the time of release this film was extremely futuristic and unrealistic by the standards of that era. And from this point onwards, Sci-Fi would always have similar narratives.

One of the beauties of the science fiction genre is that there is no limit to a narrative. Most sci-fi films are set in the future so it allows the creators to dream up all kinds of technology and inventions and it can still seem realistic because nobody knows how the future will turn out, for instance if you told people in 1902 that ‘La Voyage dans la Lune’ would become a true story in just 67 years nobody would have believed it, but technology evolves at such a pace that anything seems possible and sci-fi is the perfect way to show this.

Firstly, let’s take a look at the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis. The film is set in a futuristic society in which the rich, healthy and powerful citizens live above ground in a mega city surrounded by towering buildings that represent hierarchical significance and economic status. The other side of the story is set underground, where the poor, lower class citizens reside in filth, and live only to serve the people above them by operating the machinery that serves the rich. The theme of this film is associated with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime along with the fear of totalitarianism, a political system where the lower class members of the public becoming ‘machines’ that exist only to serve the ruling classes precisely what Hitler set out to achieve in world war ii. In the denouement stage of this film, the working class section of society work together to rise up and revolt against the rich and powerful by destroying the machinery that controls the city, which results in a new regime that combines the two, once completely separate worlds.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a 1951 film directed by Robert Wise and based on Harry Bates’ 1940 short story ‘Farewell to the Master’. This film revolves around an alien life force that comes to earth, accompanied by a huge robot, to warn the planet that if it does not change its ways, it will be destroyed because it is seen as a threat to the rest of the galaxy. The concept behind this film relates to the ‘Reds under the Bed’, a term created by the McCarthyism witch-hunt. McCarthyism comes from US senator Joseph McCarthy, a republican whose regime saw thousands of people accused of communism without any evidence; hence the term is now defined as ‘the practise of making unfair allegations’. Reds is a slang word for communists and ‘under the bed’ relates to how they were allegedly hiding themselves in society, resulting in the paranoia of undercover communism in the USA.

This film was also released in a time when people were still scared of war because World War II was fresh in the memory so the idea of an alien race declaring war on the entire planet was very apt. This film concludes with the alien returning home to a different world, leaving a warning for earth to change its violent ways before its too late, a message that stayed with many people long after the film finished.

The final film I will be looking at is Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner. Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles in the year 2019; Los Angeles has become an overpopulated, dark society that is inhabited by robotic human replicates that live illegally amongst real humans. These androids are banned on earth because they are primarily used for illegal activity so are tracked down by a police-like force known as blade runners, whose job it is to identify and destroy the androids. The theme of Blade Runner is another sci-fi film that reflects the social issues of its time. In the 80’s people were sceptical of hyper capitalist foreign policies that were being introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the USA, this fear combined with corruption of government gave this film an appropriate narrative that allowed viewers to see a real insight of what could happen in the future. Ridley Scott depicted this message through evident homelessness, overpopulation and use of pathetic fallacy, creating a futuristic yet realistic world where the rich and poor are entirely separated, just like in Metropolis.

Science fiction films have developed over the years but the core themes have remained very similar with themes that revolve around alien life, time travel, technology and futuristic inventions. The ‘What If’ factor has kept science fiction fresh, exciting and relevant. Keeping audiences interested and fearful of the future, technology and what might happen. As technology and society evolves, filmmakers will continue to find inspiration for films that will portray real life fears through sci-fi. To conclude, I think it is this that makes sci-fi such an interesting and unique genre, the only genre that allows sometimes ridiculous stories of farfetched scenarios to seem realistic and possible in the not to distant future whilst reflecting the social issues of the era.

The Edge

Assessment Task 2 – (Criteria 1.1 3.1 & 3.2)

‘Macbeth’ Trailer – Provoking a Response: The Signification of Technical Codes.

The Edge

For this project we were asked by Level 3 Performing Arts to make a cinematic trailer for their forthcoming production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We would be working closely with Jon Holmes and the Performing Arts students for this assignment so we decided to work as one group to put our knowledge of film codes and conventions to practical use over a two day shoot. To begin with, we had a group discussion to decide locations, style and the general look we would be going for in the trailer and after a few days of brainstorming, we were all happy with what we were aiming for, a eerie and atmospheric tone to portray one of Shakespeare’s darkest works. The trailer was to last only 90 – 120 seconds and in that time we wanted to use experimental film techniques that we had previously learnt in film studies.

We chose to film the trailer in the college’s boiler room which is located by our classroom. The boiler room is downstairs and underground so the lack of natural light was perfect for the mood we were going for and being placed by our class room was very useful for securely storing equipment and allowing people to take breaks when needed. The boiler room, pictured below, is a dark, dusty and metallic looking location which made for an ideal scene when combined with our choice of lighting, two 350w lights and one 650w key light. The room provided us with fantastic looking shadows and gave off an atmospheric feel which showed up nicely on camera.  The majority of the trailer was filmed using the Canon 7D and the Carl Zeiss lenses which gave brilliant detail and depth of field for close ups of the actors and actresses and provided a great professional filmic look. We also used my 550D for some of the other shots. Whilst some of the group were filming and setting up in one section of the boiler room, some of us went to explore and see if we could pick up any interesting looking shots that could contribute. Frankie, Joey and I as well as a few others came across a doll and some other interesting items and decided to try and pick up some filler shots using the glide track, my camera and the light from an iPhone, these shots came out very nicely and fitted well with the other pieces of film. Throughout the day we all worked together and everybody helped out with the filming, lighting, music and communication with other students. After two hectic days of solid filming, we had collected enough footage for our edit so proceeded to pack away the set which, again was made easier by everybody working well together. After a collaborative effort on the edit, we were all pleased with the footage we acquired. The location mixed with the lighting, costumes, make up and performance of the students made for a very professional looking finished product that we were all delighted with. We used a collection of different editing techniques, including colour effects, focus pulls and clever transitions to create the surreal and almost disturbing look we set out to achieve.


Jon Holmes comments on ‘The Edge’:

HND students and Level 3 Acting students have been working collaboratively to create a short promo for the forthcoming, self-devised Acting Performance of Macbeth, called ‘The Edge’.

The shoot was a short, but very intensive day; in very hostile working conditions in a Bolier Room. The performers not only had to adapt to the conditions, but also stay focused on character and theme when called upon. As with all shoots of this type and quality, there were numerous takes needed from varying angles. Each set-up or shot would take 30 mins to an hour to compose and light, which required focus and dedication from the actors to produce when called upon; not one of them found wanting.

Additionally, the film was shot on Film Standard Prime lenses. This gives the promo that “filmic” look, but also gave the performers another, added restriction to their performances, namely: shallow depth of field. On all shots, the performers had little or no room for error having to work within a very confined focal range of 5 – 10 mm, which meant that the students had to hit their ‘Marks’, or they wouldn’t be in focus. This calls upon multi-stranded concentration –   using physical memory and procedure – whilst staying true to the core of their characters and physical performance.

The HND Moving Image students worked very hard to not only preserve the inherent themes of the brief/adaptation through the aesthetic of the piece, but also to work within very tight and filthy conditions. This was a real test to not only light a shot for aesthetic, but also to work with limited power requirements and space. Again, like the actors, all students were very professional in their approach and produced very professional results in a relatively short space of time.

Moving Image students commented on the fact that this was only made possible by working effectively and positively as a team across both the other moving image students and the actors alike. They said that the focus and the commitment of the actors made the project possible and without the performers’ dedication to the shoot and to the process of filming, it wouldn’t have worked.