Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 4)

Andre Bazin and Sigfried Kracauer have conflicting, yet similar theories regarding the notion of realism. Kracauer believed that a film should be realistic to a certain extent while still maintaining its artistic merit. He focuses less on the technical aspects of film and more on the basic elements pertaining to the production. He believed its all in the staging and manipulation of the camera. He falls under the “Seeing is believing” philosophy, that the world revolves around cause and effect, and not by unpredictability. Kracauer, as well as many others, believed realism can only be made possible through art. Film was “Art,” the most popular art form of the twentieth century.

The idea of realism plays a vital role in producing a successful film, at least that’s what Andre Bazin believes. He respects directors such as Welles’ and Chaplin, merely because of his admiration for their ability to portray reality. Bazin respected Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, because despite the fact that he knew this wasn’t a “true documentary” he respected its ability to portray reality to such a high degree. Bazin enjoyed long-takes and limited edits. These two features of film would fall under the category of a neo-realist film. He liked simple directors, who focused more on the reality of a film and less on the “flash.”

Kracauer’s ideas would appear more applicable towards contemporary American Films. He enjoys the artistic aspect of films, and less on the reality of the production. Bazin was increasingly driven towards the “real”, and further away from the extraordinary. Both theorists believed film was a powerful art form, arguably the most powerful of any form of art depiction.

Many films support both theorists’ claims regarding the notion of realism. One film in particular that correlates with Bazin’s beliefs is Umberto D, directed by Vittorio Di Sica. There are countless long-takes in the film. Di Sica portrays an absolute sense of reality in this particular Italian Neo-Realist film, and does not try to confuse the audience by adding any additional means of storytelling (excess editing, special effects, obscure lighting). The film works without being a visual spectacle. Its realistic characteristics are noticeably evident, yet the film still manages to maintain an immensely entertaining appeal.

Both viewpoints regarding realism are particularly valuable and insightful. I can’t seem to entirely agree with either Kracauer or Bazin, but if I would chose a position I would agree with Kracauer’s beliefs. This is a biased claim, of course, because I am used to modernized cinemas “glorious” antics. Its flashy scenery and intense dialogue captivate my attention, forcing my sub-conscious to take a trip through a ‘fantastical’ faux-reality. It’s also due to the fact that I’m not such a neo-realist lover. Either way, Kracauers view points sit better with me, but I do admire Bazin’s formidable insight.

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