How Globalisation influenced Film

Posted by

Since it’s inception film had been greatly benefited by Globalisation, whether it be developing technologies and techniques pioneered in foreign nations to auteurs and marketers forver changing and expanding what film is and how it can be distributed.

Globalisation is the process by which businesses or other organisations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. In which national and regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through the global network of trade, communication, immigration and transportation.

In the more recent past, globalisation was often primarily focused on the economic side of the world, such as trade, foreign direct investment and international capital flows, more recently the term has been expanded to include a broader range of areas and activities such as culture, media, technology, socio-cultural, political, and even biological factors, e.g. climate change.

Humanity has always engaged in trade which thus lead to innovation, an example of that can be seen by the Silk Road transporting Silk from China to South Asia and Europe. But as we discover how big the world is, it gets smaller. Being able to move from Paris to Manilla in seventeen hours would have been absurd forty or fifty years ago, now it’s common practice.

Now if you’re somewhat familiar with Anthropology, Etymology, Mythology and Human History in general, you’ll understand that techniques and stories are greatly influenced by others and in some cases they’re innovated upon. An example can be seen by William Shakespeare, who was inspired by the tales of King Leir, a Mythic King in Briton, to create his own Tragedy- King Lear.

We could talk about various subjects and how they’ve been influenced by people all around the world, but today we’re going to focus on the Art of Film making and those who greatly refined the techniques and materials we all take for granted.

View_from_the_Window_at_Le_Gras,_Joseph_Nicéphore_Niépce

Film as we know it developed from the discovery of Photography in 1827, by a French inventor named Nicéphore Niépce. As the techniques of Photography were being refined during the following decades no one even considered the possibilities of recording an action.

That is until 1890 when the Kinetoscope was developed by Thomas Edison (an American Inventor) alongside William Kennedy Dickson (a Scottish Inventor). The device that allowed a viewer to peek into to scope of the machine, upon which they could see a series of pictures move so quickly that it appeared that the scene was in motion.

This idea would of course be developed upon by the Lumiere Brothers (French Film Pioneers), who in 1895 had invented the very first film camera called the “Cinematographe” a device that could record footage onto film and then project that film onto a screen. In contrast to Edison’s invention, it allowed simultaneous viewing by multiple parties.

At the time the Lumierre brothers didn’t see much financial appeal to the Art, their work mainly consisted of filming simple actions such as factory workers leaving at the end of the day and a train arriving in a station. They were essentially seen as animated photographs.

That is up until a magician named Georges Méliès (another Frenchman) grew an interest in the art after seeing one of the Lumierre brothers’ screenings. He asked the brothers if he could buy the camera off of them but they declined, due to a concern that he could grow to become a rival. Méliès of course wouldn’t have to worry, since he bought an animatograghe from English Film maker Robert W. Paul and re-engineered it to be similar in design as the Cinematographe

George_Melies

Now most of you are probably familiar with Georges through the Scorsese film Hugo, as it features him. He was one of the greatest pioneers in all of Film History. Back in his day films didn’t feature any sophisticated editing techniques or even possessed narratives. People would just pay to see footage of a train arriving in a station.

Editing had yet to be discovered, so a person would just go out with their camera and then film something until they either wanted to film something else or they ran out of film. When projected, it would just cut to different scenes in a relatively sloppy manner.

That is until Georges discovered something known as a “jump cut” by accident when he was filming a carriage drive across the street but his camera jammed and when it started working again he continued to film. When he viewed his findings he discovered that the frames in which the camera jammed showed the carriage turning into a hearse- essentially cutting from one frame (a carriage) to another (a hearse) in the same location.

As an illusionist he took advantage of this discovery in his films, creating jump cuts whenever he wanted to show a character magically appearing. Despite making five hundred films, Georges was never really experimental when it came to camera angles. He always stationed his films as if they were plays.

Later on an American Projectionist named Edwin S. Porter made extensive leeway in the use of editing to tell a narrative. His first feature was called “Life of an American Fireman” which featured footage collected from the National Library, he essentially spliced together footage of Fire Engines moving down a road with his own staged scenes to create a narrative.

Though the film did use a lot of overlapping action in its editing, in which the same action is recorded at several different angles. This kind of technique would irk the modern audience but at the time it was acceptable as the viewer was ignorant of such techniques and was thus unaccustomed to it.

med_1409082412_1382454189_image

Porter would later hire a young actor called David Wark Griffith for one of his movies, D.W Griffith would of course o on to be a pioneer in film making by inventing the “continuity editing style” which basically meant that film would be cut in a way to maintain a sense of space and time in the narrative. It revolutionised the way films could be made.

He incorporated different camera angles and edited them into a sequence in a chronological narrative, an example of this can be see in the film “Greasers Gauntlet” in which Griffith used a cut in from a medium long shot of a hanging tree to a full shot of two actors in the same scene, all in order to highlight the importance of the narrative. This technique lead to the development of the 180° rule which states that two characters in a scene should maintain the same left/right relationship to one another.

Just to clarify, Griffith is quite a controversial figure. He was the son of a Confederate Colonel and would later produce a film called “The Birth of a Nation” which essentially glorified the KKK. Screenings on the East Coast resulted in riots, to which many Cinemas started to flat out refusing to screen it. Griffith moaned on about how he was being censored and how this proved that “Free Speech in America is Dead“.

Now I myself am a heavy proponent in the value of Free Speech, but it gets hard sometimes. Particularly when Bigoted Bastards appropriate it so they don’t have to admit that they’ve lost the moral argument and so they’re literally just arguing for the right to be an ass-hole. A right they should be allowed, if and only if that right is not abused in an attempt to inflict harm.

d-w-griffith-605037d7-87a9-439a-907c-ae182827395-resize-750

D.W. Griffiths film “Intolerance” would be studied extensively in Soviet Russia by the Moscow Film School. The students would dissect the film in its entirety, even going so far as to take the camera roll and re-edit sequences of the film to see what the outcome to sequence would be like on an emotional level. This process lead to Soviet Filmmaker Lev Kuleshov to discover a mental phenomenon by which viewers derive more meaning from the interaction of two sequential shots than from a single shot in isolation.

For example if you take footage of an actor with an emotionless expression and edit it with footage of soup, audiences believe that the actors expression is that of hunger. If you took that same footage and edited in footage of a woman in a coffin, audiences would believe that the actors expression is of severe grief. When you edit that very same footage with footage of an attractive person, the audience would believe that the actor is expressing a deep sense of lust for the individual.

Even though the footage is exactly the same, the way it has been edited has presented a different meaning. The discovery was aptly named “The Kuleshov Effect”.

Kuleshov-effect

The Moscow Film School would produce a pioneer of editing standards by the name of Sergei Eisenstein, who would go onto refine the method of “Soviet Montage” in which he could break the confines of time and space to communicate abstract ideas in the medium of film. Eisenstein created “Battleship Potemkin” a Masterpiece in Soviet Propaganda and the most influential film in the medium of editing.

I’ve talked about Potemkin previously, it’s one of the greatest works of propaganda in history. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister for Propaganda, loved the film.

Eisenstein lists five methods of montage. There’s the metric montage, which essentially means cutting shots to the beat of music or sound effects, the tempo of which could increase or decrease to create a sense of suspense or calm.

There’s the rhythmic montage which concerns the rhythm of action taking place in the shot e.g. soldiers marching which drives the narrative forward.

There’s tonal montage which concerns with the tone of he shot, largely concerning lighting and camera angles, cutting between different tones e.g. a pram falling down the stairs, a mothers scream and a mob of peasants dispersing creates- it helps create subplots or focuses on individuals momentarily to add an emphatic message.

Then there is over tonal montage, which concerns how large sequences play with each other.

Finally there is Eisenstein’s favourite type of Montage; Ideological Montage. Editing used to further the narrative or add a level of imagery to the sequence e.g. in Battleship Potempkin there’s a shot of a Priest tapping a Cross and then it cuts to a Soldier tapping the hilt of his sword, implying a corrupt relationship between church and state.

These methods of Montage would later be updated by the French New Wave movement in the late 1950’s and then Hollywood. Montages today are typically used to show the progression of time or a characters journey in a short amount of time. They’re often used in Romantic Comedies or Action Comedies to show two people interacting with each other, often with a jump cut in the same shot to add a comedic effect.

Hollywood itself became a sanctuary for Film Makers across the world fearing persecution. Whether it be Capitalists escaping Russia or Germans escaping Nazism. The latter group was greatly influential as they were the pioneers for German Expressionism, film makers who created extremely detailed and Gothic sets. Featuring shadows painted onto the floors and walls.

When they got to Hollywood they needed to find a much cheaper way of producing meaning than by developing elaborate Gothic Sets, so they decided to create this new aesthetic with Lighting that allowed them to control shadows to develop a mood; Noir. An entire Genre of cinema was born, all thanks to Refugees.

noir-film-pic

America was always the dominant figure in Film Production. To combat the typical Hollywood movies that saturated into the culture, French New Wave and Italian Realism offered a variety of new stories which featured their own unique themes and aesthetic values.

The latter movements went on to inspire such film makers as Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and many many more. Film as we know it would not exist if we did not live in a world that was capable of sharing ideas, reaching out to other nations and taking in people who would one day become great innovators. Film benefited from Globalisation way before the concept was even concocted.

Marketing wise, most Hollywood movies are made in consideration of the Foreign Market. That’s why these films typically feature simple plots, inoffensive characters, simple humor- a blandness so that it may be agreeable to everyone. This can be a good think financially, but not so much in regards of both quality and ethics. An example of the latter can be seen in Dr. Strange, where they changed the nation in which Stephen Strange learns magic from Tibet to Nepal, in the hopes to get approval fro China to screen there.

Quality has always been an issue with Hollywood films, with or without a Foreign Audience in mind. If you make money out of films then the logical thing to do is to create as many films as possible, that way you can generate more profit. The problem with that is that production is often rushed and therefore the quality is diminished. But even if such a project were paced moderately, a bad movie will always turn out to be a bad movie.

Nowadays Hollywood isn’t the sole producer of Films, although it is still the strongest. European Cinema is still going strong, particularly French Cinema. India has their own equivalent to Hollywood aptly titled Bollywood, as does Nigeria with Nollywood. In Asia nations such as South Korea are doing particularly well also.

The foreign film market is an excellent alternative to Hollywood. If you’re sick of generic Horror Movies, check out some Japanese Works. There’s always going to Independent Cinema to counter the Mainstream, just like French New Wave did back in the Fifties.

The real questions about the future of Film and Globalisation in general is the influence of the internet. Now people once said that with the rise of TV that meant Cinema was dead, well looking back we can say with certainty that wasn’t the case. So it may be naive to suggest that internet streaming services will replace cinemas, I wouldn’t be surprised that when the technologies for home cinemas become cheaper then we will bid farewell to that way of life.

If this is true then the industry would change forever. The marketing department would be made almost redundant. Why hype up a movie for months or even years if you can just drop a trailer and then stream it a week later? To which it can be replayed for years on end, so no worries about having to pay cinemas to screen your films daily for weeks on end.

We also can’t underestimate the influence of Social Media and Critics. Bad reviews can genuinely turn a film into a flop, public opinion matters. For certain films at least.

1

There’s still question upon the potential down falls of Globalisation. Although some nations have managed to lift themselves out of poverty with the help of trade and migration, a lot of others have suffered due to the outsourcing of jobs. That’s one of the major issues with Capitalism that even it’s greatest proponents have to admit; no matter how many benefits, somebody will lose- somebody has to lose.

But the answer to Globalisation is not Isolationism and we should be wary of those who preach these Protectionist policies. Because isolation stifles growth, its stifles communication and understanding. Without that, we’d never have film.

3 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s