Olga and I went to Pizza Hut for dinner today. While eating and (me) having a couple of pints, we talked about movies. We both think I watch a lot of them and that kind of stimulates me (or us) to talk about movies. So we talked (read: everything below is a product of one somewhat short dialogue and no Internet research what-so-ever)…
I started out by pointing out the difference between Russian and American cinematography of previous ages (50s – 80s). Russian movies always have these open scenery scenes – in the fields, in the forests, and at other huge open spaces. American films though were dominated (meaning that I think they were dominated, not that they necessarily were) by closed environments such as a room in the house or a cabin of a car. Small rooms with several people in place seem to have more action. Horse in backyard is by far more interesting to watch than a rider from one side of the horizon to the other.
Limited number of locationis could have been caused by heavy and huge equipment needed such as cameras and lights, with a number of people to support all of these. Mobility was difficult, thus just a few shooting locations. USA being a capitalist country was all involved in making money, and making money is much easier in a single place in the center of something. Thus Hollywood. Russia was at times of Soviet Union with lots of totalitarian control and that sort of things. These in turn suggested open environments, particularly outside of the city, as better shooting locations. By now everyone knows that centralizing things is good for business….
Yet another interesting trend, which actually is very similar in both cultures, was the sequence. Most of the films, until recently, were sequential; meaning that events happen in chronological order. From the first sight, chronological order is the most logical way to tell a story. You start where things start, and you end where things end. But in real life, it is not exactly so. In literature, only boring and simple books are chronological. They usually have a single story line and just a few characters. Or the books is just an expression of all the crap in someone’s head. Good action books have either plenty of characters and/or several story lines. Really good ones might even try to develop different story lines at different paces. And films are no different in this regard. Do you remember when was the last time you told a story from start to end? Without interruptions for questions (I know, this doesn’t happen in the cinema), and without pauses to explain behavioral models of different individuals or tiny details of circumstances… Most of the people I listen to do that all the time. With every story.
Another reason for basing a movie on the simple chronology, until recently, was the angle of the audience. Before, when movies were new, like any other new thing, they were valuable as they were. Just watching a move was a memorable event. I mean I am not that old, but my father took me to the cinema two times and I still remember both. And I remember both films (“Short Circuit” and “Cocoon). These were events, not movies that counted. Later, of course, movies started to be more common. People were watching them on television, renting and buying videotapes, and going to the cinema for a movie. That was the time when something needed to change. And one of the things that could change in many films was chronology.
First change in choronology that I can think of was the mere “memory” thing. When a character was “remembering” something, they would show a piece that was already shown before. Tricks like this would make a movie stand out. Additionally they would allow for a more complex story line. Audience wasn’t yet prepared to recieve anything averagely complex, so it needed some help in expanding the STMM aka Short Term Movie Memory (Mom, see not only I can create my own words, I can come up with whole abbreviations!).
Second change was just an expansion of the first one, an upgrade if you will. Reminders were about only things in the past. Now, they would insert future events, or even non-existing events. When someone imagines the future, or dreams about something that would be a “think-up”. With this movies could be even more complex. Now they could have insert an imagine scene from the future and audience would watch every frame following the character into that future, trying to see if the character would reach that imagined scene. Exciting, eh.
After those two were done, people were prepared for everything. Movies were as common as me renting them now. Chronology didn’t even matter any more. One could break the film into pieces and than assemble without big concerns of wheather they fit. The only last concern was that all of them are there. People could rearrange for themselves as needed. And this gave audience something interesting to argue about, which, of course, didn’t go unnoticed…
…because the next wave of movies didn’t even care if they’ve got all the pieces in the story line. They would just break it and than put the biggest one together and that’s it. Now people can really flame about which pieces were in place, which were missing, and which were even from another movie.
Anyway, I was just thinking about all of this stuff and maybe one day I won’t be as lazy as I usually am and will look it up on the web and read some of it and educate myself on the matter. Until than I save it all in this post. You can use comments, trackbacks or email to let me know of any corrections, resources, or ideas.