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Ergocinema / Movies

Movies & Aesthetics: Film Theory for Filmmakers

Movies are a relatively young art form. It not only combines various other arts, but also created new disciplines. Since its emergence at the end of the 19th century, this medium has undergone significant changes, leading to frequent misunderstandings. In a series of articles, I would like to delve into this beloved art form that holds a special place in my heart. In order to grasp the essence of movies and their unique aesthetics, we must first examine their close relationship with television.

The Medium: Movies vs. Television

Differences between Movies and TV

There are several types of movies. Firstly, when we say we’re going to “the movies,” we typically mean theatrical movies at the cinema. They are also known as motion pictures and directly evolved from Silent Films, telling their stories visually. Secondly, “TV movies” developed from radio and stage plays. They rely heavily on dialogue. Although they are still considered “movies,” their scripts are usually teleplays. Differentiating between Movies and TV Movies gets harder and harder as TV series are becoming more cinematic, both in terms of visuals and narrative quality. Nevertheless, we can usually spot TV movies or movies released directly on streaming platforms by their lower budgets and corresponding production restrictions.

Shooting a Movie in the Black Forest
Shooting a Movie in the Black Forest

Between film and television, there exist hybrid productions known as “amphibious films.” These productions feature a cinema version that is released in theaters, while the corresponding miniseries or extended versions, including additional scenes, are broadcast on television. Notable examples of such productions include SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978), DAS BOOT (1981), and THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX (2008).

It’ i’s crucial to highlight that television’s strength lies not only in individual events but also in repetition. This is due to the convenience of simply turning on the TV compared to the effort of going to the cinema. Consequently, films are typically presented as special events, while television thrives on captivating viewers through ongoing series and shows. However, this dynamic has experienced transformations in recent years, as exemplified by film series such as “The Fast and the Furious,” “Mission: Impossible,” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Movies have endings

“It’s hard to write endings. Beethoven and Wagner could do it. Only the big ones can. I can do it too.”

— Richard Strauss, Oktober 31st 1921

Alright, the quote about endings is from a composer, but I still find it quite fitting. Especially in today’s landscape, with a heavy emphasis on never-ending series, it’s sadly simple to overlook the importance of a well-rounded story that reaches its conclusion. Perhaps it’s time for a resurgence of cinema and self-contained narratives in general? Nowadays, Germany leans more towards television rather than cinema, resulting in a scarcity of film culture, despite its rich and vibrant film history. I delve into this topic further in my article on German film policy.

Running time: Features vs. Shortfilms

Shortfilms and medium-length films

The primary distinction between a feature and a shortfilm lies in the amount of time available to convey a story. A shortfilm typically focuses on delivering one simple twist. Conversely, a feature film allows for a deeper exploration. When you’re aspiring to create a feature film but face budget constraints, you often find yourself settling for a medium-length film. I would strongly advise against doing this, as medium-length films generally face challenges when it comes to finding a place at film festivals. Festivals want to give opportunities to as many filmmakers as they can and, therefore, often prefer showcasing several short films together rather than a medium-length film accompanied by a supporting film. Additionally, this approach offers the audience a greater variety of content.

Film analysis, film criticism and filmmaking

Film analysis plays a pivotal role in enhancing our understanding of the medium and comprehending its aesthetics. It involves delving beneath the surface of a film and deciphering the various components that contribute to its narrative, character development, and visual design. A thorough film analysis necessitates attentiveness to details such as camera angles, editing techniques, sound, lighting, and scores—all aspects that are learned through the study of filmmaking. By engaging with these elements, we can gain a better understanding of the intended impact on viewers and unravel the film’s deeper layers of meaning. Moreover, film analysis allows us to consider the historical and cultural context in which a film was created and to identify its references and influences.

When critiquing films, it’s crucial to have a deeper understanding of the filmmaking process. This includes knowledge about the role of the director and the film’s structure. By doing so, we can avoid drawing misguided conclusions about a film based solely on its script, as this would be inherently inaccurate. During my tenure as a film critic for [external link], I have gained valuable insights. For me, film analysis, film criticism, and filmmaking have become intertwined, forming an inseparable connection.

Film Culture: Film Festivals and Film Awards

Festival reading with writers and actors in front of an audience
Festival reading with writers and actors in front of an audience

The importance of film festivals can’t be overstated in their role of preserving film culture. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked in the realm of film politics. These events provide an invaluable platform for filmmakers to connect with like-minded individuals, exchange ideas, and collectively celebrate the art of cinema. Even if you do not have a film included in the program, attending such festivals offers numerous opportunities to stay informed about the current trends shaping the industry.

This holds true for prestigious events like the Festival de Cannes, as well as for smaller independent festivals like the Independent Days in Karlsruhe, where I had the privilege of contributing with my own film award in 2023, aimed at promoting the advancement of cinematic craftsmanship. As a festival organizer, it is also fascinating to witness the emergence of certain themes in the industry and observe how diverse filmmakers approach them with their unique perspectives.

If you want to read more, here are some film-related topics:

  1. The Mainstream