reading films? what is this girl on about?!!
Yes, I am here to tell you that reading films is a thing.
Have you ever watched a film and felt puzzled at the end… and then had to Google the meaning? (and then wondered afterwards, who are these people that know this stuff?)
As it happens, they’re people that read films. It’s not an exclusive skill and I bet you’ve even done it yourself a few times without realising and if you’ve ever spoken to anyone in depth about a film you’ve seen, then you definitely have.
Since over a century ago when films were invented there have been huge changes in what we expect from them. From at first not having any sound, to the soundtrack being one of the most important devices a filmmaker may rely on, to computer generated images opposed to handmade props and puppets.
Like art and music and poetry and storytelling, film-making has been a fluid evolutionary process as it expands and experiments with new ways to project our interpretations of humanity.
That was a deep I know, it gets worse.
When we study English in School, we learn how Shakespeare used storytelling devices like Metaphors in Imagery to convey the states or the emotions of the characters. More than that, they would sometimes communicate entire existential crisis’, like mortality!! There are now even studies into how Shakespeare may have been a political rebel, hiding subversive messages in his works.
Films are a great way to learn about people, kids, friendships, relationships, politics, cultures, humanity and even history (I know they’re generally fictitious but sometimes they inspire people to do a bit of research). As the years have passed the dramatic became more realistic, backdrops became Ariel shots and the suspense became more intense. Reading films is about appreciating those changes and asking why they happened.
It’s not to say that every single film is trying to ask some life changing question or state some intense political agenda… However, many of the most famous (and infamous) films do use different devices and techniques to make some sort of statement, and that goes to show as an audience, that we like watching clever and meaningful film-making.
There’s a lot of places for Directors to hide clues and messages in plain sight. They reinforce something in the plot, create a theme or develop the characters and their motives but mainly, they show us the story, without telling it.
Go to my next post reading films: a breakdown for what to look out for next.