Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cinematic Reality: What is real? PART NINE


Our expectations of cinematic reality often change in response to the new media embedded in our culture.

We invest various media with the status of reality, objectivity, and truth--even as we acknowledge that all media is capable of being manipulated.

Many filmmakers know this on the subconscious, if not conscious, level.

One of the strategies of directors is to incorporate new media aesthetics into the body of their fictitious story.

Since its inception, documentary filmmaking has been imbued with the ontology of truth and reality. Not surprisingly, the aesthetics associated with documentary filmmaking have been imbued with the same.

But it might surprise many to know that documentaries have been manipulated even as early as 1922.

Robert J. Flaherty's "Nanook of the North" contained sequences that were purposely staged.

Some researchers even go further to suggest that Flaherty didn't simply record or observe reality with his camera, but deliberately constructed it.

Regardless, documentary filmmaking has been a source of inspiration for filmmakers seeking to invest their stories with aesthetics that seem evocative of reality.

We have already seen this in "Star Wars," in "2001: A Space Odyssey," and in "The French Connection."


"Mockumentaries" like "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984) use the documentary format for parody and humor.

On the other hand, the relatively recent genre of found footage uses the premise of documentary reality to heighten the sensation of fear in movies like "The Blair Witch Project" (199) and "Paranormal Activity" (2007) -- movies that suggest the footage you are watching is real and somehow survived as evidence of the horrors on screen.

Other found footage movies:

"Rec" (2007)

"Cloverfield" (2008)

"Chronicle" (2012)

As technology evolves and becomes more important in the experience of social reality, the standards of realism will continue to evolve as well.

Who knows how Virtual Reality or "The Internet of Things" will change our experience of social reality?   And who, in turn, knows how our demands of cinematic reality will also change in response to the new media aesthetics introduced by each?

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