Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cinematic Reality: What is real? PART THIRTEEN

In parts Six and Seven of this "Cinematic Reality" series, we talked about how historical change results in new technologies, which, in turn, are used to understand and shape our social reality.

The introduction of new media and how it is used, in turn, alters the standards by which we gauge cinematic reality. 

David Ayer's "End of Watch"(2012), for instance, capitalizes on the prevailing ubiquity of video culture--promoting itself as a story pieced together from hand-held consumer video cameras, smart phone cameras, and police cruiser dash cams.

These aesthetic choices help enhance the reality of a drama that unfolds on the streets of South Central Los Angeles.


But such choices would not be possible for, and may not be acceptable to, a culture unconditioned to the prevalence of video cameras embedded within its social infrastructure.    

First-Person Shooters and the GoPro Generation

Another innovation that has shaped and continues to shape our sense of reality are video games.  

The introduction of First-Person Shooters like "Wolfenstein 3D" (1992) and "Doom" (1993) (the FPS genre predates either game) augmented the reality experienced by players, allowing them to engage in combat firsthand--instead of watching an avatar in a side-scrolling mission.  

This simple innovation--overcoming the psychological divide separating the player from his avatar--has influenced movies like Matthew Vaughn's "Kick Ass"  (2010) -- most notably the scene in which Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) goes on a bloody, first-person rampage, seen through night vision goggles, to save her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage).

First-person camerawork has long been a trademark in the voyeurism of filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and especially Brian De Palma ("Sisters," "Dressed to Kill," "Body Double"), and has become a mainstay technique in the horror genre in films like Tobe Hooper's "The Funhouse" (1981) and John Carpenter's "Halloween" (1978).

"Bad Motherf*cker"

But the influence of video games, coupled with the introduction of GoPro cameras, seems to be moving the first-person experience away from horror and into the realm of action-adventure cinema.

Ilya Naishuller, the frontman for the Russian indie rock band, "Biting Elbows" has used first-person perspective in two music videos he directed for his band -- "Stampede" and "Bad Motherf*cker."  And, of course, he used a GoPro to do so.

"Bad Motherf*cker" took the technique he experimented with in "Stampede" to a whole new level, catching the eye of Russian director Timur Bekmambetov ("Night Watch," "Wanted").  

Bekmambetov has produced a full length first-person perspective feature directed by Naishuller, called "Hardcore" (2015), starring Sharlto Copley of "District 9" (2009).  

First-Person Perspective:  The Next Frontier

The logical progression of first-person perspective leads us to Virtual Reality, something anticipated for years by thinkers and artists and writers alike.  

Virtual Reality will change our concept of reality for certain, creating new expectations of realism in future audiences.  

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