Realism in Films.

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  02 February 2005
Realism in Films.

Hello all

Iam starting this new thread just to see what your opinion is about realism in films. With Roberto thread about real people i was thinking really what makes a film look realistic and i mean realistic in its visual content as in theme and narrative as well.

What defines realism in films why certain Hollywood films although they try to represent reality, they dont qualify as realist films. What are the components that make a realist film.

Here is my thought.

Actors: Some early italian directors used real people (non actors or amateur actors) in order to give a real feel in their films.. Characters Dillemmas? Social-Political? etc

Direction: I really have no clue what strategies or techniques are used in order a film to look realist.

Cinematography: Can it be the use of more natural lighting or at least reproduced natural lighting that doesnt alienate the audience?

Camera work: Handheld camera? What other techniques? angles? length of shot?

Theme, Content: Social... What else?

Metaphors: Are realist films use more of metaphors in the way they communicate with the audience?

Socio-political context: The socio-political context (the film was made) can be a factor for realism in films?

Music: Many directors used diegetic music in their films (thats music that comes from inside the story that the actors and the audience can hear), is this one more factor to add to realism in films?

Editing: Some said Long shots added to the realism of the film (New french Cinema used it a lot).

What else?

Lets give it a go !
  02 February 2005
I am not a filmmaking student so anything that I say here can be completely wrong... or completely out of place

I don't know whether or not the "not so experienced" actors will give the movie a better sense of realism, but I do know that bad acting won't help either. I was watching Pinoccio by Roberto Beninni (don't remember how to spell it) and it somehow reminded me of Life is Beautiful. Not to insult any fans out here but the guy can't act. He is laughing half of the time in front of the camera even during the most dramatic momments. Well, yes, he is a comedian but what is a comedian doing in a dramatic film anyway?

As a director you can translate your vision to the audiences through your camera. When you put your camera in certain position, what does that mean? what's the difference between putting the camera closer to your subject and putting it far away? Those kind of things help you connect what's happening on the screen with the people watching it. This may sound more like "camera work" but knowing how to operate a camera doesn't make you into a director.

As for the theme. Take xXx for example. What's real about some guy shattering an international terrorism agency all by himself? Geez if that was real then I could just hire some guy to hunt down and destroy Al Qaeda or Hamas. Reality in there only exists when you see real people in real life situations.

As for the rest... I have no idea

Just my two cents.
Sergio Aris ROSA

Disclaimer: My opinions are not those of my employer
  02 February 2005
Time for me to get my film student on

I am (was) a filmmaking student, so here you go, features of realistic films:

Essentially, what you're trying to do is capture reality and make the audience involved in the story without letting them realize that it's an artifice. So you're talking few cuts, only cutting to simulate a place where you, as a spectator, would shift your attention. Long shots, with wide angles and long depth of field, where you can see everything that's going on, and things can't be faked. Camera at about head level, usually.

Handheld is tricky, because it's been co-opted as a style of its own, so it calls attention to itself. Still, Dogme 95 films like Celebration use this to good effect.

Naturalistic lighting is a huge help. Artificial lighting, while beautiful, is pretty recognizable. Real life is often awkward and ugly, not a moving painting.

As for actors and environment, it's best to use as much "found art" as you can -- Dogme 95 is infamous for using largely untrained actors, and for not modifying the environments with lighting, props, or any such things.

Look at documentaries and Dogme films and you'll see what I'm talking about. If you're interested, there are a LOT of critical discursions into this, so seek them out. I had entire classes around this whole precept.
  02 February 2005
Thanks, I will surely make a search for those
Sergio Aris ROSA

Disclaimer: My opinions are not those of my employer
  02 February 2005
You call that putting your film student on??!

Italian Neo-realism had a lot of features that get missed today, possibly because half the time the print being shown is 16mm, like the shoes lost in the mud you can't see in "Ugetsu," if you catch the implication of that reference in the 21st century. Today, with the Baath party regulars avoiding the army but taking on al the bureaucracy functions, it would appear, making a comment about Mussolini's people stepping right back into power days after the war ended, and how that is dramatized in a few films might carry a litle more weight. The US policy, incidentally, has apparently moved considerably in both directions.

Anything filmic has to be wrestled with in a metaphysical sense, because "reality" doesn't have a leg to stand on. You have to use a telescope or a microscope to keep the details gelled, but when you take the wider view -- it falls apart. (The lack of a decent fat free peanut butter spread, for instance...)

Another thing one learns in film school, in-between Italian Neorealist film screenings, is that if you screw up one line of narration for a documentary, you can ruin the whole film. The example used was a documentary about Massai, I think.

Michael Moore doesn't try to make a documentary, though he is mindful not to have sequences cut from it and shown to the prospective audience out of context. His use of limited cartoon animation in "Bowling for Columbine" I think was defining. How "real" was it? It sounded like there was a fair dose of unspoken prejudice being aired-out, and some fascinating historical vignettes, though the coincidences he noted might be just that. A few other fiction directors and producers also have aimed at documentary or metaphysical reality -- Kramer, Vidor and some others.

The western civilization literary thread of having ironic twists to every piece of dialogue is based in the Golden Rule, and it may be argued that this is either realistic or unrealistic, depending on your perspective.

"Cinema verite" is a term applied to the french new wave, but at first, essentially Jean-Luc Godard. (What this is doing in an animation forum, I'll never know...) In "Breathless," he puts a camera under the bedsheets with his actors, and this was so clever at the time that it became a sensation, at a time when most low budget directors seemed to be fighting to get the Hollywood look.

Do we put the camera under the bedsheets in CG animation? Maybe, if we can afford the radiosity hit...

There was sound recording equipment available in the 1940's but only a handful of people knew how to use it, so most films recorded some location sound then dumped nearly all of it in favor of dubbing, and this practice persisted into the 1970's. The "dictaphone" used either cylinders like the Edison machine or "wire," and when I see it it baffles me, but they actually recorded on wire. So, there was this pressure to accomodate sound, but Godard didn't let it phase him. By 1960 portable tape recorders are on the scene, and Richard Leacock was shooting with the lens wide open and the rest is history.

My film school experience didn't include a lot of metaphysics, which is sad. I think that's where you have to handle "realism." Putting the love out and seeing how it's reflected, mindful that we're living in a shabbily decorated mental ooze.

Last edited by scotttygett : 02 February 2005 at 09:27 PM.
  02 February 2005
yea, I think u don't have to worry about "realism" in terms of camera, editing and cinematography...
film is always defined as transposed, artistic reality in the first place.

someone mentioned long shots... but,for example, there is a theory which tried psychologicaly to explain how we actually also CUT our attention from subject to subject (which iterests us) in reality like editor is cutting the shots for the film. sooo...?
Italian neorealism? what is real with very poorly dubbed dialogues?
Dogma and realism? for me, watching Dogma films is like beeing in some odd dark world, far away from any reality...

the truth is maybe, film will never be reality in terms of camera, sets, lighting, editing...
just my PoV...

Counter-Terrorists Wins!
  02 February 2005
I think realism doesn't matter in a film.

As soon as the lights go out and the movie starts the whole realism thing goes out the door anyway. We're essentially hyperfocused on a screen with moving images on it. But as for believability, I'd say you have to orchestrate everything in order to not bring the audience out of a certain mindset that you want them in. I mean they should stay focused on what you're trying to tell. All perceived reality is an illusion anyway, we are not equiped to see the absolute unbiased truth, nor would we have any use for it. Our reailty consists of abstracts, not a predefined value or dataset. I think thus that such theories as Mr. Murche's and Kuleshov's experiments are a very good tool in achieving a believable "reality within the frame".
As soon as we get distracted we loose touch with that framed reality, this happens to me all the time with dogme films for instance, I just walk away and make a cop of coffee or render something out in the background because I don't miss anything that's going on. And when pointing the camera you are essentially editing the film, you are choosing a subject which gets more attention because of what he needs to convey for the story to work. This leads me to believe that it's legit to accentuate and thus "fake" things in order for the film to work and be believable.
A cg'er of all people should realise this I think, because everything in 3d is set to fake reality that we perceive. But anyway, enough of me. You try and explain the human brain, we aint there yet by a long shot.

edit:use the force luke...whabang!!!
modelling practice #1

Last edited by jmBoekestein : 02 February 2005 at 02:08 AM.
  02 February 2006
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