Analytic Vision

Posts Tagged ‘perspectives’

Film culture

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 24/08/2017

 

Who doesn’t like movies? I have only met 2 people in my whole life which claimed that they didn’t like movies and even them have certainly enjoyed some films.

As with any kind of art, in order to experience it, you must first understand its specific language. There is a certain grammar to making sense of visual images that is being commonly used in films in order to make sense of it all. The grammar might be obvious, but is actually very subtle and we only become aware of it when a rule is broken, in the same manner we become aware of a mistake in somebody’s verbal expression when breaking a grammar rule.

A film culture signifies two different things:

  • watching and deeply understanding a certain large part of what is commonly accepted as movies which made it into film history, have been awarded, acclaimed and stood the test of time

  • the ability to discern the quality of a work without having any context or reference for its understanding

They are interdependent, but can also be independent. Thus, with a proper guide and list, someone can easily go through a list of n “best movies of all times” and learn by reading and assimilating what was already interpreted and expressed about those movies. In the same time, someone can learn to discern the value of a film by watching movies about which (s)he does not read or know anything and trying to discover the meaning, the symbols, the signification by sheer intellectual effort based on the skills of the spectator.

The best way is to do both of them, with precaution. Which are some of the precautions that must be considered when creating an authentic film culture?

  1. Watching must be combined with reading about the respective films, at a certain point, either before or after the viewing. Each viewer should use his or her own capacity of making sense of the spectacle, then compare it to what the analyzers, critics, reviewers and historians have written. Thus, a critical argumentation may start to develop, that would allow the film fan to support his or her views.

  2. The importance of critic must not be underestimated and must not be overestimated. Critics are people who usually have a film culture and make solid arguments by knowing and arguing for what they believe, so they deserve to be read. In the same time, some films don’t get the attention of enough well-prepared critics and can have many negative reviews, which aren’t well (or at all argumented). Critics can be influenced by political context, currents of opinion and own prejudice, not to get into the details that they might change their mind in time.

  3. The fact that one hasn’t understood anything from a movie does not automatically qualify the movie as “bad” or of “low quality”. Such a verdict, without sufficient culture, can in exchange qualify the viewer as a snob ignorant. Therefore, some people, being afraid of not being able to argue their own opinions or being afraid of being judged, never dare to express their negative opinions of films, especially in public.

  4. For understanding certain authors or certain film cultures, or film currents, one must have seen other representative similar work within that vicinity, especially when considering authors which are very cryptic or film literates (such as Andrei Tarkovsky, François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino). Not being able to understand the work of such authors is normal even for a film literate who starts to “cut his teeth” with such work. Multiple viewings and readings may be required. 

  5. There are currently two large production and distribution systems for national cinematographic industries: Hollywood (USA) and Bollywood (India). Still, films produced and distributed from the European Union make their emphasis, as do Asian films. Therefore, to really have a film culture, one must have a universal, international culture, from all spaces and all times. There can’t be “too independent” or “too foreign” or “too old” films.

  6. No matter how hard one tries, one cannot see in a lifetime all the movies which are well worth from the history, especially considering each year more movies are being produced than the year before and it’s impossible to even to keep the pace with what’s new and interesting, not to mention the classics that in some cases can even be viewed for free on the internet. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce the number of “bad” movies and increase the possibilities of watching better movies. If someone only watches commercial films and gets used to it as a normality, that person will not be able to appreciate the values of a good quality film. Watching better films (such as masterpieces, classics) makes the bad quality movies obvious like the darkness disappears with the light.

  7. The quality of a film must be judged taking into consideration the genre or genres it can be framed into. Understanding genres and differences between them is key in judging it as a value in itself. By watching the classics of the genre (for example, “The Godfather” for crime, “Gone With the Wind” for love story and “The Maltese Falcon” for film noir), you can have a frame of reference in judging an individual work. Sensible comparison of films is allowed on basis of genres, authors, currents, story line and format. Foolish comparison between films happens when someone considers “a drama is better than a music-hall” or “a thriller is better than a horror”.

  8. The quality of a film must not be confounded with the emotions it depicts or instills. For example, some women might dislike horrors because they get scared, but that doesn’t mean the movie has a low quality. A historical drama may instill sadness, as a war movie may instill rage, but calling the movie “ugly” doesn’t make it bad. For example, some people (especially Italians) have the idea of judging the quality of a movie as being “beautiful” vs “ugly”, in terms of the content, not of the quality of the representation. Considering this, it is important to remember that art doesn’t necessarily have to cover beauty. Art can be used to represent truth and truth isn’t always beautiful or pleasant to look at.

  9. There is a difference between film tastes and film opinions. For example, some people might have a taste for a certain film culture, or genre, or author and they will be likely to consider some work more interesting and valuable on that criteria. A film opinion, on the other hand, must always be an educated film opinion of a person owning a film culture. “De gustibus et coloribus non disputandum” can’t be sensibly used as a pretext to avoid contradiction when talking about a specific film.

  10. The informative value of a film must not be mistaken for its artistic value. For example, a docudrama may be a very interesting factual reconstruction of a historical era, and a very boring movie. In the same way, a very exciting history film may be an utterly wrongful mystification of actual truth. One must remember that film served and continues to serve as means of propaganda, brainwashing and one must consider the value of the representation, not the value of the content. Often (and even more in the last years in film festivals), films are judged exclusively by their daring content and not by the inner artistic value of the depiction.

Which are the advantages of gaining a film culture?

Films offer you the possibilities of voyaging in places and times you haven’t been before. They explain to you how some systems work in order for you to better understand the reality. Films offer you the experience of a spectacle, with emotions which you wouldn’t otherwise feel. Films offer you the possibility to learn from the lives of others, real or imaginary people, to find models which are inaccessible directly. Movies also convey powerful, beautiful, abstract messages using audiovisual means of expression that may inspire you, move you, change you. Understanding some movies can also prevent you from being manipulated by propaganda, commercial work. This experience can run as a bridge between you and people who work in art and extend your perception of the conceptual, immaterial world: what lies beyond words, facts and objective reality. In the movie world, one can find the inspiration and the models (s)he could not get in the real world and use them as a stepping stone to success.

What are the consequences of choosing films whimsically, remaining ignorant towards this form of art? Here are some of the common consequences of not truly developing a film culture. These are not life threatening, but they make for a lesser thrive.

Ignorance in appreciating movies can be manifested:

by overly enthusiastically appreciating what most rightfully consider rubbish

by over criticism of work which isn’t understood

by the inability to give an honest impression based on arguments after viewing a film

by the lack of ability or will to follow the narrative story of a movie, forgetting anything in a short time after watching it

by watching movies as a mere entertainment, thus discarding their artistic potential, without thinking of considering it

by watching only films from a certain culture, period of time, genre, author and discounting other possibilities

by adopting the ideas of the majority without thinking for oneself

by saying a general or vague thing about a movie when asked for an honest, in-depth opinion

by overly criticising the author for not doing the movie the way you wanted it him to (it’s his movie, not yours)

through judging the quality of the movie by its content, its genre or the way one may feel when watching the film

by avoiding to see new movies being scared of not being as good as those you already know

by criticising the authors of a movie for not doing a good enough adaptation (original literature will in most cases be better than movie depictions)

by being overly attached to or opposed to the value of a movie being “old”. Time creates strange effects for different people: some exaggerate the “timeless perspective” creating a positive aura around a film that didn’t exist when it was released or by unjustifiably comparing it to the modern means.

Psychologists came tot he conclusion that some films are well worth watching because of the discussions they generate for people around day to day topics: what are the views, the perspectives, the considerations of a certain person on the topic of how a certain character behaved? This way, movies can be used as a factor for connection, encouraging debate and knowledge.

How do you relate to movies? Do you have a film culture? How much time do you allocate reading about films before seeing them or after seeing them? How much do you talk about your conclusions about those movies with other people?

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In Which Mirror Do You Prefer to Look?

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 11/08/2017

The Mirror of the Bible

To look in the mirror in a spiritual way is to live according to the Holy Scripture. The true esssence of listening to fragments of the Holy Scripture during the holy liturgy is to carry those to others. There are two ways of doing that. The first is to tell your friends what you learned, what was taught at the Church. This is called “the liturgy after the liturgy”. The other, more powerful way of carrying to others the message is to live by it, practice what is being taught.

First, about talking to others. How do your friends plan their meeting with Christ? This is a simple yet powerful question. Indeed, how do they do that? If they weren’t present at the liturgy, how do they practice what was taught? What stops them, if anything? How can they get counsciousness, if they choose so, of the options and the benefits of meeting Christ in the Church or through their deeds, following on the footsteps that lay on their path to redemption? How many friends do you have that bring you to Christ?

I do not preach to only have Christian friends. There is something to be learned from each person. Openness can be welcomed, in my opinion, as long as it doesn’t require accepting the relativism of truth. Such relativism is the claim that all or most spiritual or religious beliefs are correct, or that there are even are more which are correct. Relativism is in itself a religious frame. Keeping each person’s beliefs is something which can be done with firmness and gentleness, while sometimes exploring how do they apply to a particular life situation. I don’t believe the Bible teaches what our attitude should be about modifying the weather or genetically modified organisms in the food. But discussing about such topics keeping the balance of discernement in mind helps us explore the roots of each idea. Therefore, talking to people with different, even opposite beliefs shouldn’t be so scary. If you really believe what you believe, then you believe it enough that you may allow yourself to doubt it, still keeping enough arguments to return to your spiritual center.

Considering that one knows everything right even in the Orthodox Christianity is a dangerous temptation, therefore, one should keep an open mind, not to change the rightful faith beliefs, but to extend them in ways that make sense today, in this world, without posing a threat to the Christian tradition.

For example, if you share an idea through your behavior, an explanation or an answer and another person rejects it, you could feel ashamed. Either of what you said or of the fact that you wrongfully hoped the other person would cherish your idea. If you feel shame because of what you said, the case is that you didn’t really believe it so much (and you cherished your image more) and in the latter case it is discounting the reality that each of us is entitled to own beliefs, including rejecting other beliefs.

This is what freedom of expression means: that you allow and accept, and even fight for the right of another person saying something you don’t agree to. In their essence, both totalitarisms (such as communism, fascism) and political correctness (cultural marxism) admit no opposition and no middleground. Totalitarisms use propaganda and mass control and political corectness uses public relations, lobby and public policies. In essence, in a true democracy nobody should feel ashamed of saying what one thinks and believes out of fright of negative repercussions.

 

The Mirror of the Idols

What is the alternative to looking in the mirror by living your life according to Holy Scripture? It is looking at what you think you can become without God. You become the idols you serve.

For example, if you serve wrath, you become wrath. In its extreme, hateful wrath makes anyone so insignificant until it all becomes a dot, a target to fire at. Wrath can be alternatively directed at a behavior, if emotional intelligence is used. For example, a parent may tell to a child: “I love you, therefore I am angry at your wrong ways”, and by that a negative emotion can be used in such a manner that it doesn’t become an idol.

If you serve pride, you become pride. For example, if you congratulate someone because you want to be congratulated yourself or want some attention, you have not only taken that person’s right to be redempted by rewarding that person in the now (rather than the eternity), but you have also become the exponent of pride. The idol is what gets ahead of you. If a parent emotionally supports a child to do something positive, then it is not pride which is fed (unless the parent actually is proud of himself), but the child’s self-esteem and motivation for learning and repeating a useful behavior.

If you serve lust, then everything you might have gathered in life through planning and discipline is put at the altar of whmisical desires to be sacrificed. Lust is an enemy to wisdom and the clouding of the mind – not only in the sexual form. Within lust, one may become the most urgent urge that emobodies the indisciplined and uncontrolled human being.

If you serve greed, then your identity becomes attached to the things you posess and/or aspire to posess: your value becomes what you are worth in the eyes of others and what you see in the mirror when you look at what you use to cover yourself with.

If you serve gluttony, your body will likely take the shape that you give it by serving this god. Both greed and gluttony may embody the desire, the aspiration to have the own physical needs met, believing that if one doesn’t do that, nothing and nobody will, when in fact only serving others through our talents can truly establish a balance. Of course, one must know how to choose who to serve.

If you serve sloth, then abandoning reponsabilities and gifts is a spiritual suicide, giving up to pessimism and negativism, depression and despair. For example, taking a calculated break after hard work is something which can bring balance, but you cannot counteract an exaggeration, an extreme, with another extreme. Two wrongs d’t make a right.

If you serve envy, then you feel a certain inferiority which tells you whatever another one has that you value must be used to bring him or her down, instead of using admiration as a force to take learnings from a model.

Which Do You Choose?

There you have, in a nutshell, the two possible mirrors between which you life pendulates. When you stop and look, what do you see?

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