Film and Classicism

Film scholars have long divided films into three stylistic categories: Realism, Classicism, and Formalism. The purpose of style-the way in which motion picture form molds content-depends on how the filmmaker approaches the narrative formation of the story he has decided to tell, the goal of a classicist is to tell a story in the best way possible. When I see films I like to escape my own reality so I’m choosing to write about Classicism.

From the realism and formalism stand point, the classical style falls somewhere in between and is the more dominant way of telling the story, meaning this is what most film styles are, so it reaches a larger audience. Although classicism falls in between the genres of realism and formalism, most classicism films will lean more towards either realism or formalism (Giannetti, 2008). Realism, unlike classicism, is all about showing the truth. A realist will try to carry on the illusion that their film is an impartial reflection of the real world.

Realism is about everyday people in everyday situations, for instance a documentary or your sister’s wedding filmed by your uncle Ted. The director wants the audience to feel like the events have actually happened and get inside the characters mind. Classicism, on the other hand, is fictional but it reminds you of the world we know, it’s all about idyllic storytelling. The narrative classical is typically based on a conflict between a central character who creates a problem and the adversary who resists it.

Most films in this form begin with wanting to know how the lead character is going to get what he/she wants in the face of substantial opposition. The characters in classicism cinema are appealing and romanticized and audiences are encouraged to identify with the characters’ values and goals (Giannetti, 2008). The characters in the classical movie are played by actors and actresses instead of unknown people. (Giannetti, 2008) And at the other end of the scale we have formalism. Formalistic film makers sometimes do not even have characters and avoid a story all together.

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They have no desire to show reality. Formalism wants to show their own image of the world, sometimes to the extreme where it’s just abstract images and music to create an emotional and psychological experience. Classicism on the other hand, has images that are determined by the relevance of the story rather than the desire for authenticity, as is realism, or a desire for formal beauty, as formalism desires. Film critic, Herman G. Weinberg, describes the connection between the story and film flawlessly when he states, “The way a story is told is part of that story.

You can tell the same story badly or well; you can also tell it well enough or magnificently. It depends on who is telling the story” (Giannetti, 2008, p. 8). Classism style rarely calls attention to itself, as realism and formalism styles do. (Giannetti, 2008) Yet, classicism is the leading style in films, it focuses on the story the film is trying to portray to the audience. Creating a realistic world and telling the story through an hidden lens to entertain an audience is the main reason I like this type of film. I want to get lost in the characters and feel like I’m taking part in the story.

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