Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Intensified Continuity

According to David Bordell, explain how and why continuity has intensified in Hollywood cinema. Also consider whether anything has been lost with this change.

Continuity has intensified because of 4 different tactics.
For one, the average shot length or ASL has largely decreased as time has progressed. Before the 1960's the ASL was around "eight to eleven seconds", but nowadays it averages between "three to six seconds". This refers to all genres, but it is mainly faster for action movies. Still, what this has done is show the audience multiple views of one scene. In other words, the coverage of a scene has greatly expanded in order to reveal more details, and in order to add a cinematic style to each film. However, I believe that in some movies this has caused confusion to occur more frequently because the audience is forced to follow each shot very quickly; thus, our actual appreciation and absorption of each shot has minimized. This also shows how films have strayed away from a typical realistic genre since the shots are not being held for a long and more natural amount of time.

The second factor is that technology has allowed scenes to be shot in new angles. This is possible because of the creation and advancement in wide and narrow lens. "During the 1930's, cinematographers increasingly relied on wide-angle lenses" because they didn't distort reality to much of an extent. They were a simple way to show the audience what was in the shot, and how they all related to one another. However, the improvements in narrow lenses has allowed filmmakers to shoot their scenes from afar, and to distort reality by emphasizing certain details over others. Additionally, these new lenses allowed for multiple camera shoots because long lenses were "required to keep cameras out of range from each other". Thus, multiple shots of the same event could be taken, and this most likely contributed to the decrease in ASL. Still, the most salient aspect of the narrow lens is that it can focus on only one detail at a time which allows the director to manipulate reality easily. Because of the long lenses a sense of simplicity has been lost in film. No longer are sets simple locations meant to add a tone to a scene, but now long lenses reveal the details within these sets which forces us to view the set as an actual character.

The third factor is closer framing in dialogue scenes. In classical films, the camera distanced itself from the actor in order to give the actor some privacy. Also, this created the illusion that the camera wasn't being too intrusive which added to a sense of realism. However, as new lenses developed the camera was able to frame the subject tighter. This allowed directors to reveal and focus on their actor's emotions more. Thus, film began to revolve around characters more so than the story itself. Additionally, faster cutting was able to take place because new shots of the actor could be taken in one sequence. I believe that this change has actually improved films a lot because we are more likely to share the actor's emotions if we can clearly see all of their facial expressions which of course connotes an emotion.

The final factor that has contributed to intensified continuity is a free roaming camera. Cameras, thanks to technology, is able to freely roam around a set in swift and fluid movements. I agree that this builds a "continuous tension" because as we watch a long shot take place we begin to yearn to know where the camera will end up. We become aware that the camera is going to take us to a new place that will either add characterization to a character, or it will present us with a new conflict within the film. Our yearning to know this increases tension which in turn causes us to engage ourselves into the film more. All in all, this factor, along with the rest, has caused film to decrease our attention span, but to also become more engaged and interested in the film itself. Thus, we are able to appreciate film even more than before.

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