Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Language and Film: Food For Thought

Andrew here. This is only my second post for this blog, so I figured I was overdue. Anyway, I have recently received some exciting news. My first feature film, Una Vida Mejor, has been accepted to Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, California. I'm not exactly sure what this will mean for me or my career, but I know its good. I bring this up because it gives me a little bit of credibility and because Torben is interested in the relationship between language and film. Having a BA in English literature as a filmmaker, I too am interested in said relationship.

So, the thought that I want to convey is this: no other form of art in the past 100 years has affected language as much as film. Film is one of the most vibrant and powerful art forms in the world today. People are reading less and watching more. Filmmakers have replaced novelists, poets, and painters, but as a lover of art of all kinds, I have realized that I can use my love of literature, poetry, photography, and painting, by making a film. What does this mean for language? Well, we certainly have new words, new ways to use them, and a new social consciousness. Most people I know find out about books through films. Millions of people see the movie and then read the book. Take Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jarhead, The Kite Runner, Schindler's List, or The Namesake; my wife and I have read these books because of the corresponding films. In a perfect world, we would all read more, but I believe that film can influence one to read and seek out knowledge. While the opposite is also true, we simply cannot deny the power of film and its effect on our language. Just some food for thought.

5 comments:

Farmer's Market Online said...

Spot on! Literature and film may be considered separate mediums of expression, but ever since the bards were chanting Beowulf literature has always had its performance element, and from its inception film has relied on literature for content and inspiration. The See the Movie, Read the Book directory at http://www.outriderbooks.com/seethemovie.html provides many more example.

Michael Hofferber
Farmer's Market Online

Scott Abbott said...

I love film for all its ability to draw on various art forms, visual and aural and narrative.

But I balk at crowning it the king of genres.

Instead of the hierarchy, can't we just enjoy haiku for its formal pleasures, a jazz trio for its complexities, a photomontage for its wit, and so on?

If we're talking only about which genre is the most popular at the moment, film may take the cake. But it hasn't replaced painting or poetry in any sense but sheer popularity.

Wagner used to say that his operas, with their Gesamtkunstwerk character, would replace all other arts.

The novel was declared dead several times over the 20th century.

And if film had replaced painting, there wouldn't have been such a disturbing exhibition of Richard Prince's paintings and photographs and sculptures in the very crowded Guggenheim last weekend in NYC.

I don't mean to argue against film or against the way film (as have each of the arts) has influenced language. And I hope your film finds a wide audience. I watched the trailer on your website and find that it's about a topic I've been thinking a lot about. In fact, when I team-teach a course on border issues in Spring of 2009, I hope to screen it for our class and a wider audience.

Andrew James said...

Scott,

Your response to my comment was great. Well said, thanks. I too love the arts. I should clarify that other art forms are just as relevant as film, but maybe not as far reaching or influential. I'm not saying that film is a better form of art, maybe just more accessible to the mainstream and therefore, more influential. Is this good or bad? I don't know. Film is more popular right now, and the way things are heading, it seems like it may stay that way for a while. Other artists will continue to create in their respective mediums, but their audiences may be dwindling. This is a tragedy of sorts, and what I really meant when I said that film had replaced other various art forms. This is not a replacement in relevance, but rather a replacement of popularity and widespread capacity to influence. I'm definitely not arguing, I just don't want to be perceived as elitist. Also, thanks for checking out the trailer for my film.

Grabloid said...

Just adding two pennies...

I think music is probably the most 'popular' art form. Consumed, produced, etc...

And most 'influential'? Well, we all still read books in school, even on film theory. So literature/the written word in my book (ha ha ha)...

All the arts are great and interesting...they are all forms of language, built with language, and they all shape our language in interesting ways. I would never say that one art form or genre "out does" or is better than another because they are all so different and they all do different things. Comparing in terms of what form is better or worse is useless in my mind. I think it is a question of what each one can do, what the artist is going for, what effects the work has on its audience, etc. So, like Scott, I reject any hierarchy of art forms...though I now understand that isn't what you originally meant Andrew.

Also, I think it is important to point out that film is still in it's very infancy...not even 200 years old. We are still in the very beginning phases of exploring and understanding film...

Having said all of this...film is an incredible art form and has the ability to synthesize many art forms, into a different form. I wouldn't say that it is any more or less effective than any other genre or art form, just incredibly unique, powerful and interesting...and so new, and always changing! Let's hope it keeps exploring and changing...

Scott Abbott said...

Travis,
I'd say that was more like two bits' worth, lots more than the proverbial two cents.
Thanks for the good thoughts.