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Film Studies
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
Table of Contents
1. Recap
2. Take a Photograph or Make a Photograph
3. Reality effects and truth effects
Recap
• Film Realism - a style of filmmaking in
which an attempt is made to represent
something familiar or typical without
changing it.
• Realist film - a type of films which are
characterized for such a style
Recap
• Film Formalism - a style of filmmaking
whose primary concern is form to the extent
reality is willingly altered or new reality is
recreated.
• Formalistic film - a type of films which are
characterized for such a style.
Recap
PROBLEMS OF FILM REALISM
• Film is not reality itself but the representation of
it. Thus, filmed reality is subject to filmmaker’s
alteration and manipulation.
PROBLEMS OF FILM FORMALISM
• It is impossible to create anything which has
nothing to do with the reality we perceive.
Recap
• Woody Allen’s
comedy, Annie Hall
(1977)
• Real Marshall
McLuhan appears
• But he is still his
(moving) image and
not himself.
Recap
• When the audience takes
people on the screen as real.
• Imaginary relationship: the
illusion screen reality is
part of actual reality
Jacques Lacan and
Christian Metz
Imaginary and symbolic
relationships
• Woody Allen’s Purple
Rose of Cairo (1985)
Recap
• Realism and formalism coexist and interact in
every film
Our task is:
- to identify the extent to which a film is realistic,
formalistic or both;
- to explore how filmmakers achieve realism or
formalism
Take or Make a Photograph
• Photography is a modern invention which
has enabled us to record reality ‘as it really
is.’
• Question: Is photography an objective
reflection of reality?
Take or Make a Photograph?
• Choices of
exposure and
shutter speed
- reflect
photographer’s
intention.
Take or Make a Photograph
• John Constable’s
two drawings of
the same spot.
Dedham from
Langham
Take or Make a Photograph
• Composition
• Photographer finding an interesting moment
Photoes by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Take or Make a Photograph
• The choice of
colour or black
and white
- reflects Aesthetic
choice
Take or Make a Sketch
• John Constable’s
series of paintings of
the sky
Take or Make a Sketch
• Constable’s studies on cloud-formation
based on Alexander Cozens
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
• Film is not, no matter how realistic it is, the
simple, objective recording of reality but the
rearrangement of it.
• ‘Virtual reality, O.K. You know what virtual
means? O.K., it is like really real. So virtual
reality is practically, totally real. But not. -Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lois Kaiser in Robert
Altman’s Short Cuts
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
‘Realism’ is a relative concept in two senses
1) There is no pure or perfect form of realism.
Some films are more realistic than others.
2) The filmmaker’s and the viewer’s idea of
reality is relative.
An alternative way to describe realism
To discuss realism in terms of effects which a
film create on the audience.
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
• ‘Reality Effects’ - they come into being
when representations in moving images
give the audience the impression that they
mimic the facticity of the world around us,
or surface appearance. Roland Barthes
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
• ‘Truth Effects’ - they come into being when
representations in moving images agree with
viewer’s ideas of what is true about the world in
a general sense. They have to do with whether
texts conform to what she generally believes
about experience. Michel Foucault
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
• Impression of
authenticity for a type
of the viewer
Gino Pontecorvo’s La
Battaglia di Algeri
(Italy, 1966)
• Impression of
authenticity for
another type of the
viewer
Richard Curtis’s
Casablanca (US,
1942)
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
• Moving images have ‘truth-effects’ even when
they are ‘objectively’ untrue.
Samuel Fuller’s House of Bamboo (US, 1955)
Louis Gilbert’s You Live Only Twice (UK/US,
1967) Roald Dahl (script) and Ian Fleming
(original novel)
Reality Effects and Truth Effects
Reality Effects
• Materialist approach
to our cognition
• Things exist
independently of the
individual’s
knowledge of them.
Truth Effects
• Idealist approach to
our cognition
• Things do not exist in
themselves. They
exist only as ideas
that each of us has of
them.
Of the following two scenes which renders
reality effects and which truth effects?
Michelangelo
Antonioni’s Zabriskie
Point (US, 1970)
• Extreme slow-motion
photography and
extremely graphic
rendition of an
explosion.
Roland Joffé’s Killing
Field (UK, 1984)
• More Conventional
restaging an explosion.
Our impression of moving
images being realistic
• Our impression of moving images being
realistic depends on both reality and truth
effects that they exert on us.