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FM2 Booklet Part 1

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FM2 Booklet Part 1

  1. 1. FM2: British and American Film Topics Summer Examination
  2. 2. FM2: British and American Film Topics • Summer Examination • 2 ½ hrs long • 3 sections, 1 question from each section to be answered • Section A: Producers and Audiences (Easter Revision session to be run by Mrs Moore) • Section B: British Film Topics (Mrs Raji) • Section C: US Film Comparative Study
  3. 3. FM2: Section B – British Film Topics (Mrs Raji) • British Film Genre – Horror • What do you need to know and be aware of? (KEY AIMS OF SECTION B) • How macro elements (genre and narrative) of a film construct meaning and raise issues • Understand the ‘constructed’ nature of narrative and how spectators experience it • The key elements of the horror genre • Representation issues • The interrelationship between producers and audiences • The British context of films • Detailed knowledge of at least 2 films
  4. 4. WHAT IS GENRE? AS DEFINED BY THE MEDIA & FILM STUDIES HANDBOOK (Clark et al, 2007) • a genre is a loose category or classification of media product (e.g. tabloid newspaper, soap opera, science fiction film). Classification into one genre or another is governed by codes and conventions, and each has its own more or less obvious iconography. The codes and conventions of a genre refer both to the cultural signals contained in the text and to the ways in which the text's content is presented. • However, because every media product is unique in one way or another, not all generic elements will invariably be present in every example of a genre. Genre acts as useful shorthand for producers, for whom it helps to generate profit, and for audiences, to whom it provides pleasure. It helps audiences know in advance what to expect of the product, and many become fans of certain genres; for producers, genre helps to make clear what is being proposed when they are pitching ideas for new products. • Conversely, a media product that does not fall into a clear genre, and is therefore more challenging to describe, may be less successful than one that does. Genres can die out or mutate over time: the Western is an example of an important film genre which has almost disappeared, while since the 1950s the horror movie has often combined with science fiction, e.g. The Thing (John Carpenter, USA, 1982). This is an example of a generic hybrid (which involves genre-bending or genre-surfing) - a mixture of two or more genres.
  5. 5. WHAT IS GENRE? • The next slide provides you with several definitions of genre • It would be useful to read through these and see if you agree with what they say • Memorise some quotes so that you can use them in the exam • Hopefully you will get a sense of it being difficult in some ways to pin down the definition of genre. • Remember that genre is used a blueprint, and you can add and take away from the blueprint as long as a recognisable foundation remains.
  6. 6. KEY CONCEPTS • Media Languages The Key Concepts are widely used in Media • Institutions Studies for the purposes of analysis. • Genre They can be a useful for Film Studies too. • Representations • Audiences See the next two pages for an explanation and • Ideology and Values a diagram • Narrative
  7. 7. KEY CONCEPTS • Media Languages for this unit you will need to refer to the micro elements, when conducting detailed analysis of sequences • Institutions for this unit you will need to elaborate on the British context of the films • Genre for this unit you will need to a clear understand of what genre is, the codes and conventions of the horror genre, and explain how they are used in the films • Representations for this unit you will need to explain how the horror genre is represented possibly through characters (gender representation) and the narrative • Audiences for this unit you will need to make clear the appeal of the horror genre for audiences, and what their expectations of the genre are • Ideology and Values horror films are known for presenting ideas about society you will have to offer an explanation as to how the case study films do this • Narrative you will have to have knowledge of the typical narrative conventions and narrative structure of horror films
  8. 8. Things to consider at this point… • Why is genre important? • What helps audiences recognise a genre? • How can we tell a horror film is a horror film? • What is the appeal of the horror genre?
  9. 9. KEY CONCEPTS OF GENRE Taken from ‘More Than Meets the Eye’ Graeme Burton 3rd edition (2002)
  10. 10. RECOGNITION and ATTRACTION • The story makers depend on recognition for instant communication with the audience. If it is familiar then the audience know the kind of person or scene that they are dealing with. • Alternatively the story makers can trade in recognition in order to tease the audience, by doing something, which they do not expect. This is often the case in sequels. So the attraction of genre material is the mixture of familiarity and the unexpected.
  11. 11. ANTICIPATION, EXPECTATION and PREDICTION • All media material gives some kind of pleasure to the reader of view. This is why the audience buys the product. • There is a kind of pleasure gained from being able to anticipate what will happen next, e.g. Mystery Thriller Genre (Murder She Wrote) • There is a kind of pleasure gained from expectation of what should happen next, e.g. Action films
  12. 12. REPETITION and REINFORCEMENT • The building blocks of genre, its elements, as well as the messages that genres communicate, all depend on being repeated, so that they continue to be known and understood by the audience. • The more the stories use the same or similar elements, the more the audience accepts that this is what the genre is all about. They become ‘natural’.
  13. 13. FORMULA • When we recognise and make sense of genre material we take all elements together. This combination of elements special to a genre represents a kind of formula.
  14. 14. GENRE, INDUSTRY and AUDIENCE • Genres are good for industries because they are generally good for profits. They are good for profits because, the audience pays for them consistently. The audience is attracted to genre material and pays for it because it takes pleasure and satisfaction from the material.
  15. 15. Genre Codes & Conventions AS DEFINED BY THE MEDIA & FILM STUDIES HANDBOOK (Clark et al, 2007) • We’ve already defined GENRE, so let’s define CODES and CONVENTIONS • CODE: in simple terms, a code is a system of letters, numbers and symbols that communicate ideas to a group or society. A simple example is The Highway Code: it is a set of rules that we must know and agree to, which is characterised primarily by a series of signs, which when decoded offer the exact information we need when we are driving or riding on the roads. In semiology (the study of signs), we can talk about encoding and decoding in relation to how images are put together (constructed) or read (deconstructed) in a media text, for example. In some ways, codes can be seen as a system of rules (as in The Highway Code), which must be learned by a group or society. In some cases, codes are understood by reading media texts and trying to make sense of them and they are established by practice; hence they also relate to conventions.
  16. 16. Genre Codes & Conventions AS DEFINED BY THE MEDIA & FILM STUDIES HANDBOOK (Clark et al, 2007) • CONVENTION: An established way of doing things, therefore… • CODES & CONVENTIONS: used casually as a catch-all term to describe the things that we associate with a text; hence the phrase 'generic codes and conventions' to refer to the signifiers we can expect to see or hear in specific genres.
  17. 17. Genre Conventions • Genre conventions are the identifying characteristics of a film. • Iconography • Setting • Characters • Narrative • Style • Theme • Despite often clearly definable characteristics, however, it is important to remember that genres are not fixed entities, but are instead constantly evolving. Often the boundaries between genres become blurred. In most cases films represent a “genre hybrid” – or a combination of attributes from several different genre backgrounds. Studying genre reveals a pattern of repetition and difference. In other words, some films do have identifiable similarities, but they also contain new elements or similar elements used in new ways.
  18. 18. Genre Conventions: HORROR • Read the explanations for the for the genre conventions and think about how each one can be applied to the horror genre • Iconography is a term from art history which refers to the classification of art based on common or recurring images or icons. Films and moving image products can also be identified by the key images or icons contained within them. These images or iconic elements are usually immediately recognisable. For example, a central iconic image of classic Hollywood gangster films is the machine gun, in this instance a film prop. Types of costume, sound and music also function as iconic features within other genres. • Setting Many genres, particularly the Western and Gangster genres, have a distinct location and time period associated with them. The use of temporal and spatial settings can therefore make a film immediately recognisable within a particular genre or sub-genre. • Characters The story of a film is most often told through characters. A film’s main protagonist or “hero” encounters a variety of obstacles which he must overcome within the story. These obstacles are usually caused by some kind of adversary or “villain”. Different genres become associated with different heroes and villains. Over time, these particular characters achieve the status of a “generic type”.
  19. 19. Genre Conventions: HORROR • Narrative refers to the different types of story structure that films of different genres employ, in addition to the narrative or story-telling devices and narrative moments which they are associated with (e.g. chase sequences, shoot-outs, romantic kisses etc). Narratives are all based on some form of conflict. Different genres therefore focus on different types of conflict. Genres can therefore also be differentiated by how they each represent conflict and resolution in their own distinctive ways. • Style Iconography refers to actual objects or sounds in a film or moving image product, whereas style specifically refers to how these are presented. This category mainly relates to use of camera, lighting, colour and both audio and visual tone. • Theme Genre films are often underpinned by universal themes, which increase their appeal to audiences. These themes, underpinning a film’s narrative are most effective when they are based on binary oppositions. For example, Jim Kitses used anthropological studies of folklore as a basis for identifying a number of key underlying themes in the Western genre; East v. West, Garden v. Wilderness, Industrialism v. Agrarianism.
  20. 20. This table provides a comparative example of how the genre conventions are used in Dracula and Scream. Do a similar table for our 2 case study films
  21. 21. ANALYSIS • Watch the case study films and make specific notes on scenes and sequences that exemplify how the films have utilised the horror genre conventions. Things to consider: • How the setting fits the expectations of the horror genre • Who are the characters and how they are represented to us; heroes, monsters, victims, also consider gender representation • What is the plot (how does it fit with horror conventions?) • Iconography – in mise-en-scene (costumes, make-up, props etc.) • Music/ sound effects • Camerawork • Themes • If you can attempt intertextuality
  22. 22. THE HORROR GENRE A few extras you should be aware of
  23. 23. The Horror Film • Horror films tend to be viewed with critical disdain for a number of reasons: • Predictability of form and content • Low budgets and poor production values • Targeting an adolescent audience • Variety of generic sources and subgenres • Fantasy worlds – little connection with social or political issues • Dependence upon blood, gore, viscera for effect • Conservative attitudes towards morality and sexuality
  24. 24. The Horror Film “The horror film has consistently been one of the most popular and, at the same time, the most disreputable of Hollywood genres. The popularity itself has a peculiar characteristic that sets the horror film apart from other genres: it is restricted to aficionados and complemented by total rejection, people tending to go to horror films either obsessively or not at all” Robin Wood, American Nightmare
  25. 25. The Horror Film • Why are horror films popular with audiences? • Stability of form and content provides a predictable set of pleasures • Ability to merge with other genres e.g. crime, sci-fi • Emphasis on the impossible and the uncanny • Taboo or forbidden subject matter • The attraction of fear
  26. 26. The Attraction of Fear • Psychological: • Iconography often linked to primal fears e.g. darkness, knives, masks • Return of repressed desires, especially violent and sexual urges • Fascination with the body and its fragility • Sex and sexuality as key themes • Ultimately reassuring – the diegesis is governed by set rules, chaos is brought under control • Questions of morality
  27. 27. The Attraction of Fear • Social: • The diegesis represents ‘normality’; the monster stands in opposition to this • Often based around contemporary social fears and tensions • Ultimately, society is able to contain and control the ‘abnormal’ • Issues of science, technology, religion and psychology as social ‘narratives’ • More recently, the family and middle-class lifestyles have been examined as a source of horror
  28. 28. Some Horror Trends 1. Traditional, gothic horror 2. Sci-fi horrors 3. Stalk and slash horror 4. Psychological horror
  29. 29. Horror Narrative Conventions • Narrative: a story, whether factual or fictional. Narrative is a macro element in any film, which can only be understood by looking at the film as a whole. The term 'narrative structure' describes the way a story is told, and during the twentieth century numerous theorists constructed various models of the process: • Vladimir Propp studied Russian folk tales, and detected in them an underlying narrative structure consisting of eight character roles, or 'spheres of action' and 31 possible story events or 'functions'. His 1928 book The Morphology of the Folk Tale was later appropriated by film scholars to analyse story structure in films. • Claude Levi-Strauss is an eminent anthropologist who studied tribal myths and argued that they contained sets of binary oppositions that revealed the deep structure of the myths and hence their relevance to a society's innermost beliefs. • Roland Barthes identified different narrative devices or codes in film and television drama, such as the action code, suggesting to the audience that an action is about to take place, and the enigma code, planting a mystery in the story. • Tzvetan Todorov (who coined the term 'narratology' for the study of narrative) suggested that all narratives begin in a state of equilibrium, or balance, which is then upset by some event, and the story continues until a new and different equilibrium is established.
  30. 30. Horror Narrative Conventions • David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson have described such aspects of narrative as -range and depth - respectively the amount of information available to the audience at any given point, and how much of a character's point of view the audience shares. • In his 1997 book Story, Robert McKee examined film narrative from the point of view of the screenwriter, insisting that all effective films have a three-act structure, and that action is always more important than dialogue. • Christopher Vogler, another screenwriting 'guru', also emphasised the importance of story structure in The Writer's Journey (1999), arguing the enduring power of traditional myths, and seeing in them underlying structures reminiscent of Propp.
  31. 31. Possible exam question… • What are some of the narrative features that are distinctive in the films you have studied? • The best way to answer this question would be to gain knowledge of the narrative theories and see how they apply to the films, and then see if this is generic across all horror films