Reading Film (Fall 2011)

a qwriting blog for ENG 110

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Assignment #1: “Diagramming Differences” by Steven Rengifo

September 18th, 2011 by Steven Rengifo · 2 Comments · 1 Diagramming Difference

(Before you read, I apologize, I cannot upload the diagram. But I will have a printed version)

Film is an unusual way of art and expression. Actually, it is a very modern invention, unlike writing. But even though film was introduced fairly recently in our history, it has striking differences and similarities. Writing does not have cinematography, visual style, sound and other distinct qualities. But film is not always accurate. Whenever a novel is adapted into a screenplay, all the aspects of the narrative are not always included in the final cut of a motion picture. Adaptations can bring a different interpretation to what was originally written, but the main ideas are there.

Film is a different aspect of writing. Most of us in the past read stories by reading novels, magazines, newspapers, etc. With introduction of movies and theatres, stories can be told in a new way that writing can’t go. Movies go to further lengths to achieve art, a certain type of art that only film can be the only way of expression. The creation of a book/novel usually includes one “author”, but many people work together in a film project.

What makes film different is that it has cinematography. Writing can’t literally show you an object that’s being described on paper. Only the camera can have that power and show you the object visually. Rhetoric helps the director of photography by filming whatever needs to be filmed. One scene in a movie can probably be a whole page or more of writing because one frame of footage can say a lot, depending on what is being shown. Cinematography can help us a lot because sometimes writing can be abstract and hard to comprehend. But once a good director of photography comes a long and works diligently to interpret the writer’s motive, the story can become easier for us to understand.

This might seem might harsh to say, but each movie has to be experimental in its own special way. Now I’m not saying that every movie has to be avant-garde and go all David Lynch on us, but there has to be a unique quality, that’s what makes it different than anything else we have seen. We all have seen movies where the plot is completely predictable and we’ll know what’s coming. I believe we can all agree that those movies are boring and will waste our time. But films that make the viewer think and analyze certain situations are truly the best experiences. As humans, we need to be challenged and I enjoy being questioned when watching a movie that is hard to fathom.

Many novels are adapted into motion pictures. I believe the main reason why is because screenwriters and producers see motion pictures as a different but entertaining way of telling a story. I occasionally read some magazine articles or pick a book once and while, but I would not consider myself a bookworm. I find it so easy and entertaining to have a story told with images. Adaptations can seem false interpretations of novels, for example, André Bazin essay “Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest” argues that novels cannot be adapted because adaptations lose the original meaning and quality of a novel. Sometimes rhetoric can be very complicated and film helps me understand confusing language.

Using sound in cinema was actually daring and risky at first. Major film studios backed out of using sound, until Warner Bros. released “The Jazz Singer” in 1927. Warner Bros. was in financial issues at the time, but the film revolutionized sound in cinema and signaled the fall of silent films. Using sound back in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s was primitive, but technology was exponentially growing in the 30’s and by the early 40’s and beyond, sound had created a firm foundation in cinema worldwide. When watching a movie, a great score/soundtrack is really important. It keeps the viewer more interested in the film and helps he/she what to feel. If the screen is showing either joy or pain, sound gives the observer the next level of entertainment where writing can’t go. It will be interesting if somehow novels will have the ability to play music that’s relevant to the story on the side while your reading. Thankfully film has that ability. Personally a film with an awesome score like Platoon or soundtrack like Goodfellas makes for a great picture.

Above all, movies tell a story, well the majority of them do. That aspect is shared is shared with novels. We go to the movies to be entertained. Although, there are experimental and surrealist’s movies that have no story line or plot and is just made for artistic purposes, we can learn from this event. Most of the times, when we read a book; the author is trying to teach us something in life. Stories were written with a motive. A publishing company would not publish an author’s book if everything in it were his free writing. The author’s main intention to write is to tell a story using arguments in their narrative to express their thesis.

As I mentioned before, challenging movies are motivating and make you think. But what makes a movie challenging most of the time is how the narrative is being told. Structure is really important in both literature and film. What it does is allocate “the sequence of main sections or sub-topics and the turning points between them” (Gordon Harvey, 2009). But as Harvey says, it should “be a progressive order – there should have a direction of development or complication”. This is important because movies that have experimental structure like Memento and Pulp Fiction are crucial examples of not just structure, but thought-provoking structure.

Literature has structure and is essential for a clear understanding of the story. But also, literature can have complicated structure, just like how certain films are today in cinema. Structure is critical because it gives the writer a chance to “explore the topic, not just hammer home a thesis”. Film and literature both use structure to organize ideas and topics into logical terms, though on purpose, an author or screenwriter will use difficult structure to create thoughts.

So as one can see, film and literature have distinct differences and similarities. The English department here should except the film club because of how unique the medium is, but at the same time, closely related to each other.  Film can helps stimulate the public to read because many films are adaptations of books. This can help students who want to become English majors, become more motivated to achieve that major. In all, movies help us think and learn.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Daniel Min

    I like how you referenced David Lynch. I remember watching “Mulholland Dr.” for the first time during one of my insomniac nights. Since I knew it was a David Lynch movie prior to watching it. I was accustomed to most of Lynch’s disturbing images therefore it sort of made me prepared to expect what was coming. Initially the movie felt like it was too predictive, it wasn’t necessarily innate from the usual Lynchesque films with couple of scary scenes thrown in (especially the monster hiding behind the dumpster in the rear of the diner) however it was just too linear of a detective story. Then the plot twist occurred which totally threw me off guard. Everything was in contradiction from the initial phase of the story, there was so much conflict yet in a way it felt connected because of the heightened emotions that I experienced throughout the film.

  • Kevin L. Ferguson

    Hi Steven,

    One thing you should take into consideration when revising is what Harvey would call your STANCE and MOTIVE. I like that you don’t spend a lot of time dilly-dallying with your introduction, and instead get right to concrete details about your point of comparison. However, readers feel a little “thrown into the deep end,” since you haven’t suggested why you are writing (what your motive is) or your relationship to the subject and your audience (what your stance is). You could do this easily, I think, but taking into account the fact that readers need to be brought into your essay and shown why they should bother paying attention to you.

    You do give your readers a good sense of Harvey’s STRUCTURE in the fourth sentence of your first paragraph. By introducing your essay’s KEYTERMS here (which are also on your chart), you prepare the reader to better follow along with the points of comparison. You don’t quite stick to that, though, throughout the essay. For example, paragraph six (“Using sound in cinema was actually daring”) seems to lose the plot a little because it does not logically connect to the paragraph that precedes or follows it. About halfway through that paragraph you make a more general point about sound, but the beginning makes it sound like we’ve jumped into a film history text, and by the time we get to novels it’s clear that this paragraph isn’t developed so that it presents one coherent point as part of a larger structure. For revising, you should look at all of the sentences that begin your paragraphs and follow Harvey’s advice about structure that it have a “direction of development or complication.”

    I like that you give Memento and Pulp Fiction as examples of films with structure–and I agree that structure doesn’t just mean “boring structure,” but in fact means doing something “progressive.”

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