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#1 Filip Plesha

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 04:31 AM

It seems to me that Hollywood mainstream has always been trying to somehow manipulate the movie audience into feeling just the right things in the right time, as if emotions and thoughts are in sync with the film tape...

The best example of all being the music. There is music for everything: for making you feel sad, nostalgic, patriotic, happy etc.
It seems the directors are always trying to make everyone think the same things while watching the movie

Furthermore, if someone doesn't agree with the views of a certain film, he either "didn't get the movie", or "he should have reacted to it the right way"


This kind of filmmaking is good for selling ideas, or even products, but is it art?
Is art supose to make people have stereotypical reactions to stereotypical moments?
Its like propaganda without a specific agenda, which goes in circles and manifests itself in things like
fashion, conformism, extreme subjective moral judgement etc. etc.


Now, to make one thing clear, I'm not refering to such films that endulge peoples most basic and primitive instincts, like films about attractive girls stealing expensive cars and such...because I don't think such shallow movies require further debate like this one

I'm talking about "deeper" movies of Hollywood, ones with emotions, or at least preprogramed emotions.


As a counterexample I'll put movies from people like Kubrick or Antonioni, who don't always try to give you a specific view or feelings, but just show the problem or the idea, and let people develop their own emotions and thoughts about it.


What is your opinion? Should movies train people to react in a certain way in certain situations, or
should movies only try to release the mind of the viewer to see things from another perspective?
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#2 Max Jacoby

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 06:51 AM

The films that I'm interested in are more about stimulating your imagination than manipulating your feelings. But unfortuanely most Hollywod films do not fall into that category. They seem to come in two categories: those aimed at a teenage audience and those aimed at the Academy. Ron Howard specializes in the latter for instance. But even these so called 'serious' films are for the most part so obviously manipulating your feelings that I find hem quite unwatcheable.
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#3 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 09:03 AM

The films that I'm interested in are more about stimulating your imagination than manipulating your feelings. But unfortuanely most Hollywod films do not fall into that category. They seem to come in two categories: those aimed at a teenage audience and those aimed at the Academy. Ron Howard specializes in the latter for instance. But even these so called 'serious' films are for the most part so obviously manipulating your feelings that I find hem quite unwatcheable.

There is nothing "unfortunate" about it, Max. Hey maybe you should try opening your mind and watch different kinds of films...
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#4 Filip Plesha

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 10:28 AM

There is nothing "unfortunate" about it, Max. Hey maybe you should try opening your mind and watch different kinds of films...



Well like it or not, movies have shaped the minds of millions of young people all over the world, so with such a power comes responsibility. Even though many people don't care that much about movies, they do shape their worldview in a way. Harmless fun, yet a powerful social tool.

Now the question is, should movies really suggest what are you supose to be thinking, dictate what is good and bad, what is cool or uncool, what is normal, and what is not normal, or let the audience decide that for themselfs?
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 11:07 AM

Daniel

I watch all kinds of different films (including the Hollywood ones that I mentioned) and unlike you I am actually able to detach myself from the emotional manipulations that Filip mentions and see them for what they are.

I think most people and certainly almost all teenagers go to see movies to give them a 'warm fuzzy feeling in the stomach'. They expect being manipulated so that they feel emotions, however fake these emotions may be. We live in a world that can seem completely random at times, events happen without reason, which is why movies that 'make sense', a story with a clear development and satisfying ending have such a huge appeal to most people. Give these people a film that does not spoonfeed them all the time and actually leaves them the space to make up their own mind and they will not like it. Which is a shame, because cinema can be so much more than entertainment, but most people will never realize that.
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#6 Robert Hughes

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 11:08 AM

From the earliest days, cinema has been an immersive experience; you sit in the theater with this huge screen and become one with the story. Even before synchronized audio for film existed, movie houses employed theater musicians to accompany the film, and one of the primary goals of theater music is to flesh out the emotional states of the actors onstage.

Film productions do this bigger and better than just about anyone ouside of opera. Did Puccini intend to pluck the audience's heartstrings in the death scenes of "Madame Butterfly" or "La Boheme"? Most assuredly so. I cannot listen to some Puccini arias without a tear coming to my eye; they are emotional to the extreme.

Film music can also follow the "Greek chorus" effect, that formalizes and distances the emotional relationship between stage and audience. But that in itself is a conscious choice and plays another set emotions in the mind of the viewer.

Are some film music scores base and exploitative? Are some movie images exploitative? Of course. Some, not all.

Edited by Robert Hughes, 10 February 2006 - 11:13 AM.

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#7 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 01:31 PM

I watch all kinds of different films (including the Hollywood ones that I mentioned) and unlike you I am actually able to detach myself from the emotional manipulations that Filip mentions and see them for what they are.

No, that's what you 'think', Max.
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#8 Filip Plesha

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 01:57 PM

From the earliest days, cinema has been an immersive experience; you sit in the theater with this huge screen and become one with the story. Even before synchronized audio for film existed, movie houses employed theater musicians to accompany the film, and one of the primary goals of theater music is to flesh out the emotional states of the actors onstage.

Film productions do this bigger and better than just about anyone ouside of opera. Did Puccini intend to pluck the audience's heartstrings in the death scenes of "Madame Butterfly" or "La Boheme"? Most assuredly so. I cannot listen to some Puccini arias without a tear coming to my eye; they are emotional to the extreme.

Film music can also follow the "Greek chorus" effect, that formalizes and distances the emotional relationship between stage and audience. But that in itself is a conscious choice and plays another set emotions in the mind of the viewer.

Are some film music scores base and exploitative? Are some movie images exploitative? Of course. Some, not all.



But sometimes to see the point that a director is trying to make, you have to distance yourself from the characters. Movies have the power to show us that which is right in front of us but we can't see it because we are too involved in this life. In life we are just like those characters.
Some movies put us in a kind of a gods view of things, where we stop just being puppets that play their roles, like in life, and see things from a larger perspective.

I know this is subjective and depends on ones preferences, but I see movies in 4 cathegories listed by their human value, from lowerst to highest:

1. films that seek the cheapest way to your attention: money, sex, violence (shown as a good thing)...
examples: I'm sure everyone can think of at least 20 in one minute

aimed at the animal in you

2. Films that simply are here for your fun (nothing against such movies because they never claim to be something special or deep, they are fun, and that's great) . That's simple entertainment.
examples: various blockbusters

aimed at the kid in you

3. Films that try to move you in different ways, sad stories with stereotypical morals at the end. That's emotional entertainment. It's the equivalent of popcorn blockbusters, only ment for your emotional part of mind. Samples: films like Titanic.
Things are usually seen black and white.

aimed at your emotions

They sure work, I cried for Titanic the first time, but that's only the expected reaction

4. Films that try to deal with phylosophical issues, seeing problems that many simply are not even aware of
The characters rarely carry the message directly. Instead, you find a message for yourself, you are active, a philosopher is born in you.

not really aimed at any part of you, in stead trying to wake up a new part of you, learn something
new about yourself
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#9 Robert Edge

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 02:50 PM

It seems to me that the underlying issue in this and many other threads is the role of ambiguity in film and other arts. Anyone who is interested in this issue is likely to learn plenty from reading a book by William Empson, first published in about 1930 and continuously in print ever since, called 7 Types of Ambiguity.

As for music...

As someone who plays the piano, I can't imagine playing a composition to which I neither have, nor convey, an emotional reponse. If one goes to a live concert to watch a soloist perform, whether a pianist or a violinist, one will see the response with one's own eyes. Concert soloists do not look like the Star Trek android Data. They are deeply engaged emotionally, and if they are good, their emotional response gets transferred to the audience. That is true whether they are playing Mozart or Stravinsky or Ligeti or Gershwin. If most concert performers are too "old fogey" for one's taste, go see a performance by Joshua Bell, and look at the sweat on his brow and back when he is finished. I don't understand someone who is immune from this, or wants to be, or who labels it a "con".

Music is SUPPOSED to have emotional content. That content is determined by many factors. One way to understand, first hand, how it is done is to have a musician friend play a favourite melody in various major and minor keys and with various rhythms. Or listen to a couple of recordings of a song like Mack the Knife, one from a performance of Threepenny Opera, for which Brecht and Weill wrote the song, and one by Bobby Darrin - the experience is likely to be quite a revelation.

As Robert Hughes says, the only real question is whether it is done well or badly.
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#10 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 02:53 PM

I find a film all about the feelings, a good film maker would make you feel involved and feel for the characters. Cinematography helps this, what I can't stand are films that are all about the cinematography, i.e. just to look good.

If you've left a film emotionally affected in one way or another, then the film makers have done a good job and produced a brilliant film. If you leave the cinema thinking "wow what fantastic cinematography", then obviously the film makers didn't do a very good job with the script. I can paint a crying women like Jennifer Poon, but what's important is, why, what happened e.t.c.

The best films are when you get the best of both worlds. Precisely why "Road to Perdition" is one of my favourites. It's a beautifully shot film, an extremely high quality, and I really got involved with the characters. Top quality cinema.

One Hour Photo is another. Not exactly groundbreaking techniques but atleast they implemented what was available and it worked, well.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith, 10 February 2006 - 02:56 PM.

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#11 Robert Hughes

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 03:09 PM

I think all the above posters are valid and make sense for their favored kinds of presentations. If I see "Gone With the Wind" I want to feel the emotional storms the characters are passing through. If I watch a Stan Brakhage experimental short, I want to be impressed with his technique and the confluence of nature and technology, and don't feel either way about the poor moths that had their wings pulled off to make the film.

A great art is one that has a wider domain than any one creator can encompass. The cinema as an art form arguably meets that criterion.

Maybe video games are also there. "The Sims" and similar God-games give us a chance to, as Flip mentions, "have the power to show us that which is right in front of us but we can't see it because we are too involved in this life. In life we are just like those characters. Some movies put us in a kind of a gods view of things, where we stop just being puppets that play their roles, like in life, and see things from a larger perspective. "
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#12 Dan Goulder

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 03:22 PM

What is your opinion? Should movies train people to react in a certain way in certain situations, or
should movies only try to release the mind of the viewer to see things from another perspective?

Movies should try to hold the attention of complete strangers for 90 minutes or so, otherwise they'll accomplish none of the above.
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#13 Filip Plesha

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 05:12 PM

Music is SUPPOSED to have emotional content.



Yes it is, so my idea about emotional maniupulation would say one thing about music: it is overused in films

Of course, music always manipulates, there is little way of avoiding it.
So if you want a movie that doesn't manipulate people, simply use less music
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#14 Filip Plesha

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 05:30 PM

I find a film all about the feelings, a good film maker would make you feel involved and feel for the characters. Cinematography helps this, what I can't stand are films that are all about the cinematography, i.e. just to look good.

If you've left a film emotionally affected in one way or another, then the film makers have done a good job and produced a brilliant film. If you leave the cinema thinking "wow what fantastic cinematography", then obviously the film makers didn't do a very good job with the script. I can paint a crying women like Jennifer Poon, but what's important is, why, what happened e.t.c.

The best films are when you get the best of both worlds. Precisely why "Road to Perdition" is one of my favourites. It's a beautifully shot film, an extremely high quality, and I really got involved with the characters. Top quality cinema.

One Hour Photo is another. Not exactly groundbreaking techniques but atleast they implemented what was available and it worked, well.



you make it sound as if there are only two things in a movie: the emotional potential and cinematography


To better illustrate my original idea, I'll use an example...


Let's say there is a film about relationships. The film is directed in such a way that you feel empathy toward one man or woman. Now this character is anoyed by certain kind of behaviour of his/her partner. It doesn't matter what kind of behaviour it is, because that is besides the point. The emotions in the film suggest that it is WRONG to act like that. Your empathy toward the character makes you feel angry toward that other character. Now you see one film like that, you see another one, and 10 more.
Next thing you know it, you have formed an opinion that the behaviour you observed in those movies is WRONG and should make you feel angry.
And then in the real world, you start being angry at your partner for doing this same thing.

That thing might have been something as simple as waking your partner early in the morning.
Now in the movies that you so deeply indentified with, your favorite characters were angry because of that, so you will too, because after 20 such movies you will start believing that you SHOULD react like that.

Don't forget that a lot of emotions we feel in life are socially LEARNED. In other words, we copy each others reactions without even knowing it.

Now, should people really be taught what to feel?

The movie experience does not end when you leave the theater. Movies and TV shape our way of thinking for our entire lifetime.

Emotional reactions can follow fashion, just as clothes wearing can.


It's amazing how sometimes entire dialogs between a young man and a girl can be
lines from various movies or TV series, and they are not even aware of it.
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#15 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 06:38 PM

Don't forget that a lot of emotions we feel in life are socially LEARNED. In other words, we copy each others reactions without even knowing it.

That's a good point.. I've always wondered if that really is true or not. I've always noticed changes in character after watching films, although those changes have been for the rest of the day and that's it. Next day, back to work or college or whatever and I'm back to normal again.

As for teaching people what to feel, I see what you mean, although I don't think it teaches you that much. I mean if you had a friend, who died, you would be pretty upset, in movies the challenge is to make you feel that way for a character, only in the space of an hour or two, it's all pretty relative to life. Sometimes by creating a role model, or a character so funny you love them for it, or a character you just feel sorry for.

Throughout "The Wild Geese" Sandy played by Jack Watson, now don't ask me why but I kinda see him as a role model, and it was pretty bad to see him die at the end. (I have the weirdest of role models... what annoys me is that most of them die in the films.)

Throughout "Road to Perdition" when Michael is sitting there whilst his father dies, I had sympathy for that kid.

I think people like to be upset by these films, I think some people relate what happens on screen to their own lives (even if there's nothing to relate to, they still do it anyway), which just shows how powerfull these movies are. It makes people feel better in a way.

It's very hard, but skilful to affect people emotionally without all the additives, i.e. music e.t.c. I mean in "The Wild Geese", barely had any music to motivate it, still worked though.

I think it depends on the scene. I mean in Road to Perdition the scene where his father dies it was a quiet and delicate scene, so music went well. In The wild geese they were in the middle of a battlefield, same goes with film like 'saving private ryan', all those people dying but music wasn't needed.

Although I still think music is a key player in film and should remain that way. It shouldn't attract people away from the film, but it should motivate it.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith, 10 February 2006 - 06:39 PM.

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#16 Max Jacoby

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 06:50 PM

I find a film all about the feelings, a good film maker would make you feel involved and feel for the characters. Cinematography helps this, what I can't stand are films that are all about the cinematography, i.e. just to look good.

There is more to cinema than to identify with the characters, to get emotionally involved with them. Take a film like '2001: A Space Odyssey' for instance. You are not really meant to identify with the characters, as evidenced by the fact that they always get replaced by new ones as the film progresses. Kubrick was more interested in stimulating the audience intellectually, in presenting a concept about the evolution of human intelligence.
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#17 Dan Goulder

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 07:07 PM

Analyzing movies with the sound turned off can be very revealing in a number of ways. It exposes the editing, the acting, and also the impact of sound on picture. It can also underscore the argument that sound is every bit as important as the visual image, and deserving of the same level of detail.
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#18 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 07:10 PM

There is more to cinema than to identify with the characters, to get emotionally involved with them. Take a film like '2001: A Space Odyssey' for instance. You are not really meant to identify with the characters, as evidenced by the fact that they always get replaced by new ones as the film progresses. Kubrick was more interested in stimulating the audience intellectually, in presenting a concept about the evolution of human intelligence.

It just affects you in a different way. Either way it's still controlling human emotion.
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#19 Robert Edge

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 08:34 PM

There is more to cinema than to identify with the characters, to get emotionally involved with them. Take a film like '2001: A Space Odyssey' for instance. You are not really meant to identify with the characters, as evidenced by the fact that they always get replaced by new ones as the film progresses. Kubrick was more interested in stimulating the audience intellectually, in presenting a concept about the evolution of human intelligence.


Well let me try a different interpretation...

Space Odyssey is a horror film featuring a character called HAL, whom Kubrick expected would elicit an emotional response in anyone who is not brain dead. Stripped down, it is a film version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which in turn was a retelling of the myth of Prometheus. It is not, as far as I know, a didactic exercise in philosophy, thank God.

One of the things that people like Shakespeare and Fielding and Sterne understood is that the job of a storteller is to tell a story, not to write a philosophical treatise. That is one of the reasons why Shakespeare's plays, like most great art, are open to many interpretations. He knew that great stories are inherently ambiguous, which is what makes multiple interpretations possible.

Like all great storytellers, Shakespeare used the medium at his disposal, in his case live actors and words, to manipulate his audience both emotionally and intellectually. To take an example, and a deliberately controversial one, Shylock's principal speech in The Merchant of Venice is a masterpiece of emotional persuasion. At the same time, the play is clearly not, in my view, anti-semitic.

There is no such thing as serious art that does not elicit an emotional response. That is true whether one is talking about images or music or words or all three. This statement is completely consistent with the creation of ambiguity.

It follows that I think that Albert Camus should have stuck to writing works of philosophy and that John Steinbeck should have spent his time writing works of philosophy instead of novels. It also follows that I think that Bergman's Fanny and Alexander is a true masterpiece whereas I think that On the Waterfront, however wonderful Brando's performance was, is essentially a political diatribe, and that Days of Heaven is a beautifully photographed film that is pretty much devoid of content.
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#20 dd3stp233

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 11:16 PM

Many movies use music (and picture) to provoke a certain emotional response. I think it is wrong to manipulate people, in life or in art. It is really not much more then artistic fascism. The Nazi's were experts at this. Watch "Trimuph of the Will", everything is perfectly choreographed to elicite and condition a certain response. The creators of the film are telling the audience how to think and feel. Watch "Pink Floyd's The Wall", it deals specifically with the power of being a artist and the tempation of fascist thinking to control people through art. Serious art should provoke an intellectual response, to create a public discourse on a subject, to allow one's opinions to form with knowledge and without coersion.
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