FILM & LITERARY STUDIES
K I N K I N S U S A N S I
N U R L A I L I M A L I H A T U N
P U P U T R A T N A J .
R I N A A P R I Y A N I
FACULTY OF LETTERS ENGLISH DEPARTMENT
U N I V E R S I T Y O F P A M U L A N G
2 0 1 3
Understanding films through contexts mean knowing the
conditions that surround the filmmaking, how societal attitudes at
the time that influenced its content to help the viewers completely
understand a film.
Most filmmakers assume that the audiences know something
about the context of the film’s story. If they may not, the
filmmakers often give background information through what is
called Title cards.
Before we judge a movie too far, we should know what has
happened before a film was made, what is going on while the film
begins, how it all unwinds, and how people respond to it.
S O C I E T Y A N D P O L I T I C S
Human freedom in expressing themselves is affected by the attitudes of society,
where and when they live in and how the political climate is. This attitudes
influence the filmmakers as a part of society. Some of the film’s character is
portrayal of the society who lives in a certain social and political climate.
For example, attitudes about homosexuality. Many people disapproved of
homosexuality and their characters were seldom identified openly in American
movies before 1968. As western societies have grown more tolerant, gays have
been shown more often and more explicit in films. Since the late 1960s many
filmmakers adapted society’s stereotypes of gays to their films.
On the other hand, Avant-garde filmmakers prefer to make films to protest
orthodox beliefs and values within the society.
Political concerns affect the topics of society’s discussion that are exposed in a
film according to the filmmaker’s opinion.
When the issues of communism spread in Hollywood, most of the
filmmakers were blacklisted and could find no job in the American Film
Industry. Therefore, filmmakers avoided controversial projects,
especially political subjects.
For example, during the cold war period, from the late 1940s to the early
1980s, such American movies as Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
depict Soviet as untrustworthy and treacherous. Rocky IV (1985) also
reflects the political mood through two boxing matches, representatives
of the Soviet Union and the United States.
Every society has a customs, taboos or laws by which speech, dress,
religion, and sexual expression were regulated. By the early 1930s, the
American public found many popular American movies offensive because
of violent and sex contents. Therefore, American film producers and
distributors set up the Production Code Administration to restrict or to
censor the expose of inappropriate human experience.
C E N S O R S H I P
The censorship included :
crimes against the law (murder, brutal killings, revenge)
sex ( adultery and illicit sex, scenes of passion, seduction or rape,
Censorship is the moral standard of film which is appropriate or not to
watch according to policy in a country. Until 1968, all movies in the United
States were supposed to be submitted to the Production Code
Administration for approval because they aware of entertainment and art
are important influences in the life of a nation. Knowing something about
the restrictions on filmmakers and film distributors helps viewers
understand and judge film more accurately and fairly.
A R T I S T I C C O N V E N T I O N S
Artistic conventions are traditional and influential ways of making a film that has been
imitated by other filmmakers. Film has traditions that the previous great scenes and
techniques will be followed by the others and each genre has its own favorite imitated things.
For example: action movie’s car scene.
We’ve seen in several action movies, car is driven real fast on crowded street that will inevitably cause
accident, cars are crashing and boom. There’s a big explosion such as in Fast and Furious, Mission
Impossible, Die Hard, Bourne Identity etc. The artistic conventions are including sets, props, and sound.
The iconoclastic filmmakers prefer to break the conventions, creating something new or in
contradiction with the conventions, using their own unconventional and unpredictable ways
that have never done before.
For example: Western movies
• Conventional: the protagonist is a European-American male and the antagonists are Indians, Mexicans,
or European-American male who breaks the law.
• Unconventional: since World War II, the protagonist may be female (The Ballad of Little Jo, 1993; Bad
Girls, 1994) or African American (Posse, 1993) or European-American and Mexican outlaw (The Wild
bunch, 1969) whereas the antagonists may be European-American males who obviously obey the law or
even a law enforcement officer (Posse; Unforgiven, 1992).
The oddities of unconventional ways are even though annoying for many
viewers but some filmmakers found it interesting and refreshing, for they
follow the practice and eventually the unconventional wide- spreads and
becomes conventional through times.
For example: Lap Dissolve technique
• In old times, it occasionally used in a scene and has no meaning.
• In films of recent decades, this technique shows that the scene now
shifts to a new location or time or also indicates a flashback, a dream
or showing what a character is thinking.
So the artistic conventions that are practiced now are actually filmic
exceptional innovations at the time and being followed by the next
generation, then become conventions.
F I N A N C I A L C O N S T R A I N T S
Film is not all about creativity but is also about money. Film production is an industry or a
business which is based on commercialism principle, to make profit. For making money, it
needs a large finances or huge budget to cover all the expenses. The budget will influence the
choice of equipment, personnel available, settings, time, promotion, and distribution.
A big budget film such as Titanic (1997) or Godzilla (1998) has greater chance to be a hit than
the cheaper one since it could afford to hire famous stars, to make coolest special effects, to go
to wherever locations needed even at foreign exotic locations, to widespread advertisements,
and all efforts to attract larger viewers.
For independent filmmakers, they should get through the low financial problems, of course
with their higher creativity. They work under pressure and wearisome more with smaller crews
and limited technology. However, they need to return all the expenses and make profit.
The good side is independent filmmakers such as John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch, Charles Burnett,
Ang Lee, Julie Dash, and Robert Rodriguez freer to make what they like even with all the
controversy, unpopular subjects such as world religions, and unconventional styles like
surrealism or unhappy ending that big budget movies are avoid to. A low budget movie may
attract the viewer as well, such as From Outer Space (1959) as to cause curiosity to the viewers.
• The big-budget : has famous stars, a large budget for the script
(scenario), a costly (and perhaps famous) director, a lengthy shooting
schedule, period sets and costumes, a sizable music budget, a lot of
money for publicity/advertisements.
• The small-budget : has no stars, a shrewd script, a short shooting
schedule, set in the present (since period sets and costumes cost a large of
money), need a creative director, and enthusiastic reviews.
For a filmmaking which is not require a large audience, or may not require
an audience at all such as a short avant-garde film on video, the budget can
be so small and at a time filmmakers have enormous freedom to express
themselves on film.
In filmmaking, the recognition at a film festival will be a plus, however gain
profit is the main point.
T E C H N O L O G I C A L D E V E L O P M E N T S
Film is both a visual and aural medium that relies on technology. Technological
developments had a profound effect on filmmaking, make a different and bring new
C o m p u t e r a n d D i g i t a l T e c h n o l o g y
From the late 1980s onwards, Computer and digital technology developed rapidly and has
turned the world of film into a high-tech industry, especially in creating special effects
images. This computer technology in filmmaking is so-called Computer Generated
T h e u s e o f C G I i n f i l m :
• to manipulate films image; to insert and to combine images, to transform shape
• To create 3D images
• In postproduction to add color
• To remove support wires used for stunts
• To integrate separate photographic images into a film
The first film that used this technology is Disney’s Tron (1982). However, Terminator 2:
Judgment Day (1992) has been seen as ‘groundbreaking’ that the quality of its morphing
was regarded extremely sophisticated at the time.
S o u n d
Sound system technology brought a new type of movie and also produce new genre-the
musical. Sound is often added during post-production. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, film
began to be made with sound. In film, sound is needed to communicate the story and
complementing the images on the screen. Without it the films tended to be unmoving, for
example the sound of creaking door and footsteps can create suspense and fear. A soundtrack
can create moods and strengthen meaning.
C o l o r
Color technology was experimented from the earliest days of the cinema but was rarely used
because of technical difficulties, time-consuming, and the expenses. By 1932, the audiences
were begin unsatisfied with two-color process. To appeal the viewers, filmmakers considered
about the color technology. The wizard of Oz (1939) was the transition era from black and
white to color film. Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937) is the first animated color
feature film. Since the 1950s, color cinematography has vastly improved, even commercials
are in color. Filmmakers began to use color widely for two reasons.
• First, the newly developed Eastmancolor was cheaper, more convenient, and successfully
challenged Technicolor’s monopoly and finally by 1953, it replaced the Technicolor.
• Second, the competition increased from other media, especially television as the primary
explanation the shift from black-and-white to color production because 30 per cent the big
screen audience turned to television.
To challenge the popularity of TV was start released 3-D productions such as movies
Bwana Devil (1952) and Dial M for Murder (1954).
More recently, film has more and more competitors from cable and satellite, videotapes,
laser discs, CDs, and DVDs. To lure the consumers, the business is complemented with
sophisticated superior sound systems technology, such as THX sound, DTS (Digital
Theater Systems) six-track digital stereo, and Sony Dinamic Digital Sound.
I M A X a n d O M N I M A X
IMAX technology is a flat giant screen with maximum size, extraordinary clarity and
sharpness image. The IMAX can project film in 2-D and the latest technology is 3-D,
where the spectator wear special glasses and being complemented with a six-channel
Surround Sound. Since 1996, approximately 200 IMAX cinemas have opened world-
Omni Max (or IMAX dome) uses the same system with high surround sound systems.
However, it uses a fisheye lens for projecting image on a giant dome screen surrounding
the spectators. It gives a different experience in watching movies.