“Film has dream, film has music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul” – Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman is one of my favorite filmmakers. I would easily rank him in my top five. He has a way to craft a film into a dreamlike atmosphere and grab our attention and to fully immerse us in the experience of watching a film. The quote mentioned above, attributed to him, is one of my favorite quotes because it beautifully describes the art of film.
When we watch a film we can be transported to another world, to another place that we never dreamed we could go. Much like a painting or a piece of music can transport us, so can film. The amount of work that goes into crafting a cinematic work of art is tremendous. Hundreds of people spend their time to collectively add to the final product.
If we look at film as a series of pictures that create the illusion of motion then we can look at each individual frame as its own work of art. The director of photography works closely with the director to craft each individual frame into a beautiful composition. The way each object is placed in the frame, the way the characters are placed in proximity to each other, the color values of the overall image all contribute to the overall effect that it has on an audience. This is called mise-en-scene, which loosely translates to everything put in a scene. It refers to all these different elements.
The audience may not realize what all these elements are doing but much like a great painting these elements create emotion in the audience and pulls us even further into the film. In a way, film is the manipulation of an audience. For starters, it is all an illusion anyway. We are not really seeing what we think we see. It is the illusion of many individual images moving at rapid pace to create what we think is movement. It is a reflection of reality, essentially. In addition, the way the camera moves and the way the scenes are composed (as far as mise-en-scene is concerned), all manipulate us into certain emotions. A well-timed movement of the camera can create suspense in a thriller or horror film. Music also plays a huge role in film. The right music can elevate a scene into the stratosphere. A subtle camera angle can make a character seem more or less powerful. If a camera is placed below a character and is looking up at them this creates the impression of power. The character is literally towering and dominating the scene. Likewise, if the camera is placed above a character and looks down on them then they are perceived as weak. You can play around with these angles to achieve certain effects or even mess with your audience by making them mean the opposite of what they normally do. The audience may not realize why they think a character is powerful or weak but it all stems back to the director of the film and, to an extent, the director of photography.
So we must consider film an art form just like any other. The closer we look at film the more we realize how beautifully complex it really is. Making a film is no easy work especially when we want the final product to be a work of art.