Conventions, Formulas, Myths, and Expectations: Recognizing and Analyzing the Elements of Film Genre

Film Genre- The Film Experience:

Before I begin discussing this week’s readings in more detail, I wanted to start with the basics.

Our book defines genre as a category or classification of movies that share similar subject matter, settings, iconography, and narrative and stylistic patterns. The elements of film genre include conventions, formulas and myths, and audience expectations. The Film Experience introduces six narrative movie genres: Comedies, Westerns, Melodramas, Musicals, Horror Films, and Crime Films.

One thing I thought about while reading this week was why certain genres attract different individuals? One’s taste in film genre could be compared to taste in music. Is there a reason for the discrepancies in taste? Is it just that different people like different things or is it deeper than that?

Something that is important to note about genre is that it provides an expectation for the viewer. The Film Experience goes into more depth with this. When you go to see a comedy, you expect to laugh. When you see a horror film, you expect to be scared. When you see a crime film, you expect a lot of theatrics and action shots, and so on. Although films within genres can be totally different and unique, there is typically an underlying expectation for films within a genre. The elements of film genre, as discussed in the text, reflect on this idea.

The first element of genre is conventions. Generic conventions are “properties or features that identify a genre” (TFE p. 345). They are repeated time and time again with films in a particular genre. They can be more meaningful that just simply identifying a genre. The Film Experience states that a flood can be an archetype used in disaster films to represent the end of a corrupt life and the beginning of a new spiritual life. TFE talks about how when generic conventions are put into motion, they evolve into generic formulas, which are the patterns for developing stories in a particular genre. Another element of film genre is audience expectations, as discussed previously. All of the elements of genre have a “general” format, but can expand to reflect on broader societal/cultural significance. The historical change in genre is directly reflected by the way our society and culture has changed over time.

“Cinematic Faith”- Scott Foundas:

This article was an interview with Christopher Nolan from The Film Comment, conducted by Scott Foundas.

The interview relates back to the TFE, as it shows how genre can change and evolve. Nolan had to create a new iteration of Batman and his version is very unlike the classic “comic book” story style. Genre has shifted to be more “relatable”. Nolan discusses this in the interview. He didn’t strive to make his film more realistic necessarily, but more relatable to the audience. Because of this, he says  “the streets would have the same weight and validity of the streets in any other action movie”. Nolan’s films seem to follow some general conventions and formulas, but in the interview it seems that he is looking to change audience expectations. How is The Dark Knight different from other films in its genre? What genre does it belong in?

As I discussed previously, the formulas and conventions of genre can go beyond a general level. Nolan says, in relation to his characters, “if you look at the three of them, Ra’s Al Ghul is almost a religious figure, The Joker is the anti-religious figure, the anti-structure anarchist. And then Bane comes in as a military dictator.” The conventional good guy/bad guy extends to reflect the cultural/religious conflict of our time.

I have never seen this film before, but I thought it was interesting that the Foundas discussed how Bruce Wayne begins to think of himself as the villain. He says this is a dark side of Batman that a Batman movie never really ventured into before. Does Nolan defy the genre stereotypes of the hero as well as the stereotype of Batman movies in general? I think this question will be better able to be answered after our viewing on Tuesday.








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