Posts tagged ‘The Sound of Music’

May 25, 2012

Composition of a Good Film: Honoring God

The questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past several months are these: Can art be God-glorifying without expressly mentioning God? Can an artist glorify God in a secular art-producing environment without expressly mentioning God? Can art and artists unintentionally glorify God?

Sherwood Pictures, division of Sherwood Baptist Church. You’ve probably heard of them at some point, and if you haven’t heard of them you’ve probably heard of their movies: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous. However you may feel about them, if you’ve seen any of their films you cannot deny that they clearly show Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth,  and the Life. They show Him as the One who heals and makes right.  Their films are obviously, expressly, intentionally God-glorifying.

I’m thinking about some of my favorite movies: The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Little Women, Stardust, Anne of Green Gables, The Sound of Music, and I could probably go on for days. Some of them I like for their stories and some I like for overall art direction. Thematically, these movies present good and evil, love and hatred, lust and fear, positive femininity, growth, and (for the most part) wholesome humor. None of these movies mention God, unless its in a generic way. Certainly they don’t portray Jesus and being the Way, the Truth and the Life.  In fact, some of them draw from other philosophies. And yet, I would say all of them are good movies, even excellent movies.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when a movie is composed in excellence, that is it follows or intentionally manipulates the rules of film theory, is thought out and thought-provoking, it can still be God-glorifying. I feel like that just has to be one of those God things that will completely blow my mind if I think about it to hard. I do accept it, though.

Similarly, I think believing artists who go into “non-sacred” art can also glorify God – in the way they conduct themselves and in the way they produce art.

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Excellence is an emerging topic on this blog. It’s been an emerging topic in my life.  Excellence in the movies we observe is just a starter topic. In the coming weeks and months we will be hearing from various artists on excellence in literature, photography, and music, as well as art in the local church. We are excited to share it all with you!

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television,  and Film.  She is passionate about reaching artists with the good news of Jesus Christ. She is also incredibly thankful for the artists who have stepped up to the plate to help in this ministry. You are all a HUGE blessing!

May 25, 2012

Composition of a Good Film: Following the Rules

I know, I know.  When you think of the word “composition” your mind probably goes to an essay or a piece of music.  Because of my film theory background, however, my mind goes to the rules of composition applied when making or analyzing a film for its goodness or badness.

Last weekend, Kathryn and I were watching a movie of her choosing. The first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie consisted of multiple bombings and fist fights between lots of different characters who all had some mysterious (but deep) connection. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out what the story was. Kathryn insisted that I should just ride it out, saying that it would all come together eventually, and that it really was a great movie. (Uh-huh). I responded that if a movie’s story hadn’t emerged within the first ten to fifteen minutes, it probably never would, and therefore it couldn’t be a great movie. (I should mention that the last time I waited for a movie’s story to begin was when I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I know that as a film major I am not supposed to knock this fine specimen of film-making history, but that was several hours of my life I will never get back … simply waiting for the story to start). Kathryn berated my taste in movies, saying I couldn’t possibly know a good movie in the first ten to fifteen minutes. After some debate on the topic, I watched The Sound of Music and she went to bed.

How is it that my sister and I, who were virtually raised the same way (she is the baby, so some concessions must be made) and come from the same background, have such different opinions on what a good movie is? At the risk of sounding a bit elitist here (but believe me, that’s not my intent), the biggest difference in how we determine what makes a good movie stems from the fact that I studied film theory for two years. I know the rules that a good film-maker follows. (One of the rules is that you have to set up the story and characters within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie).  I also know that you can’t just break the rules to break the rules – you must have a reason for breaking the rules, and that reason must be related to the story or point you are trying to get across.

This has nothing to do with my degree, this has to do with me studying and understanding an art form I am passionate about. In order to create excellent art the artist either must follow or purposefully manipulate the rules of his or her chosen art form. In order to follow or purposefully manipulate the rules, the artist must first know those rules inside and out.

One movie that exemplifies manipulation of the rules for visual intent is The King’s Speech, based on the true story of King George VI and how he perseveres through a speech impediment. When you listen to the actual tapes of the fictionalized speech at the end of the movie, it is incredibly hard to listen to because of the stammering and stumbling. The task the film-maker must have had was, “How do we translate this discomfort visually?” 

As I said earlier, in film-making we have rules and a lot of these rules dictate how a shot should be framed. When framing a person, the shot must observe proper headroom and leadroom. And then there is the rule of thirds: objects should be framed on one of the two horizontal lines or at one of the four points of intersection. You may be reading this and have NO idea what I’m talking about, but I promise you if I showed you a movie where these rules are not followed, you would notice. We were created to observe art a certain way, and so when something isn’t right with a shot, our eyes tell our brains. (That of course, is the non-scientific explanation). It causes us discomfort.

So we have a movie where we are visually trying to portray the awkwardness the character is going through. How do we do that? Awkward shot composition. In many situations the film-maker breaks leadroom  and headroom rules to give the viewer a sense of awkwardness.

Speech therapist should be to the left and back some, if our film-makers weren’t trying to get a visual message across.

So I suppose the movie Kathryn and I started watching this past weekend could have had some reason for taking longer in setting up its plot and characters. I just wasn’t going to stick with it to find out.

To be continued…

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film. She is passionate about reaching artists with the good news of Jesus Christ. (Also, she has been wanting to analyze The King’s Speech for a very long time because it was the first movie she watched where manipulating the rules really “clicked”).