Due for 02/10/16
Genre is the categorization of re occurring themes, styles, audience expectations and narrative and emotional elements in a particular film. Examples of film genres are action, fantasy, comedy, Sci-Fi, crime, romance, horror, and Film Noir. Film genre is key to the making of a film, and in order to make a successful one, having a knowledge of genre expectation and the steps to analyzing a particular genre is essential. Film Noir was the first genre ever created, so being able to recognize all of it’s elements and the way the film comes together is also extremely beneficial and useful to know when making ones own film.
Writer Sarah Sunday defined Genre expectations as ‘basic ideas about a [film’s] premise that you can ascribe to, based solely on knowledge of genre’. It is all about what the audience expects to see in a movie once they have been exposed to it’s genre. Expectations change in accordance to the genre, and it is often thought to be a ‘stylistic convention.’ They are techniques within a film or any type of media that are particular to a certain genre. This means that when having chosen the genre of their film, the director is guided by what the audience will expect to see, and takes this into great consideration before producing and finalising the film. It is understood that the film maker and audience have a certain relationship related to what the movie is expected to be like. If the filmmaker disrupts this relationship and gives the audience something completely different to what they expected and therefore wanted, the film’s success would be on the line. Of course, there must be a certain edge and elements of surprise about a particular film that makes it different from others in the same genre, but to take a completely different turn to what the is expected of a certain genre would unsettle the audience’s expectations.
Furthermore, there are certain elements within a scene that make up a genre, the most prominent one being mise- en-scene. It is derived from the french word and means placing on stage. Within this element comes iconography, the narrative and technology. Mise en scene involves exactly what is on the screen of a movie; elements that were put there to set up the scene. David A. Cook, in the book A History of Narrative Film, David A. Cook comments that mise-en-scène is formed by all the elements that appear “within the shot itself, as opposed to the effects created by cutting.” He means that all the elements that were on the set when recording the scene, are a part of mise en scene, as apposed to special effects and editing that is added after. It includes the actors, setting, props, costumes and anything that one can think of that appears in a film scene. In the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) for example, the scene where Harry and Hagrid walk through the magical town of Diagon Alley is a perfect example of mise en scene. The setting of crooked buldings, people dressed up in wizard gowns with wands being swung around portays the genre of fantasy perfectly and lives up to the audience’s expectations. Set design including how it is dressed, props and furniture is extremely significant in mise en scene, and is what makes the biggest dramatic impact on audience.
In continuation, Iconography, which is an element within Mise en Scene, is ‘used to describe the visual language of cinema’ and is closely linked with semiology. It is understood that Certain objects are expected to be in a certain film because of it’s genre. For example, the sci fi film ‘The Martian’ (2015) which the audience can tell is based in space by the poster advertised was expected to contain certain props, clothing and setting. The audience would have looked forward to seeing spaceships, astronauts, space suits, and space itself. These ‘genre indicators’ are what is described as iconography, and they are purposely and carefully put in a scene for the audience to decode. They are placed in a scene to help the audience understand the motifs and narrative of the image being shown. This is known as semiological analysis, and is a significant for revealing to the audience the different elements within the film that connect it with the genre. The writer Marina Shcherdlovskaya of the article ‘Iconography and semiology’ commented that ‘[Iconography] is important for interpretation, and the action of exposing is essential’.
In addition, Narrative and technology are also essential elements within mise en scene. Narrative is the art of storytelling. It is the primary way in which the audience is told what is going on in the film. As with all the other aspects of of mise en scene, narrative is another way that exposes the genre to the audience. There certain story types associated with certain genres, for example Sci fi is expected to involve defending normality or fighting aliens while a Romantic comedy should follow the journey of two potential lovers who eventually get together. The audience would expect a particular series of events depending on the genre. Also, its extremely important for the filmmaker to make the narrative interesting enough to keep the audience engaged for the 2 hours they are sitting in front of the screen. This is done by giving the movie an edge to make it different from other movies in the same genre, and also by keeping the narrative organized and based over a single problem, in order to keep the audiences concentration.
Furthermore, the technology aspect within mise en scene includes both lighting and sound. The way by which a scene is lit determains the mood of a scene and emphasises the genre. For example, High lighting, which is used in the three point lighting technique, increases the fill light, normally only used to fill shadows, to the same level of brightness as the key light, hence giving the scene a very illuminating effect, with little or no shadows. It’s use in the movie The Wizard Of Oz (1939) supports the genre and themes of magic and fantasy within the film. Sound is also a key part of mise en scene, as certain sounds that occur on a movie set could add to the narrative and ultimately be a element of the genre. It can add to the mood and atmosphere of a scene. In an excerpt from Visual Storytelling and the Grammar of Filmmaking, Part II stated that it can ‘create a soundscape that accents or adds another layer of meaning to the images on the screen.’ It went on to say that while high pitched sounds like screams, the screech of a car and loud explosions create feelings of anxiety, panic and danger, low pitched sounds such as the waves at a beach, or no sound at all create a more calm or mysterious mood.
Film Noir was the first genre ever created, and this alone signals that all filmmakers can learn something from it. It came out of necessity in France in the 1950’s, and its signature low lighting atmosphere was a result of the lack of lighting equipment, as World War II had just ended. The dark themes of these movies were a portrayal of what society was like during the great depression, as uncertainty and disillusionment was a part of the American mindset. The editors of Encyclopedia Britannia said that the ‘corrupt and claustrophobic world of film noir embodied these fears [of post world war II society]’ The narrative of most film noir movies involved crime, mistrust, loss of innocence, despair and paranoia or a moral conflict. The Low key lighting of the films went hand in hand with the story line and reoccurring themes. It involved the key light being very high and close to the subject, while the fill light was very low, subsequently casting dark shadows and a high contrast between the light and dark parts within the scene.
It is clear that genre has a connection with every element within mise en scene. The filmmaker works hard to make sure that the genre of a movie is evident throughout the setting,acting, props, lighting and sound in order to satisfy the audiences genre expectation, while still providing that twist to keep them engaged throughout the duration of the film.
Genre Theory, http://www.main-vision.com/richard/genre.shtml Accessed 29/09/16
Storify (2016) Conventions and Audience Expectation in Horror Films https://storify.com/NijaFilm4750/authorship-and-audience-expectation-in-horror-film Accessed 29/09/16
Daniel Chandler (2014) An Introduction to Genre Theory http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/intgenre/intgenre1.html Accessed 29/09/16
Genre http://www.glyndwr.ac.uk/rdover/med-stud/genre.htm Accessed 29/09/16
M. Shcherdlovskaya (2016) Iconology and Semiology http://www.academia.edu/1214112/Iconography_and_Semiology Accessed 29/09/16
Open Learning Agency, Pacific Cinémathèque. Visual Storytelling and the Grammar of Filmmaking. http://thecinematheque.ca/education/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/LanguageofFilm07.pdf Accessed 29/09/16
WordPress.com, College Film and Media Studies https://collegefilmandmediastudies.com/mise-en-scene-2/ Accessed 29/09/16
University of Groningen, (2012) The Origins Of Film Noir http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/essays/general/does-film-noir-mirror-the-culture/the-origins-of-film-noir.php Accessed 29/09/16
Keating, P. (2009) Hollywood Lighting From the Silent Era to Film Noir, Columbia University Press.