Research Proposal: Commercial and Art Film a Comparison

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Commercial and Art Film

A comparison of Commercial and art film

The distinction or difference between art and commercial film is one that is often discussed and debated. There is a general view that art films are 'better' and philosophically have more depth and meaning than commercial films. They are also usually referred to as having more cinematic acting and directing qualities. Commercial films are often seen as 'popular entertainment 'and not much else. This however is a stereotypical distinction that is not always clear.

At the same time is it clear that there are various essential differences that cause some films to be termed art films and others as commercial films. This paper will examine the debate between so-called artistic and commercial films and relate these insights to an analysis of two famous films.

Art vs. commercial films

The contrast between commercial films and art or 'art house' films is often very difficult to determine. Art films usually refer to films that are created for the purpose of conveying some deeper meaning - for example films that explore the human condition or the existential meaning of life, or film that deals with philosophical insights. These types of films, which are usually given the name 'art' film, deal essentially with important topics and questions about the world around us. They are also not bound by conventional standards of taste, style or popularity.

On the other hand, commercial films are generally understood to be films made purely for entertainment. They are usually made to appeal to the greatest possible audience and are not intended to be particularly deep or insightful. The rationale behind the term "commercial" is that they are films that are made essentially with profit in mind. Their main purpose is to be popular and entertaining and of course to make money. In this regard one can think of the Terminator films or other popular titles that have taken in millions of dollars at the box office. Art films on the other hand are supposed to be only concerned with the artistic meaning and not with commercial value.

However, this is a simplistic stereotype of film and in reality the difference between art and commercial film is much more difficult to determine. As a number of film critics have pointed out, some films can be seen as both artistic and commercial success, while some commercial films have great artistic value and vice versa. In other words, art films can also be commercial and entertaining, while some commercial films have philosophical depth. In essence there is no easy way to clearly distinguish between commercial and art films.

This point is made clear by film critic Bob Stutsman. He asks the question whether art films are inherently better than commercial films.

…why do we automatically respect the likes of Bergman, Godard, Fellini, or Antonioni over say: a Capra, Victor Fleming, Norman Jewison, James Cameron, or David Lean (Lean as epic maker, not his earlier career)? Is there inherently something more 'worthwhile' in the 'arthouse' variety of film and if so, why? Are directors that work for the more commercial mainstream film industry less deserving of our respect? (Stutsman).

He also makes the important point that I think is central to this essay and to the analysis of the films that, "There's really no easy answer to this so-called conflict between art and entertainment" (Stutsman).

3. Film analysis

The points made in the discussion above will be applied to an analysis of a number of well- known and respected films. Two things become clear from this analysis. The first is that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between art and commercial film in a clear and absolutely definitive way. What is however also clear is that there are certain films that can be placed in these categories. Another insight gleaned from the analysis is that many films have both commercial and artistic elements to them. For the purposes of this analysis we will discuss these films in terms of the conventions of art as opposed to commercial values.

3.1. Wild Strawberries (1957)

Wild Strawberries is a 1957 film written and directed by the famous director, Ingmar Bergman. The foundation of the film is its psychological depth. This, as well as the cinematography, direction and acting have made this film into a relatively commercial and popular success today. At the same it is also considered to be one of the best art films ever made.

The film deals ostensibly with an old man's reflections on his past and present life. It is essentially an interpretive film. As such, the film allows us to relive part of the main actor's life. His experiences and the people that he meets during the course of the film causes him to question his own past life and present existence and also leads him to insights about life itself, its meaning and its complexities.

From this description the film appears to satisfy or relate to the typical 'art' view of film. It is a film that deals with existential and philosophical questions and it forces the viewer of the film to think about these questions. In a sense it also forces the viewer to examine his or her own life as they watch the film.

It is therefore a "deep" film that is not merely meant to entertain or pass the time. It was certainly not intended as a modern "box office" hit and many of the subtleties, nuances and messages in the film require one to concentrate, examine and focus on the way that the film is directed and acted. Possibly one of the more obvious characteristics of the film is that it is more demanding than a commercial film that is simply aimed at entertaining.

In other words, this is not a film that one would watch to simply to relax or to unwind. It is a film that requires a certain level of response and involvement from the viewer.

In the discussion in the previous section commercial film was related to the ideas of pure 'entertainment'. This was seen as a hallmark or criterion that applied to this category of film. However, many people find the film Wild Strawberries extremely entertaining and exciting. It appeals to the viewer at an intellectual as well as an emotional level. This will become clear as we analyze the film further.

Not only does this film invite one to ask philosophical and intellectual questions but it also becomes an absorbing film to watch on a purely entertaining and emotional level. An overview of some of the main elements of the plot supports this point. .

The plot deals with an elderly medical doctor and professor who is on a trip with his daughter-in-law Marianne from Stockholm to Lund to receive an honorary degree from Lund University. On one level the film is entertaining as it allows us insight into the events and people that he encounters and interacts with on this trip. But if we examine the film at a deeper level we encounter many interesting nuances. It is really a psychological journey of self- discovery. For instance, the main character encounters a female hitchhiker and her fiance as well as a married couple who are always bickering and arguing. Through these characters he is reminded of his past and he begins it revaluate his life through the recollection of certain central events.

Through the encounter with these characters in the course of the journey the main character relives period of disappointment and pain in his life. This in turn makes him confront the reality of his past existence and causes him to revaluate his life.

The film provides an intriguing insight into not only the psychological dimensions of the characters but also provides a subtle and intricate cinematic experience. An example of this is an image in the film of a clock without hands and a man without a face. These can be interpreted as symbols of the search for meaning and identity in life.

At this point we can compare the psychological and cinematic depth of this "art" films with popular commercial films today. If we take s film like James Cameron's Titanic, we encounter some interesting similarities and differences.

Titanic is one of the expensive films ever made. It is also the most commercially successful. It was the first film to "…ever to gross $1 billion worldwide. Its soundtrack is & #8230;the best-selling ever" (Sims). The film also won an unprecedented eleven Oscar awards (Sims). In other words, the film is a perfect example of a commercial and entertainment success.

On the one level it is a simple but intriguing story that is also well presented and executed in cinematic terms. The film is cinematically appealing and the directing flows well. The acting is well executed. Therefore this is a commercial film but this does not mean that it has no depth or psychological dimensions. In fact some critics suggest and argue that the film, in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Commercial and Art Film a Comparison."  Essaytown.com.  November 15, 2009.  Accessed May 22, 2019.
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