A Successful Romantic Tragedy

A Successful Romantic Tragedy

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A Successful Romantic Tragedy

Romantic tragedy can be a very successful genre to work with for film directors although, in some cases, the making of the film goes haywire somewhere along the line and ends up being a rather catastrophic rendition of a romantic tragedy. When I pursued a study of this genre, I found that there are several factors which can make or break a film, depending on how well these factors are used and to what extent they are thought through and developed. These areas, I discovered, are generally cinematography, special effects and the soundtrack, the plot and narrative drive, the characters and acting, the cultural discourse/s used. Discourses are particularly pertinent to this genre as the subject matter, events and characterisations are largely historical, and therefore, they automatically need to be viewed as cultural artefacts, revealing different attitudes and values to those of the modern viewer. Thus, the director of this genre must work doubly hard in order to encourage viewers to suspend their disbelief and become caught up in the drama unfolding before them. This ‘suspense’ of the viewer is often referred to as verisimilitude, or the illusion of reality. Creating verisimilitude is the one thing that all movie producers strive for and it is fascinating just how they make us believe what we see is real. In this journal I will discuss and compare these elements within two films to decipher how each of the elements should be used in order to make a successful romantic tragedy. The two films that I watched are Wuthering Heights and Tristan & Isolde and these will be compared. My journal will inevitably show that creating a film requires a substantial amount of thought and effort.

When watching these two films, I observed that one of the main criteria of a high-quality film is cinematography, regardless of genre or storyline. However, I think it’s important to match appropriate shots and angles to a genre for example, wider shots in an action film and more close-ups to show emotion in romantic movies. This is indeed the case with Tristan & Isolde and Wuthering Heights. I found Tristan & Isolde to be an excellent representation of the way shots and angles can be used to further enhance the story in romantic tragedy. This is because it uses an appropriate quantity of close-ups to portray the amount of emotion that is intended originally by the producers and directors.

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It also uses angles in a very efficient way to create both verisimilitude and emotion. I found this very obvious in the love scenes between Tristan and Isolde as it is an important thing to portray that extremely obvious emotion between two seemingly ‘in love’ individuals. On the other hand, I think that Wuthering Heights could definitely have benefited from the presence of some more useful and emotional shots and angles. I believe that Wuthering Heights was not successful with portraying emotion because of the substantial amount of long, scenic shots that are used in the film. So in the end, I come to the resolution that makers of Wuthering Heights could possibly have taken a few pointers in this cinematic area when creating their film.
The emotion in movies is very meaningful and important to the storyline and narrative drive in the film which brings me to my second factor that is important when creating a film, the storyline. This is perhaps the one factor that is completely essential to a successful film. Without a believable and workable storyline a film will almost definitely lose all hope of creating verisimilitude. Luckily for the film makers of T & I, I quite easily ‘lost myself’ in the film which indicates that the storyline was well thought through and well developed. However, when viewing Wuthering Heights, I constantly found myself distracted and unable to concentrate enough to really enjoy or even understand the story unfolding in front of me. The storyline, whilst obviously historical, lacked the universal discourses that T & I conveyed so well. This in turn became unbelievable, and not in a good way either! The most important feature that caused this film to be not portrayed in its best form is the fact that at the beginning, there was a shot of an event which occurred at the end of the film which inevitably ruined any hope of creating suspense. It is impossible for viewers to give into the text, feel empathy for the lovers and so on, when we already know that the story will end badly. Also, a romantic tragedy will generally have events in the storyline which get worse gradually until you have the final unexpected and very tragic climax of the storyline. In Wuthering Heights, the climax was neither unexpected or highly tragic as Cathy dying, in my opinion, was expected as she was very sick so it was obvious she would die before long. I believe it is clear to tell that how the producers and directors go about working together to build up the storyline of a film impacts greatly on the believability and suspense of tragedy in this genre.

An aspect which greatly affects how effective the storyline is in creating the verisimilitude crucial to a romantic tragedy is how sound effects and the soundtrack to the film is used. When there is music to help build up the tension in the critical battle scenes and music which allow us to soften our hearts to the many tragic yet romantic things happening to the characters, it opens up the prospect of believability to a whole new level. Also, what would a battle scene be without appropriate sound effects? The producers of Tristan and Isolde used their music and sound effects very effectively. I found, on many occasions, that the music itself caused wells of emotion to surface. One of the more recurring sounds in this movie was violins. This created a promising tug on your heart strings, especially in the sad yet romantic scenes. On the other hand, Wuthering Heights was not so successful. Throughout the film I didn’t notice much, if any, music. There was no real need for sound effects so they were not present either. This is quite sad as I believe, as previously pointed out in the case of Tristan and Isolde, music and sound effects can make or break a film.

A fourth characteristic which effects how successful a film is put across is how well the characters are developed and obviously how well the actors portray this. In Tristan and Isolde, the producers chose very suitable actors that represented the characters at a very believable standard. It is clear that the tragic heroes in this film were constructed, very thoughtfully, to come across as undeserving of bad events occurring, and either has a good nature or is charming with the potential to be good. However the heroes are not the only characters that I have found which need to be constructed carefully. I found that villains who don’t realise that they are being villainous often have the best effect on the viewer because it adds to the loss and tragedy of the film. Also, I found it more interesting when there were several villains involved because otherwise there is little tension and conflict during the narrative and this often leads to me “tuning out” to the events on-screen. However, in Wuthering Heights the construction of the characters was not as thoughtful and therefore did not back up the genre that the producer is aiming at. I didn’t really think that the tragic heroes were all that undeserving as the storyline played out in a way that led me to believe that the characters were responsible for their actions and therefore deserved what the got. The resolution that I have reached based on these two films is that thoughtful construction of the characters and actors who portray the characters successfully is absolutely necessary to the overall verisimilitude of the film.

The final aspect that I observed played a part in the effectiveness of the films is the cultural discourses portrayed. I thought Tristan and Isolde portrayed cultural discourses very effectively as I was able to feel the emotions that imaginary characters on-screen were feeling and also was able to react and relate to some of the lines said. There are two main examples in this movie of relatable discourses. The first is the element of star-crossed lovers. This discourse is very common and most people cannot go through life without falling into the pit of love at least once. The other example is the fact that everybody knows that people fall in love and do stupid things and often come out the worse due to missed signs, silly mistakes and so on. These factors definitely create a strong sense that what you are seeing on the screen is probably existent. However, occasionally producers get mixed up when dealing with discourses and you are left with a very un-relatable rendition of a tragic romance movie. Although Wuthering Heights had the discourse of star-crossed lovers, the relationship of the couple wasn’t highly tragic or romantic. Kathy and Heathcliffe spent many years happily together and it was only at the end that they were separated. Also, Kathy intentionally got engaged knowing all the time that she couldn’t be with Heathcliffe so we don’t feel sorry for her thus ruining any evidence of having a discourse which plays with the viewers values as the storyline doesn’t make us choose a side. The cultural artefacts that are incorporated in the movies are of a quite reasonable standard in both films however, Tristan & Isolde clearly has a higher quality of artefacts than Wuthering Heights. T & I has many authentic looking swords, armour, apparel, cultural practices and so on whereas the artefacts used in Wuthering Heights are not as prominent nor as impressive, although still relevant to the time period. I believe that cultural discourses and artefacts are important in any film and need to be carefully used with a lot of thought put behind them. As I have previously pointed out, for several reasons, some movies are successful when using cultural discourses than others and usually movies which are successful in this generally have a better outcome when the film is viewed.

When I started creating this journal my aim was to identify, analyse in depth, and prove that it is very important for film directors and producers to put effort into all of the factors for this particular genre. I have shown that making a good film means that the cinematography and the use of angles is used to portray emotions, the storyline and the characters need to be constructed very carefully, the actors must be able to represent the characters well, the music and any effects used must be relevant and that the cultural discourses and artefacts must also be thoughtfully used. I believe that I have been successful in doing this and I hope that I’ve made the factors evident in this journal. As Isolde was fond of saying, “Life is greater than death but love is greater than either.” And I would like to apply this to this conclusion in saying that “Producing a movie is greater than producing no movie but producing a film with verisimilitude is greater than either.”
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