Film History

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In the early years of narrative cinema there was little pressure on filmmakers for the ‘evolution of film forms before nickelodeons’ (Salt, 1990, pp31) as cinema neither became a mass nor high cultural product and was still a novelty but ‘Production companies’ profits were based principally on the sales of longer fiction films’ in the later years (Musser, 1990, pp256) so focus was made for the production of popular narratives so I will show how the early development of narrative evolved from trick films to complex narrative. I will analyse the short film Mary Jane’s Mishap (1903, Smith) and an extract from the seminal The Birth of a Nation (1915, D.W.Griffith). Mary Jane’s Mishap was made when ‘multi-scene films were becoming popular’ (Salt, 1990, pp32) It is notable for its use of experimental transitions. To ‘separate successive scenes’ (Salt, 1990, pp32) Smith used vertical wipes to transition to wider framed shot. This efficiently showed an ellipsis in time from the funeral to people visiting her grave. D.W.Griffith also used inventive shots but popularised them rather than inventing them, such as tracking shots adding pace the characters movement and the narrative. In the silent-era of film insert titles were important in explaining the narrative to the primitive viewer not well-versed in film, especially in films where the audience were not familiar with the story unlike ‘Porters The Night before Christmas‘(Musser, 1990, pp258). Griffith used insert titles which ‘changed around 1905 into summaries of the action’ (Burch, 1990, pp221) As the film had a ‘self-sufficient narrative’ (Burch, 1990, pp221) that ran for over three hours, with poor camera quality to recognise characters. But they were ‘systematically anticipating t... ... middle of paper ... ...ows this film as being a transition between the early trick films and narrative cinema. The Birth of a Nation has evolved in ‘relation to the articulation between shots in term of space and time’ (Gunning, 1990, pp89) it is of the third and fourth ciné-genres. As the ‘multi-shot narrative’ of approximately three hours long is edited as to the ‘cut is de-emphazised’ (Gunning, 1990, pp89) and is placed in the ‘fourth genre’ as the plot is disrupted through parallel editing (Gunning, 1990, pp90). In conclusion, we can see in film narrative The Birth of a Nation has progressed from the trick film narrative of Mary Jane’s Mishap to being identified according to Gunning as being of the third genre, due to both profitability and popularity of realistic cinema Moving from being of theatrical proscenium to complex cinematography to tell a story suited for the screen.

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