Five Films that changed the face of cinema

Five Films that changed the face of cinema

Five Films that changed the face of cinema

8 1/2 (1963) – Federico Fellini

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When it comes to the world of cinema, there are several landmark films that not only change the way we think but also deliver an intense and raw perspective into human life, eventually holding up for years to come. While these may be for a niche audience or tend to have a certain art-house quality to them, they depict emotion like no other through intelligent directorial techniques or powerful narratives. At the end of the day, as long as a film makes you feel something, whether it’s highly liking it or severely disliking it, then the film has been worth the watch, for it is telling of your autonomy and that you hold strong opinions. Here are some must-watch films from the modern world that have changed the face of cinema and may ignite heavy feelings from its audiences.

 

Tokyo Story (1953) – Yasujirō Ozu

The plot is simple. Two parents fairly into their old age take a journey from Japan to Tokyo to visit their children. Under the surface though, there are many complex emotions to be found. The exploration of complicated family dynamics dominates the film, where the director’s minimalist style further enhances each and every aspect. Tokyo Story is clearly Ozu’s most famous film and his style is highly prevalent throughout the movie. With almost no camera movement, he drives the entire narrative through strong compositions and absolutely no cut-aways or overlapping dialogues. Silences then become the most unique feature of the movie against which his characters’ personalities can stand out. The movie balances its emotive quality by separating scenes with mundane yet evocative images from everyday life including the likes of empty streets, smoke, clothes hanging on a line, and banners blowing in the wind. Even though the film was made several decades ago, almost seven years after the war, it still holds up today as a deeply emotional tale about family and our search for love and meaning. Providing a stark conflict between modern grandchildren and their traditional grandparents, the film successfully inculcates the theme of collectivism vs. individualism, depicting ideas of ageing and the nostalgia of youth. Showcasing a very humanistic style of cinema, removing the need for effects or workshopping, Ozu delivers the nuances of common life in a highly relatable manner.

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8 1/2 (1963) – Federico Fellini

What other way to describe this other than a film about filmmaking. By the time Fellini was about to make 8 ½, he had already worked on six full-length features and two shorts. The title creates a certain irony by literally referencing the number of films he’s made, almost as though it were a serial number. The movie serves as a metaphor for the making of a film by a tired, uninspired director,  casting a perfect balance between fantasy and reality where real-life parallels non-narrative moments make it seem like a fever dream. The protagonist, Guido, experiences the same crisis of inspiration that Fellini had experienced while initially conceiving 8 ½, and through him, Fellini creates the contrast of real-life and reel-life. A director who prefers cinema as a love for images rather than a vessel for ideation, weighed down by the obligatory expectations of the world, parallels his conflict as the character of Guido retreats into another world, finding himself in a crisis with both his next film and his personal life. Serving as a gateway to see into the illusory trickery of movies in how they sweep you from place to place, it is not a movie you are supposed to follow, but a series of images full of symbolism that you must experience.

 

Taxi driver (1976) – Martin Scorsese

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Delving into film noir, this thriller is anything but like an ordinary movie under this genre. It does not rely on an external plot device that slowly builds up to a climactic moment but instead showcases the protagonist’s descent into insanity whose passion drives him to desperation and eventually madness. He eventually materialises into a revered anti-hero who wouldn’t be forgotten for ages to come. The moral and ethical journey of its lead holds up in relevancy serving as a reflection of our society and the conflicts that preside it. The movie is set in New York City, shedding light on the gritty crevices of the big apple that much of that era’s cinematic lore would shy away from. Travis Bickle, our main character, is a war veteran who was horribly scarred in Vietnam and goes out of his way to appease his moral inclinations whilst trying to deal with sorrow and predisposition to violence. The thematic elements of loneliness surrounding his portrayal may be one of the most relatable and unnerving motifs for audiences. And while the character’s sorrow may saturate the film, there’s a certain comical side to it drenched in absurdity that nestles itself in humankind’s depravity, making the film an excellent portrayal of conflicts of moral ambiguity we face every day.

 

M (1931) – Fritz Lang

This German thriller film was first noted for its use of groundbreaking lighting techniques and off-screen sound to maximise a sense of horror. The film begins with a set-up about a prolific child murderer called Hans Beckert, undoubtedly establishing him as a villain. However, as things come to light, that concept soon changes and viewers find themselves in a difficult position on what is considered right. The movie comments on the idea of true free will, and as a domino effect, creates several judicial disputes and discredits the concept of justice, especially when stemming from grief and delivered through a blood-hungry mob. Numerous aspects of the film’s cinematography including its image contrast and camera position help convey similar themes of conflict and power. Ultimately, with the humanisation of a monster and the inversion of the power dynamic, it becomes difficult to determine which is more disturbed: Beckert or society. One can say that the protagonist of Lang’s film is society itself and its perversion, unveiling a hard truth of how we find comfort in seeing things as black and white, often forgetting a mass of grey that lies amongst us. The use of sound and leitmotif in this film may as well be deemed revolutionary, successfully complimenting Lang’s incredibly detective storytelling.

 

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The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) – Carl Theodor Dreyer

Like with all artistic mediums, cinema has been influenced greatly by mythos, religion, and history. One of the most popular of these types to be told in cinema is the story of Jeanne d’Arc, the teenage girl sent by God to lead the French to victory in the Hundred Years’ War. After having led the French in numerous battles against the English, Joan of Arc is captured and eventually brought to stand trial for heresy by French clergymen loyal to the English. Many of Dreyer’s films would put the faithful and the doubters into direct conflict; in this film, Jeanne’s executors prove nothing but their own hypocrisy and lack of commitment to higher ideals. The rhythm of the movie is quite fast, with shots placed one after the other that build up the tension masterfully, alternated by many close up compositions that compliment the contextual gravity of the plot and manifests the high paced claustrophobic quality that amps up the stakes of inevitable death. With his camera, Dreyer studies each of his characters and shows the pain that lies beneath all of them, establishing an intimate relationship of each character simply through expressions and gestures, making it one of the best silent films ever made.

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