With the kind of study I’ve been doing at uni over the last few years I have had to confront things that run contrary to my beliefs. Mostly this has stretched me and challenged me, sometimes it has felt like some kind of mental violation, but most of that I have brought on myself. It was through an elective subject I studied last year that my eyes were further opened to more dialogue on art and what is and is not acceptable.
It was a great subject, well taught, the tutorials were great and made me think about things in a way I had never done previously.
In our first class we learnt about Oscar Wilde. He had some great ideas about art – its place and its functions. I can’t remember all that was said about Wilde, but I do remember the tutor talking about Oscar Wilde’s views on good and bad art. In this instance Wilde was talking about literature, but I reckon the theory can be extrapolated to refer to all art, including film. And that was, a book is good or bad, based not on the reader’s view or opinion of it, but whether it is well written. While the reader’s opinion may well be that they did not like the book, it may have even dealt with issues that the reader felt were immoral, this does not determine the book’s value as art. The art (book) should be valued if it is good, not if it was “morally good” or suited the reader, but “Was it GOOD: well written, a well conceived narrative, developed and animated characters, did the way it was written make you have empathy with the characters?” These things make a book good or bad. NOT whether or not you liked it or thought it was evil.
I feel the same way about film, there are some films that are good but I don’t like, Little Children is a prime example. In the same way, there are films that I love but I know deep down inside they are just bad. Though I must say this is rare, I have pretty good taste in film.
How often do you hear people say “That film was really bad” and its one of those films that have been critically acclaimed and received heaps of awards?
What that person means is “I didn’t like that movie, according to my tastes, its bad”.
Its a bit nit-picky of me I know, but its the truth.
All art should first be judged, not by our preferences, but how well was it put together. In the case of film, was it well acted, were there continuity issues, did the mise-en-scene feel claustrophobic, was the story cleverly devised, the screenplay well written, the scenes masterfully shot, the set design true to the style and scope of the film.
These things should be the main things under consideration when reviewing a film. The reviewers personal tastes and views should be given far less room.
This is primarily where my problem with the movie “reviews” over at the Focus on the Family media site lie. A review is not a summary of the film, a detailed list of “inappropriate” elements and the writer’s opinion on the morality of the film. A GOOD movie should never be reduced to this – a GOOD movie is not entertainment, it is art.
Another thing we learnt in art class was that if we see any immorailty in art it is because we are bringing that to the art, from our own experiences and beliefs, it is not inherent in the work itself.
I’ll leave that final thought hanging…