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Exploring Film Theory and Directorial Approaches: Munsterberg, Benjamin, Bazin, and Moore

May 12, 2023 | 0 comments

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May 12, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Munsterberg’s film formalism.

Munsterberg’s formalism has one main objective to understand the inner workings and reason why the public is often fascinated by film. Whereas other theorists insist that the story and sometimes even the actors themselves draw crowds into the cinema halls, he insists that the secret lies in the mechanics of the film. Rebecca, a film produced by albert Hitchcock is one which can best explain the theory. Hitchcock is today renowned for his work in the horror film industry in the 1940’s. However, this was not the case. The film itself won an Oscar although not in the director category which Munsterberg considers to be the most important. Focus was given more to the actors in the video and computer games that correctly simulate the environment. film. However, today even for the basic film student understanding Hitchcock’s work has become a necessity. His films are a studied picture by picture, frame by frame and they still continue to fascinate audiences. This Munsterberg states is because of the mechanics that were invested in the violence in films is utterly harmful.  He insists that exposure to such images and film. From color, to lighting all the way to posture and sound effects, the movie continues to be legendary. Fahy (2010) concludes that Formalism in this film simply means a focus on the mechanics and tolls of production without dwelling on the culture and history of the film itself, the actors and other aspects.

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Film and Critical mass

According to Benjamin’s theory, critical mass is created through the influence of history. We are not only influenced by the circumstance upon which we exist but also the history that informs our own existence. It therefore follows that when history is tampered with, there will develop a singular form of thought (Sanders and Skoble 2008). This thought is often influenced by what he terms as the medium of education and information which is art. Every form of art exists within a specific time frame and takes into consideration various aspects when being created. However, art is just an imitation of the true reality, and therefore even the best form of art and in this case film lacks one aspect which is simply the “presence” in its time of existence.

According to Carroll and Choi (2006) the age of critical mass seems to have come to existence in this decade. This is because; majority of the reality that we know has been informed by documentaries of our history, stories in the news and recordings of film. However, each of this lacks some form of truth which basically alters what future generations will know about our

Directors influenced by reality

Bazin makes a distinction between directors who are influenced by reality and those influenced by the image. According to Bazin, the image came first and from there developed film. Film was meant to enhance the image, bring it into reality. However, with years of experience came several other aspects which included focus on elements that could enhance and dramatize the image. Sound effects and movements came to ruin what was in fact a perfect reflection of reality. Bazin insists that all directors need to be inspired by the desire to create a true reflection of reality. This means re-energizing and pulling away from aspects such as color, over-dramatization and effects that although draw in audiences pull away the film from the true reality.

One of the directors truly inspired by reality is, Haddock William. His movie the immoral Alamo is based on the true attack and battle fought by General Antonio Lopez. The director takes the concepts of Bazin’s theory into picture in the movie. He uses little known actors, bases his movie in the same place the battle took place and finally makes the movie a silent movie. According to Bazin, reality is often in the visual and it can be distorted by including speech and sound. In order for the audience to experience the true reality upon which the movie is based, there is no need to talk or include speech. Only one sense is vital and it is this that the directors should focus on and that is the visual sense.

Michael Moore and visual lie

Much of the criticism that surrounds films and documentaries by Michael Moore is that he continually inserts himself completely distorting the reality. The documentaries seem to revolve more around him than on the subject which he expects and wants to study (Wartenberg and Curran 2005). Whereas the audience begins or inserts itself into the journey with the hope of understanding or perceiving the aspects of life around the subject matter, they are instead subjected to a world of imagination where the subject seems focused on the director rather than the subject.

There are those who have indicated that Moore’s presence is meant to draw in the audience and authenticate the documentary. However, watching his documentaries one feels that his presence is far from reality, looks forced and alien to the film. The film itself would therefore have been more realistic without his presence. Instead, his presence is often directed at enhancing his believes and political agenda. It does not enhance, explain or make clearer the subject matter being discussed. In majority of the cases, his presence is in fact confusing.


Carroll, N., & Choi, J. (2006). Philosophy of film and motion pictures: An anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Fahy, T. R. (2010). The philosophy of horror. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky.

Sanders, S., & Skoble, A. J. (2008). The philosophy of TV noir. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky.

Wartenberg, T. E., & Curran, A. (2005). The philosophy of film: Introductory text and readings. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Pub.

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