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Philosophy Film

Mar 4, 2016 | 0 comments

Mar 4, 2016 | Essays | 0 comments

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Films are a form of art that involves presentations of moving images. Films originated from photography as they are motion pictures resulting from high level of creativity and innovation. Their presentation as moving pictures makes them unique with respect to other forms of art like paintings. Films, according to Plato are a representation of the real world- a notion that has been strongly disputed by some film analysts and theorists. Plato was a theorist who believed in realism. Plato argued that filmmakers ought to reflect the actual society, human behavior, culture as well as nature and not just produce films for entertainment as their major role in the society is to inform and educate thus should not exaggerate or alter actual facts. This paper assess the filmmakers’ ability to imitate nature in their films with regard to Plato’s theory drawing examples from Blow-up film by Antonioni, Nananook of the North, Workers Leaving Lumiere Factory by Lumiere brothers and The Plow that Broke the Plains.

Plato believes that art, films inclusive, reflects the actual society. Plato argues that filmmakers’ ideas as well as issues expressed in films are inspired by actual events in the society and nature. He believes that filmmakers’ intention ought to be to educate the audience by presenting issues that affects the society as imitation is an appropriate natural mode of learning morals as well as ethics. However, most filmmakers’ intention is always to entertain and in their attempt to achieve that purpose they end up exaggerating thus distorting the actual events. They delude the truth and use language to make the film captivating and moving hence cannot be assumed to be a copy of the real world as explicated by Buckland (2011). For instance, in the film Blow-up by Antonioni, the filmmaker paints an exaggerated picture of a day in the life of glamorous photographer.

Plato believes that art is the imitation of absolute reality such that every image depicted in film has an original form in the actual world. However, the signs used in films to signify events, culture and human behaviors are normally unclear thus ambiguous. In most cases the symbols used express varied meanings such that the meaning deducted by the audience may completely differ from the meaning the filmmaker had in mind. The signs could represent anything in the society depending of the audience’s extent of exposure and scope of knowledge concerning the subject matter. Therefore, filmmakers cannot be assumed to imitate reality in their films as described by Buckland (2011). For instance in the film Blow- up, Antonioni uses a car as a symbol which could be interpreted to signify the protagonist’s elegance, wealth or style which may not have been the filmmakers’ original significance as suggested by Kozloff, M. (1967).

Plato argues that films mirror nature and human behavior because they bring about culture and portray human behavior. However, culture is prone to human manipulation. For example in most cases human beings make rules and regulations followed and believed in culture and often give nature as reasons for their actions. Buckland (2011) claims that human beings can choose what to view as nature and the aspects of nature to include in their culture. Similarly, filmmakers can choose the aspect of nature to incorporate in culture and aspects that they want the audience to view as reality thus cannot be considered to be expressing reality. For instance, the images of Inuk and his family eating raw meat in Nananook of the North is unnatural in the real context as much as it is not entirely impossible but it is the extraordinary aspect the filmmaker incorporates as a culture of people experiencing hardship on their journeys but is not completely true for every individual who find himself/herself in a similar circumstance as implied by Matheson (2011).

In addition, Buckland (2011) suggests that filmmakers do present their own ideas, opinions and experience which depend on their own level of interaction with human beings, environment as well as nature. As much as Plato suggests that filmmakers’ ideas are inspired by events in the real world, their level of inspiration depends on their own context of experience with reality, interpretation of life events and their own perception of humanity, nature as well as life. Therefore, their ideas cannot be termed to represent the entire society as the audience may have entirely different experience of a similar situation that would not have any connection with the ideas and opinions of the film makers. For in instance in the film, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, the Lumiere brothers share their own ideas concerning workers’ behavior including their anxiety to get home and their extent fatigue after the days’ work but does not mean all the workers behave in a similar manner after work as illustrated by Allan, M. (2008). . Therefore, assuming that films imitate reality would be misguided as well as misleading since issues and ideas they present has no connection with the real world.

Buckland (2011) further suggests that the art of film production involves simulation. Filmmakers do reverse or recreate reality through simulation of real events. Therefore, they cannot be considered to be holding up to nature as the process of simulations alters the real world presenting the world in regard to filmmakers’ own image and liking. In the process of film production, filmmakers push things to their limit, modifying and manipulating them to achieve their own desires thus transforming reality such that the end results are models of reality which should not be mistaken to be real. They destroy the actual, making reality disappear since opposing deductions of a film are all true from the image they generate from. Thus tend to show events in the manner they did not appear in real life. Therefore as much as films have some aspects of reality in the resulting model they do not absolutely mirror the society. For instance in the film- The Plow that Broke the Plains, the events showed in the film are not the actual events instead are modeled with the assistance of the inhabitants of the plan to suit his intentions of informing the government of the suffering of the people as explained by Lorentz et al (2007).

Moreover, Buckland (2011) states that films are fictions hence cannot reflect the actual world. The process of film production does require creativity and innovation that employ imaginations hence films are illusions. In an attempt to make their work unique, outstanding and selling they incorporate a lot of imaginations mixed with reality. Their imaginations tend to reflect their own thoughts, desires or expectations of the society but should not be mistaken for real. For instance Antonioni’s Blow-up is a fiction story concerning the lifestyle of the protagonist who is a glamorous photographer thus cannot be real. Even documentary films of historical events do not imitate reality since in most cases filmmakers arrive at the scene after the occurrence of the event and attempt to recreate the events in the manner they imagined those events occurred originally with the help of eye witnesses thus liable to biasness as expressed by Eagleton (2003). .

Buckland (2011) says that nothing can absolutely reflect the real world since nature is complex, culture is dynamic and individual’s behavior is unpredictable thus nothing can exactly bring out the complexity of nature. Moreover, films are subjective hence cannot be taken as a representation of reality. Different inferences can be inferred from one film by different people hence films are not objective and those deductions would not be rejected as long as they are appropriately defended. Thus filmmakers do not copy the society because every individual has their own perception of reality just by the fact that we are unique in nature. Their interpretation depends on the audience hence the audience holds the vote concerning whether the film reflects reality or not therefore should not be coaxed into agreeing that the film imitate reality. For instance, in the film- Nanook of the North– the filmmaker documents the Inuk’s family’s experiences on their journey; showing the hardship they went through and the extent they went through to survive but those are not the challenges faced by every individual who at one point faced hardship on their journey as implied by Matheson (2011).

In conclusions, films are a unique form of art that express ideas or narrate stories by using motion pictures aimed at entertaining. The notion that filmmakers do imitate reality as claimed by Plato has been disputed and considered misleading. Filmmakers do not normally hold the mirror up to nature as they present their own perception of nature which is not entirely true given that every individual experiences nature and life differently. Besides filmmakers do not always present events exactly as they occur in the real world since they are clouded by their desire to captivate and impress the audience thus end up altering or exaggerating reality. In addition, films incorporate imagination of reality but that does not mean the events are real. The art of film production itself involves simulation of real events leading to reconstruction of reality thus the resulting models cannot be assumed to mirror the actual world. Therefore, filmmakers may attempt to express some aspects of reality but that does not mean they reflect the actual society as nothing can absolutely bring out the complexity of nature.


Allan, M. (2008). Deserted histories: The Lumiere Brothers, the pyramids and early film form. Early Popular Visual Culture. doi: 10.1080/17460650802150416

Buckland, W. (2011). Review of Richard Rushton, The Reality of Film: Theories of Filmic Reality. New Review of the Film and Television Studies. Doi:10.1080/17400309.2011.585876

Eagleton, T. (2003). After theory. New York: Basic Books.

Kozloff, M. (1967). The Blow-Up. Michelangelo Antonioni. Film Quarterly. doi: 10.1525/fq.1967.20..3.04a0060.

Lorentz, P., Stoney, G.C, Thomson, V., King, F., Gil-Ordonez, A., … Naxos Rights International Ltd. (2007). The plow that broke the plains: The river. United States: Naxos.

Matheson, S. (2011). The “True Spirit” of Eating Raw Meat: London Nietzsche, and Rousseau in Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922). Journal of Popular Film and Television: doi 10.1080/01956051.2010.490074

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