At a conference arranged to celebrate the centenary of motion pictures, the Danish film director, Lars Von Trier, stood up to give his speech on the future of film. The intelligensia of the cine world were not prepared for what happened next.
Rather than give a glowing tribute to the technological advances made over the years and wax lyrical about the SFX glories yet to come, Von Trier and his partners-in-crime bombarded the audience with red pamphlets entitled ‘Dogme 95’.
Ever since Star Wars, Hollywood had been producing more and more expensive films with massive SFX budgets. Some of these were extraordinarily successful but others were massive flops. What many of the films had in common was that they were fantastical in nature and bore little resemblance to the daily lives of ordinary people. Moreover, those film makers without the financial muscle of the American film studios behind them were finding it increasingly difficult to find a market for their films.
A few members of the audience started to read the pamphlet. In it, there were a set of rules, known as The Vow of Chastity. The Dogme collective, as they were known, wanted to bring about a revolution in film-making. They believed that special effects, technical wizardry and all manner of post-production modifications distracted from the essence of cinema: the unfolding of the story and the performance of the actors.
Did the movement have any effect on cinema? In the 21st century, big-budget superhero movies generate more money and are seen by more people than any other genre. On the other hand, technology has evolved to be within the reach of the individual and people are using cheap and cheerful gadgets to communicate in a simple and unadorned way via social medium sites like YouTube. Today, everybody can make films.
Watch the clip below with the Danish film director. His point seems to be that the big film studios are gatekeepers who have spent generations convincing the rest of us that only they have the expertise to create movie magic. Von Trier believes otherwise, to him, it’s all “smoke and mirrors”, an attempt by the powers that be to convince us that we can’t do what they do.
What does this have to do with teaching English you might ask? All will be revealed in my final post.