Has the era of filmmaking as an art form reached its demise?
Reminisce about the Golden Age of Film; which directors come to mind? Figurehead names such as Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) and Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) are just some of the filmmakers regarded as to have changed the art of cinema with their innovative directorial visions and their contributions to the world of film. This was during the 1910s to the 1960s, but since then, cinematic releases have definitely seen a decline in artistic merit which brings to life a sad reality.
The films being released in today’s era show a disheartening shift in the motion picture industry as filmmakers are focusing less on the art of cinema and more on profits.
When comparing the films of today to those released in previous decades, one of the most prominent aspects that sets the two apart is the intention behind them. Some of the largest production companies in the modern world view filmmaking as a business, not as an art. This is evident through the influx of sequels and remakes to popular films that have been seen hitting the big screen in recent years, especially to beloved classics and box-office successes.
Not only that, but it can also be argued that a lot of films being released as of late follow the same formula, lacking the experimentation and innovation prevalently seen in films from the previous years. Some examples as to how modern productions have lost their creativity include films of specific genres merely reinventing the wheel in terms of plot and structure such as the “character adventuring to a new land” cliché in a lot of modern animated films (Tangled, Moana) and the “final confrontation” in superhero films (The Avengers, Deadpool). This paired with the abundance of live-action remakes of beloved classics that Walt Disney Pictures has been releasing during the past decade show just how differently the world of film has become.
In a world where monetary gain trumps artistic merit, companies’ focus has strayed further from crafting a visceral and provocative audiovisual experience and leaned more towards who can attain the position of highest-grossing film at the box office.
This leads to the next point as to why the film industry has changed—palatability. Cinematic releases in current times tend to want to appeal to a very wide audience. Why? To generate more profits.
Now you may be asking, “How is this necessarily a bad thing? Filmmakers would want their art to be exposed to a larger audience, right?” The problem with this lies in the placing of the audience’s interests over the director’s own vision. It clouds and hinders the ability to produce a film brought to life through cinematic expression. Consequently, the end result is merely a product created by a studio in hopes of earning a profit rather than created by a filmmaker seeking to realize their artistry through having full creative control over their visual media—an auteur.
Now, there is nothing wrong with trying to make a profit but it is truly discouraging to observe that a majority of the most successful films coming out recently are the products of studios brainstorming to see what would rake in the most profits, rather than individuals who seek out to express themselves through the art of film, uninhibited by external influences such as marketability or wealth.
Although it can be argued that there still exists modern filmmakers who are pushing the envelope in terms of cinematic artistic expression, it cannot be denied that a majority of the films being released today on the silver screen adhere to these pitfalls that prevent them from truly becoming unadulterated works stemming from the director’s creative mind.
Though it seems as if auteur cinema is a dying art due to the stagnating slew of releases we have seen thus far, there still exists hope as some modern directors such as Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse) and the Safdie brothers (Uncut Gems) whose cinematic releases continually break the mold show a glimmer of hope that cinema is not a dying art form. Hopefully, a new set of visionaries will be able to spearhead a change in the way we view and consume cinema as the film continues to be a form of artistic expression and not just another way for studios to make a quick profit.
Through artistry and innovation, a new Golden Age of Film is still a possibility within our grasp.