The advent of film (cinema) brought an exciting new art form to the world that was a natural merging of advances in still photography and theatre. Cinema was born at a time when melodrama in theatre, with its big, epic stories, heroines, villains, and spectacle was immensely popular. The acting styles of the time might be seen as “over the top,” by modern standards, with bold gestures and facial expressions, and the storylines may seem like overwrought tales of good vs. evil, but this was all perfectly in line to make the transition from stage to screen with the development of film. In the early days of film, there was no sound, and very little change in the camera shot, so it was the skills of stage actors that first truly brought films to life. As technology progressed, camera shots, angles and technical elements became more advanced and became ingrained aspects of the story telling that makes film unique.
While most people may think of cinema as primarily a form on entertainment through movies (and later television and now via the internet), cinema genres beyond narrative fiction have made huge contributions in art and culture. Art house films give visual artists a medium for expression, and exploration of how film can be used to capture movement, sound and images. Documentary film is vitally important to history, through investigations of significant events, and providing an accounting of personal, social and political phenomena. And narrative films have provided over a century's worth of stories, characters and unforgettable moments as powerful as any other form of art.
This unit will explore the history of film, the development and use of film techniques, and some of the major genres of film. The following are links to reading materials, videos, and other resources to help discover the world of the cinema.