Contributed by Brittany Larimore
Cinema is both a time capsule and a document. It analyzes not only the material objects of a time prior to the present, but it analyzes the mentality and moral status of individuals during certain events; or at least it attempts to.
When storytelling was founded on relating a series of occurrences around a campfire for others to hear, it was to provide an understanding of one’s history or of one’s sense of the world. Having knowledge about where we came from and why we are here has become an essential tool in building a framework for art and culture. However, you must take such spoken words and critically think about their logic. Is what someone says about the past true, even if they were not there to witness it themselves? Can you make a story true?
That is difficult to say with film. A movie is meant to be art or an expression of art. Humans understand there is a difference between what appears on the screen and what reality is, and we know that there is a structure and a set of laws to follow when you are creating a story. However, we also acknowledge that there is development within a character and that a story does not exactly apply to the real world. Yet, we are fascinated by the stories of extraordinary people, and we love to glorify the good human beings or manipulate events to bring a greater issue to play.
During the past decade, Hollywood has seen an emergence of films that not only focus on historical events, but also focus on contemporary issues. For example, “Zero Dark Thirty”, the Oscar-winning film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, follows the ten-year search for Osama Bin Laden through the eyes of a young female CIA operative. The film itself was announced a few weeks after the international incident involving the largest manhunt in the world, and many critics questioned the timing of the film’s creation. However, there were many facts and details completely unknown to the public, whether it was deliberate or not. And many people did not understand how or why such events could happen. This is where cinema comes in: when watching a decent movie, the viewer enters a realm of belief where they accept the information given to them. By placing said information in a story structure and constructing three acts, it becomes a comprehensive, visual story.
Of course, liberties had to be taken in order to make the film interesting and have its own signature. One of the greatest aspects of cinema is its ability to compress time. A director can create a movie that spans a few days or a few lifetimes, but in reality, the main theme is expressed in about two hours. However, is it ethical to condense information just to make it entertaining?
The truth is that Hollywood is not the first to do this. Ancient mythology is theoretically based on actual people and events to provide set standards and morals for future generations, and thus spun to make the content more accessible. Therefore, film is just a tool to promote our history or rather our comprehension of history. It may be purely factual, or it may be falsified to push an agenda. But the two aspects, film and history, will always collaborate because we are the stories that live in the tales we tell ourselves.