Cinematic Language

What is meant by cinematic language?  


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Cinematic language could be two different things. On one hand, a director is going to use verbal cinematic langue to his actors and camera crew. This equates cinematic language to vocabulary. Knowledge of this vocabulary will help everybody involved in the filming process to be on the same page as to what the director is ordering. This language could be something as simple as the director saying "action" or "cut."

The other possible meaning of cinematic language is wider in scope. An author is going to use vocabulary words in a text, but what words are used and how they are used can control things like mood, tone, characterization, pace, and so on. Movies are likely to use spoken language to do those same things, but movies can also show audiences things that can convey more than just words on a page. What the director chooses to show and how to show it involves the usage of cinematic language, and audiences are becoming quite savvy at understanding the cinematic language. For example, audiences routinely understand the emotional difference between static shots and tracking shots. Another example is the "Dutch Tilt." This occurs when a filmmaker intentionally has the camera rotated off of the horizontal. It's very disconcerting to audiences, and it immediately conveys that something isn't quite right with the actions that are happening on screen. This is why it is commonly used in the horror genre. All of these various filming techniques are tools of a greater cinematic language that help to tell a particular story to audiences.

A great example of how cinematic language can be used to drastically alter preconceived notions about a story is the opening scene in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. The camera is all over the place with quick zooms, quick cuts, low angles, and more. This opening scene and the way that it is filmed let audiences know that this isn't going to be the slow-paced story they read in English class.

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Steming from its literary definition, in LOOKING AT MOVIESby Richard Barsam & Dan Monahan,  NY: W. W. Norton & Company 2009. 3rd Edition, "cinematic language" is the combination of methods, strategies and skills that filmmakers choose to convey the central message and the main ideas of the story that they are trying to tell.

It is basically the same notion as storytelling: the narrator chooses the tone, atmosphere, and style with which to tell the story in order to provoke in the listener empathy and emotion.

Similarly, a filmmaker understands how to perfect the manipulation of the scene through cinematic timing, transitions, and effects that would convey similar feelings in the viewer. This is also done through explicit and implicit meaning. The explicit meaning will directly show the audience a specific scene and relate exact information. The implicit meaning allows for the audience to formulate its own opinion about what they see. It is this interaction between the film maker and the audience which deems a movie to be successful.

This way of communicating with the audience is quite influential because it helps to make the necessary connections that will increase the validity and plausibility of the plot. In turn, this increases the popular interest in the work of the film maker while establishing a reputation of worthiness and quality for the production team within the industry.

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