The cultural impact of films in the modern era was impossible for the Lumiere Brothers to know when they invented their cinematograph projector. The films they produced were mere recordings of people doing things. Their first film was ‘Workers leaving the Lumiere factory’ screened in 1895 after which, they made several other films. These films were one shot, static camera short films which were basically recordings of the daily life of people during the time.
Since then film making has reached new heights of technology and the tools available to new-gen filmmakers are nothing short of miraculous.
How did we came this far in a matter of a century? It’s not just the business of movie-making but the cultural impact they render. Look at what the Marvel movies are doing. They are nothing short of a cultural phenomenon and the description of the twenty-first century is incomplete without them.
The cultural impact of films, however, is more than restricted to the marvel movies, in fact, even though being of extreme significance, marvel movies still constitute an insignificant portion of the entire film history and wouldn’t be anywhere without the groundbreaking storytelling techniques invented by the earliest filmmakers.
Film is the distinctive art form of the twentieth century and it is exactly like what painting was in the renaissance period. It is the most prestigious art form with the biggest budgets and largest audiences. The question now is, why do we place so much significance in films in the modern world? Why are we as a society so invested in the creation and consumption of films? Why is the cultural impact of films so great?
The answer, just like the art form is not simple and I am in no ways qualified to give a precise answer. However, I will try to lay down my arguments while trying to answer these questions.
The most obvious answer to these questions is definitely that our lives are in no way perfect. Even if we attain what we dream of, we are never fulfilled. We want something more and something different all the time. Films provide us with a way to escape our mundane lives. One hour and thirty minutes that we spend in the company of fictitious characters in a film, makes us feel feelings that we normally won’t. The adventure in falling off from an aeroplane without a parachute is impossible for most of us to experience but, the mission impossible series does that for us. We relate to the character at that moment when he is in the air. That may be because we know the basic feeling of falling, we know how it feels to fall on the ground and bruise ourselves. It’s just that the degree of threat is far greater in this instance. We fall down with the character and get to experience that adventure, given to us by visuals and sounds that are pushed to the extremes.
Escapism is one way in which a film entertains us, another way is that films show us that our troubles mostly are just a laughable matter. We place great significance in minor inconveniences and we get more serious and stern because of them. Films show us people just like us, who face difficult situations. In them, we see ourselves and understand that our problems are not problems at all.
Sometimes it’s the other way round. We fail to understand the consequences of our actions and/or decisions. We tend to believe in our instinctive feeling. Often we do not move past the first idea that comes to our mind and we act on it without realizing the horror that might ensue because of it. Seemingly trivial actions can cause significant damage.
We run behind glamour, flashy things, bold letters, expensive brands, perfect romance, wealth among many things. Films show us that our wants and expectations tend to be vices and we don’t need them. What we need is something far more simple and more humane. At some level however, films themselves are responsible for making us behave this way. A sort of bad films, so as to say make us long for all the bad things in life and it’s on us to decide what we take and what we do not.
Most of us think that the environment we are born is the perfect environment when in fact it is just like any other. We are disinterested in the culture of other people because of our prejudices, education or parenting. Our experiences while growing up shape our thinking. We suffer from racism, nationalism, castism, and we deny the other person’s humanity because we do not understand his culture. It is a radical idea but for someone who was born in dirt, dirt is not something repulsive.
Films show us humanity in other people and if we are diligent in our pursuit of understanding other people’s culture, we find that they are not so different from us. In fact, they feel exactly what we feel and will do exactly what we will do in a particular situation. Our hate and fear are just a product of factors such as media and societal beliefs.
Why do we place so much significance in films in the modern world?
Why are we as a society so invested in the creation and consumption of films?
Why is the cultural impact of films so great?
The answer might be that they bring us closer to our humanity just an inch. It might take years or just a second to realize ourselves and films act as a catalyst in doing just that or the answer might boil down to the experience we get to have because of a film or it could be something far more complex and beyond the understanding of us all. Film is art at the end of the day and has the potential to modify society in various ways and maybe that’s why it is of so much significance.