12.2017EuropeanCinemaBy AartiMenon Introduction. If cinema has a social function, it’s really to make people confrontother systems of thought, or other systems of living than the ones theyhabitually know. –Jacques Rivette I would like to begin with an Introduction about EuropeanCinema and various aspects that lie under this huge Industry. European Cinemais the identity of Europe itself which includes diverse and divergent cultures.We mainly cover the two basic questions about how the world sees EuropeanCinema and how the European Union sees European Cinema “European culture is ‘a patchwork, ajuxtaposition of various conceptions and practices of entertainment, acollection of individual ways of singing, dancing, telling stories, practicingsport and having some rest’, while, on the other ‘economically andpolitically, Europe is already a reality” 1.
Defining EuropeanCinema is too vast a topic, as Cinema in itself cannot be narrowed down to asingle definition. With leading and upcoming Cinemas all around the world it isonly when the European Cinema is constantly compared with Hollywood that we cansee a striking distinction between the two. That is when we understand the definition of European Films in a truesense.
“As the ‘good’ other, it is a self-ascription, where European directorsand national cinemas are lined up in binary pairs, such as ‘art versuscommerce’, ‘auteur versus star’, ‘critical prestige versus box office’,’realism versus dream factory’ or – more recently – ‘the movement image versusthe time image’ (Deleuze 1986; 1989)”2. One uniquedistinction of European cinema is the concept of Auteur that has really definedEuropean Cinema, it is through this that we saw a huge change and the beginningof the New Waves emerging. The concept of Auteur is where the director is incharge. It is more like a one-man army as the Director takes charge of writingthe story, direction, screenplay and all the aspects that go into film-making. We see the director’s vision in the film. Thesewere small budget films but were critically acclaimed films that are spokenabout even today. Some e.
g. of these are Breathlessby Jean Luc Gordad and 400 Blows by FrancoisTruffaut, we also have the Italian neorealism where films were made on subjectsmore in connection with the working class such as poverty, exploitation many ofthe films today are influenced a lot by Italian Neorealism, in the early 19thcentury we had The German Expressionism that lead to a series of creativemovements before the first world war some of the well-known films are:- The Student of Prague (1913), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), From Morn to Midnight (1920), The Golem: How He Came into the World(1920),Destiny (1922), Nosferatu (1922), Phantom (1922),Schatten (1923), and The Last Laugh (1924) were highly symbolicand stylized. European Cinema is majorly looked as Art Cinema or literaryCinema films that are intense and subjected to various interpretations. It hasmostly been a struggle to find the right audience for such fine produced films. Most of the filmsare “Postcolonial Cinema” speaking about Europe’s rich history taking influencefrom sociopolitical issues and mainly cultural heritage. Majority of genresthat distinguish contemporary cinema including comedy, romance, costume dramas, thrillers, andscience fiction, for example were seen first in Europe in the early twentiethcentury as well as today’s camera techniques and special effects can be foundunder the work of renowned Directors such as Georges Méliès ” Consequently,both the narration and aesthetics of the so-called ‘postcolonial cinema’ dealwith the waves of migrants from Latin America, Africa and Asia moving into theEuropean Union, with inclusion, exclusion and pluri-ethnicity as well as withmodalities of representation and politics of encounter. Therefore, thecontributions reflect three main key aspects – Europe, postcolonialism andcinema – which are not separated terms but intertwined and connected with oneanother in multiple ways, inflecting and generating a plurality of nuances” 3Postcolonial cinema also brings into light the geographical aspect of cinemaspecially issues such as, migration, identity and spatiality.
The inputs ofgeographical focus help in understanding how these films work and also how theyare built socially and ideologically in portraying different geographicalrelated aspects of film-making specially in relation to Europe as it has notonly brought out the Art in cinema, but also adapted various other cultures andincorporated in their cinema. This also shows European Cinema in a newsubjective perspective and all the methodologies that go into bringing theuniqueness or distinguish Europe from the rest as an aesthetic and politicalmedium in a globalized world. There has alwaysbeen a constant debate over the fact of not being able to find the “Europeanness”in European cinema due the dominance or influence of Hollywood, as spokenearlier Europe has always found it mostly difficult to find the right kind ofaudience for its cinema and in addition to it most of the films are smallbudget films with very few renowned actors as a result only a few of the filmsare funded or supported by thegovernment and the rest are funded privately which makes it difficult to bringsuch kind of cinema to the notice of the audience and today most of thedirectors are under constant pressure to produce commercially successful filmsor films that appeal to todays masses such as linear narratives leading to aclosed conclusion, fast cutting and action, a highly developed star system, ambitiousand sophisticated special effects. If they followed this method offilm-making it would always lead to the question of identity as what woulddefine European Cinema if they followed the Hollywood way of film-making?Attempting to follow the lines of Hollywood would not be a solution to bring Europeinto the market as then there would be nothing to differentiate between the twoworlds of Cinema specially given the cultural and linguistic difference betweenthe two. But there is also the question of how to gather the audience ofEuropean cinema and industry that produces, Art, complex and challenging films.If Europe drifts towards producing high-budget, commercially successful films itwould lose its sense of identity as European Cinema as its culture is whatbrings out Europe to the rest of the world. The evaluation for the success of afilm should not be based on much it earns, rather the content the response fromits audience is what should be evaluated. In my opinion in order to showcasethe European Art to the world it would be successful only when the governmentalso takes an initiative in supporting the field of Arts and Cinema bysupporting them financially as there is much more than what we just see inHollywood.
There are also problems that usually arise because of the languagewith English being predominantly spoken globally and whether the world today isready to accept cinema and storylines that are produced in regional languagesor is it more convenient to watch something in a language that is spokenwidely. These underlying concerns mustbe recognized and discussed but in spite of these problems are wide array ofchallenging films are still being produced throughout Europe. In order topromote and recognize European Cinema they have come up with the MEDIA (Mesures pour Encourager le Developpement del’industrie Audiovisuelle) programme, MEDIA is an initiative to helpdevelop closer co-operation amongst the European countries. Due to thisinitiative the number of films distributed outside of Europe has increased andmany of the established and new directors have got financial support (to name afew Terence Davies, Fridrik Thór Fridriksson, Damien Old, Istvan Szabo,and Lars Von Trier). “Amongst recent European initiatives, Eurimages, the Councilof Europe’s fund for co-production (set up in 1988), has been almostunique in prioritising film as ex- pression of cultural identity (Jäckel2003: 76).
Between 1989 and the early 1990s Eurimages supported a largenumber of films whose cultural importance hasbeen widely recognised, including – for example – Reise der Hoffnung (Journey of Hope, Xavier Koller, 1990, Switzerland/ UK), Toto le héros (Toto the Hero, Jaco van Dor- mael, 1991, France/ Belgium/ Germany), and Trois couleurs: bleu (Three Colours: Blue, Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993, France/ Poland/ Switzerland). By 1996, Eurimages’sinvolvement in European film co-productions reached 46 per cent, andthe centrality of its role, particularly for countries with low productioncapacity, is now widely acknowledged (Bizern and Autissier 1998: 70)”4 In Europe,France, Germany, Spain and Italy have been dominating the film Industry orrather the works of these countries is what the audience has usually seen andheard of but countries like Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, andSwitzerland, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries have been overshadowed bytheir neighbors. These are the countries where internal linguistic differencesaffect their market distribution in Europe as well as in other countries, thereare only a few exceptions such as (Delvaux and Straub in Belgium, Gorettain Switzerland) that are known or heard of in Europe but are famous onlyin their countries. Thus, the threat of Hollywood overpowering these countriesis high. However, these are the countries that always provide optimal locationsto direct films with their suitable climate and scenic backgrounds which arepreferred over other locations. Austria has been experiencing some changes intheir cinema the year 1999 being one of the most important years in AustrianCinema.
Due to political issues and elections there were strong oppositionsagainst the new Government and while on the other hand they also did not wanttheir country to be not recognized internationally in relation to culture andprevent films produced in Austria from being featured abroad. Situation changeddue to the Vienna Film Fund as it helps strengthen develop several of the Filmprojects and helped in founding of a new production company called Coup 99 by Barbara Albert, JessicaHausner, and Antonin Svoboda along with photographer Martin Gschlacht. Inthe year 1999 there were 222 film screenings of Austrian Films in InternationalFilm Festivals and never had Austria received such huge recognition.
ThePortugese Film industry too has experienced a positive change due to the Portuguese Institute of Cinematographic andAudiovisual Art (IPACA) by strongly supporting its films strongly inPortugal as well as abroad. As Portugal was named the Cultural capital of Europein 1994 as a result the IPACA financially supported four of six films thatyear, three of which were selected for Cannes Film Festival. The French journalCahiers du Cinema dedicated an entire section to the Portuguese Film Industry.One of the leading broadcasters in Portugal the SIC had launched an initiativefor the production of ten ‘Telefilms’ which was a very ambitious project andthe French ARTE project mentioned that due to this initiative it doubled thenumbers of feature films produced in Portugal and paved the way for many newand upcoming talent in the field of Films. This project brought about a radicalchange in Portugal.
The Scandinaviancountries are still new in the European Film Industry in comparison to theircounterparts. The number of films produced inland and off-shore as seeminglyless compared to the other countries. Sweden has had the history of having themost problems in this field as their markets are dominated mainly by AmericanFilms and the audience in general hasn’t shown a keen interest in promotingregional cinema. Sweden has had some success in Cinema with support from the NordicFilm and Television Fund by increasing 50% of the Nordic Film Productions inSweden.
Some of the notable Swedish Films are Lasse Hallström’s popularSemi-Autobiography Mit Liv Som Hund (myLife as a Dog, 1987), Kadisbellan (the Sling Shot, 1994), Daniel Bergman’s Söndagsbarn ( Sunday’s Children, 1993)and the most famous films was a comedy film by Lasse Aberg Hälsoresan (The Health Farm, 1999) which garnered around onemillion spectators in Sweden and was a great commercial success in Swedenunfortunately the movie didn’t travel far internationally other than Norwaywhere again it was a success. The year 1999 was a successful year for Sweden inrelation to Cinema as they captured 21.5% of the market and two of the mostsuccessful films that year were Tomtenärfar till alla Barnen (In bed With Santa, Kjell Sundwall,1999) and Vägen ut (breaking out, Daniel LindLagerlof). In the year 2000 two Swedish Films were nominated at the CannesInternational Film Festival liv Ullmann’s drama about adultery, Trölosa(Faithlesss) and an Autobiographical script of Ingmar Bergman directed by RoyAndersson Sånger fran andra våningen (Songs from the Second Floor). Due the basic problem of American Cinemadominance the rest of Scandinavia Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland have yetnot been as successful as Sweden. Given that Language and Finance was the majorproblems that these countries face it led to many co-operations so that theirFilms could be funded and due to these International Co-operations one the keysproblems were that most of the films were required to be produced in Englishand the point of promoting Regional Cinema internationally is to be able to Produceit in the regional language as it is the main aspect that distinguishesregional cinema from Hollywood.
Which is still a topic of debate today. Twofamous Finnish Directors who are brothers Aki and Mika Kaurismäki have madeover twenty feature films that were low budget and nihilistic humour and self-consciousfilmic references that garnered a lot of attention fromthe audience to Finnish Cinema. One oftheir most appreciated comedy more of a travelling comedy film based on thesixties style Finnish pop group on tour to America that turned into a disasterwas Leningrad Cowboys go America (1989).
In terms of their films that were commerciallysuccessful were films based on World War and some of the movies were Rukajärven tie (The Ambush, Olli Saarela)where the audience was mainly the older generation as they were able to relivethe times during the war. Taru Mäkelä’s Pikku- sisar (Little Sister)and Lauri Törhönen’s Hylätyt talot autiot pihat (Abandonned Houses)are films that show from a woman’s perspective during the time of War and howthey deal with the situation at home. Such films are slowly bringing theattention of the audience to the Finnish Film Industry. The Danish FilmIndustry was successful due to the creation of the Danish Film Institute in1972 with support from the state and strong Nordic and European Co-operationthat led to a breakthrough for Danish Cinema in the 90s. The Danish Cinema isanother example of European Cinema being in the spotlight due to strong Statesupport after France.
The Danish Film Institute still continues to promote lowbudget films that encourage, support and promote new-comers. Some of therenowned Danish Directors are Lars von Trier, Billie August, Thomas Vinterberg,Per Fly and Ake Sandgren. “The film Collective, Dogme 95, is known acrossthe world, and Kris- tian Levring’s The King is Alive, officially the fourth Dogme film, premièred at Cannes in 2000, as did Per Fly’s Baenken (The Bench) and Stefan Fjeldmark’s Hjaelp! Jeger en fisc (Help! I’m a Fish). Moreover, von Trier was awarded the Palme d’Or for Dancer in the Dark. As further indication of the international success of Danish films, Idioterne (The Idiots, Lars von Trier), was sold to 57 different countries, Soren-Kragh-Jackobsen’s Mifunes Sidste to 46 and ThomasWinterberg’s Festen (The Celebration)to 40.” 5 Another example set where they achievedsuccess internationally without being influenced or threatened by the dominanceof Hollywood. The initial Icelandic films or the first Icelandic Film Land Og Synir(Land and Sons) in the year1979 received positive reviews. Although Iceland produces less films every yearbut most of the films that they produce have been critically acclaimed andinternationally appreciated.
The then President of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadóttirwas quoted saying “in a world where filmhas become a truly international language, no society can consider itselfproperly articulate until it can express itself through this mostcontemporary of media”. Even thoughin the 90s Iceland faced certain problems regarding the funds but due to the IcelandicFilm including Experimenting with Digital technology in films they were back inthe market. Some of the notable films produced are Hrafn Gunnlaugsson’s Myrkrahofdinginn (Witchcraft),Gudny Halldórsdóttir’s Ungfrúin góda oghúsid (The Honour of the House) and Fridrik Thór Fridriksson’s Englar alheimsins (Angels of the Universe).Many of the young Directors from Iceland are making a major shift in thecontent they are producing it’s a huge shift from historical content to currentsocial issues.
Which is currently a notable change or characterization of theEuropean Cinema. Poland too has a successful graph n the field of Cinema as ithas produced high quality films and has transformed its film structure units toIndependent Film studios. It established various sources for funding of filmsboth through state and private. Two of the films that gave tough competition toAmerican cinema in the year 2001 were Ogniem i mieczem (With Fire and Sword,Jerzy Hoffmann) and PanTedeusz, Andrzej Wajda based on Polish Literary classics.
Togetherthe Scandinavian nations even though with less Financial support have come upstrong in the field of Films specially in an English language dominated Cinemaworld they have stuck to their ideologies and produced some great work withstrong State support. With most ofEuropean Cinema being regional cinema with the main aspect being that it isproduced in the regional language, it has always been a topic of discussionabout a film being authentic when the actors in the film are international actors.With so many International co-operations now-a-days and amalgamation of theentire cast and crew, where lies the identity of the culture of the film orwhat defines the authenticity of it being regional? Do we categorize it as anInternational Film just because the characters being played are byinternational actors or does it still remain a regional film as it is beingproduced in the regional language and showcases the culture of the specificregion? Having an International actor probably helps promote or market a filminternationally or gathers a lot of audience.
Even today many of the regional actorsare not known due to which only a limited set of audience is keen in watchingthese films “Moreover, vernacular stars ‘lack the dimension of the global reachof Hollywood stars. Rather, they articulate specific regional concerns within astrictly regional context, but by temporarily inserting themselves into therealm of stardom that is usually reserved for stars with wider reach. furtherand related aspect of this present form of regional or national European filmstardom appears to be that it is particularly marked by what has been referredto as ‘cultural discount. In other words, most of these vernacular stars do not’travel’ well, since their appeal is neither pan-European nor global.
Rather,their popularity is nearly always limited to a single territory or, inSchneider and Hediger’s formulation, a region” 6. Years later after the second World war many ofthe actors gained stardom due to the films being made on the recent historicaland political events that ha taken place in Europe, some of the noted actorswere: Louis de Funès, Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Dirk Bogarde and RomySchneider to name a few. Reasons for such less popularity of regional Actors isdue to the language barrier within the continent also the financial supportthey get is very less due to which it is difficult to promote regional talentor upcoming talent globally. There is always a question whether to promote regionalcinema and regional talent individually for new-comers to get recognition or topromote the cinema of the entire continent as one European cinema? As Cinema is toovast a topic to narrow down to one single statement so is European Cinema whichis rich with its high culture and diversity making the cinema of Europe anindividual identity in itself. European Cinema has evolved from what is used tobe from literary stories to current societal issues, from regular cinema to theconcept of Auteur the beginning of contemporary cinema and the emergence of theNew Waves.
It not only spreads the concept of transnationality across the globebut also within the continent inculcating concepts beyond borders. Even with adownward graph due to the dominance of Hollywood or American Cinema it hasstill retained its originality managed bring forward Europe without being fullyinfluenced by the west. The distinct difference between European Cinema andAmerican Cinema is still very evident. Thoughthe International Co-operations have been criticized but there was also a positiveside to it as it helped small time directors and actors get recognition.
European cinema will always be an ongoing process and there will be no end todiscovering the changes that take place in this industry as there is always newdevelopments taking place every day. In conclusion European Cinema will alwaysbe a space of complexities and contradictions. 1European identity in Cinema,Introduction: European Film and the Quest for Identity, 2The Europeannessof European Cinema, Identity, Meaning, Globalization, edited by MaryHarrod, et al., I.B.Tauris, 20143Transnational Cinemas, Introduction:genres and tropes in postcolonial cinema(s) in Europe4European identity in Cinema,Introduction: European Film and the Quest for Identity,5European identity in Cinema, Introduction:European Film and the Quest for Identity, 6The Europeanness of European Cinema,Identity, Meaning, Globalization, edited by Mary Harrod, et al., I.B.Tauris,2014