Films – A Reflection or an Influence?

“The film costed 31 million dollars. With that kind of money I could have invaded some country.” This was what Clint Eastwood quoted a few years ago. But now, movie budgets are touching mammoth proportions. Films- either inspired from a real story or incident or fictional leave an indelible mark on the audience.

But, why does the audience feel mesmerised by a particular film. Is it because they have seen something on the celluloid that they observe daily? Is it because they were transferred to a world of fantasy? Is it because they got to see something that they only heard of and never saw? Let us reason.

The Mark of Films: One of the hottest debates that has been going on for a long time is if the movies are reflection of the society or are they an influence on it. Well, there is less to debate and more to reason here. This is because, it comes down to the moment and the times in which films are being made.

For instance, during the WWII, most film makers in Hollywood centred their films around the concept of war. Not just Hollywood, but even German cinema and French film makers were following the same strategy to motivate their audience in their own respective way.

Similarly, during America’s war with Vietnam, noted film makers like Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick and Oliver Stone were making films about the long turmoil in that country. Then, there was a time people switched to a different genre with the mega success of the Sci-fi Star Wars. We saw a spade of sci-fi movies made after that.

The point I’m trying to make is this- the theme of films depends entirely on the wave that cinema experiences at one particular point of time.

Reflection or Influence?: One of the most powerful forms of mass media is cinema. This is because, the influence cinema can have on the masses as far as certain aspects of it are concerned, especially fashion.

Fashion trends that appear on screen are a huge hit among movie lovers always. The money made out of movie merchandise of late has become astronomical. The merchandise of Star Wars are still a huge hit among fans though the film is 33 years old.

If an influence of fashion is healthy, how about the completely opposite side of the spectrum-violence? 30 years ago, there was a huge uproar about the depiction of violence in films and its influence on the youth of America.

Well, how many of you seriously thought of picking a chain saw to massacre people after watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which was actually a reflection of a real incident) or think stealing and shooting was cool after watching Reservoir Dogs? Not most of us, I can guarantee that.

I’m so sure of this because, it all comes down to the psyche of a child or the individual and the experiences he/she has had. If a child comes from a well fed and a decent family, he/she knows what’s right or wrong because the parents are always showing the path. At the same time, if the child say comes from a not so good family his/her way of perceiving the same film would be entirely different.

Circumstances and experiences play a huge role in deciding the influence of a film on a person.

The Rating System: Furthermore, American cinema has always had the rating system which restricts young viewing audience from watching R rated movies. So, from the government’s side, there has always been an effort to restrict the influence of violence on the young minds of America.

Since, we have spoken about the influence of on-screen violence on young minds, I would also like to know something else. How many of us really try to put some good deed depicted in a film into practice? Hardly any one. But, this is no crime. The reason-anything that was good on-screen may not be practically applied in the real world. The same applies to violence on screen.

Cinema is both an influence and a reflection of the society. But, was the influence based on something that the movie reflected or was the reflection something based on the influence is always misguiding. Times have changed and so have the audience. Today’s audience knows what’s best done and what not? Films rarely do have to teach them anything!

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