Romanticism and The Film

Week 1

What did I do?

Looked at Romanticist ideas in film

Naturalism V. Romanticism

Online Articles:  The Search for Romanticism in Hollywood         &                                                                                                  Romanticism and the Modern Popular Culture

From the readings, it seems that the ideals of Romanticism is most prominently seen in films and TV. According to the second article, “romanticism is so interwoven in modern popular culture” that if we labelled films accordingly – looking for romantic characteristics – “everything would be called romance”.

According to the first article, Naturalism is essentially ‘lazy writing’. It is dependant on coincidences for the plot to keep progressing, rather than on the character’s own actions. Naturalist characters are in a state moral grey, as opposed to romantic characters that are certain in their values and beliefs and are in pursuit of their own respective goals – men and women trying to shape the world around them.

Characteristics of Romanticism in Film practise:

Big Fish (2004), directed by Tim Burton, contains elements of the supernatural, the outcast, nature, religious analogy and the individual.

Nature, although only a minor feature plot-wise, is very relevant symbolically, as the father ventures through more treacherous (wild) paths fearlessly. Elements of the Gothic – scenically and audibly – can be seen when the father takes a haunted road – “These woods would become my graveyard.” – and when he looks for the witch in the swamp as a young boy. The supernatural is seen in the use of omens (the crow in one of the father’s stories predicts a person’s death through dreams – a crow is also shown stealing the father’s hat in a story told only days before he died), and the use of mythical creatures such as the witch (whose eye displays the death of those who look into it) and the giant. The idea of the outcast is accompanied by the individual embracing their own imagination and personality, the father is rejected by his son, and by many that he met, for his purposeful wandering. Individuality is also conveyed through the son searching for the truth about his father and his father’s past and in doing so, searching for truth and meaning in his life as he is about to have a son of his own. An analogy of heaven is seen in the town of ‘Spectre’, where the people weren’t “expecting” him for some time, where the people no longer wear shoes because they need not journey elsewhere, and where the fish in the river appears as a woman in danger of a serpent; the father is tempted to stay, but he realises that he needed to live his life first and find what it had in store for him – to discover himself – “I was fated to get there eventually. After all, no man can avoid reaching the end of his life.” 

Big fish is a film about the search for truth and the acceptance of answers. While this is not the most Romantic of ideals, the strong, motivating values of the father and son are what carry the story and the ideal of embracing imagination and individuality certainly is.

Kolhatkar, V.  The Search for Romanticism in Hollywood.

Glasgow, A. Romanticism and the Modern Popular Culture.

Image:Still image from the animated short film Paperman directed by directed by Oscar nominee John Kahrs; The Walt Disney Company.


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