A survey was conducted recently by Bombay Sapphire with the aim of adding to the ongoing debate of originality and imagination in cinema and the results, though not surprising, appeared to point to a contradiction in how those terms can be applied in getting quality films out to their audience.
The results from the research point to two thirds of those surveyed being concerned by the emphasis on new technology and that a seemingly constant stream of sequels, remakes and reboots were stifling creativity and imagination in filmmaking. This is only partly true as there are many unique visions finding their way onto film, the problem may be further along the line.
Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights sits alongside Steve McQueen’s Shame, Gareth Edwards’ Monsters and Chris Morris’s Four Lions as one of the best British films from the last few years, and its strength is not diminished by the fact that it is not an original screenplay. What does dull the effect of this, and the other films mentioned here, is that in the glut of lesser fare on offer at the local multiplex it was easily missed, and all the raving on the internet and the social media channels amounts to nought if the film struggles for decent distribution.
One of our favourites from last year was Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, a film which made the majority of its money here in the UK and was a strong, original vision well received by critics yet it made roughly half of its budget back at the worldwide box office. It was a great film, given only limited release in the States perhaps, but when a quality film sets up its stall with dozens of widely read voices praising its virtues what happens when a studio declines to put a dozen similar unique visions into production because of financial factors?
While not a hit with critics or fans of the director Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a phenomenal success for Disney and Fox put a lot of faith in director Rupert Wyatt in asking him to resurrect their Planet of the Apes franchise, a gamble which resulted in one of the finest films of last year regardless of its statue as a prequel, or franchise film. The truth is that there are excellent films being made and some of them are getting a decent audience but many are not; calling a film a financial failure is very different from finding fault with its imagination.
The survey also singled out Martin Scorsese’s Hugo as the most imaginative film they had seen in the last year, itself an adaptation and one whose 3D nature was widely praised. The film which came second in that list was The Artist, the awards magnet which has been embraced by audiences and critics across the world. That they share a common theme in the earlier days of cinema is perhaps more of a coincidence in the factor of their success then a sure fire element of guaranteeing an audience. We aren’t seeing dozens of similar films racing into production certainly. The fact is that audiences were given the chance to see these films, and the ideas in the film, adapted in Hugo’s case, were strong enough to find favour.
There’s no doubt that new ideas and original stories are more likely to offer something unique and extraordinary, particularly when you consider the relentless onslaught of Michael Bay’s Transformers films as an example of creative depreciation, and with the rise of Video on Demand channels there is a growing sense that if you have the talent and energy to throw into a film it can be seen by a wide audience. Straight to DVD used to be a euphemism for a terrible film, now the method of distribution is a measure only of the faith the big cinema chains have in a particular film to make money, not a measure of its quality.
Creativity and imagination are vital components of any narrative medium, what needs to happen now is the same forces need to be at work in using technology to connect these new visions with an audience.
Post sponsored by Bombay Sapphire.