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Authorship in Contemporary Cinema: The Films of Danny Boyle and Tim Burton

jclarke | Tuesday November 19, 2013

Categories: A Level, OCR A Level, OCR A2, OCR AS, Eduqas (WJEC) A Level, WJEC AS, WJEC A2, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, Directors, Danny Boyle, Tim Burton, Hot Entries, Theory, Auteur Theory, Film Theory

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As we know, there are a fascinating range of ways in which to explore what cinema is; for example: how it achieves its impact on an audience, how technology informs creative choices and how a particular film can tell us something of the culture that produced it. These are all ways of understanding the relationship between text and context. However, the concept that remains perhaps most popular, accessible and fundamental to our thinking about cinema, perhaps because it humanizes a very technical and technological medium, is that of film authorship. It is a concept that remains so attractive in seeking to understand a film and its particular creative and expressive achievement and it has its root in thinking about literature and the idea of one person writing a book. The idea, then, is that one person ‘writes’ a film. However, this one person is often considered to be the director and not the scriptwriter (though, of course, the director might also write the script). Of course, the problem here is that filmmaking usually involves quite a large number of people in collaboration. We also need to be careful not to be too slavish to the idea of authorial intention: the film can only be ‘about’ what the director says it is.

Putting the idea of authorship in its simplest terms the theory suggests that a director controls the thematic ‘meaning’ of a film through particular stylistic choices and patterns to bring the script to life as a film. The idea is that the director has an identifiable signature and since the mid-1950s the concept of director as author has become a much-debated idea. Remember this: the concept of authorship is a construction that forms a part of cultural discourse around film. Just think how much we take it for granted when we talk about the new ‘Christopher Nolan film’ or the new ‘Jane Campion film’. In those simple statements lots is contained. 
There’s a case to be...


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