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Understanding Auteur Theory

vikiwalden | Thursday November 17, 2011

Categories: A Level, Analysis, Film Analysis, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Film Language, Theory, Film Theory

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What is Auteur Theory?

There are various debates underlining the existence of Auteurs; how to define an “Auteur? has been much theorized. The original concept took birth in the pages of the Cahiers du Cinema in the 1950s, particularly voiced by French Nouvelle Vague filmmaker, Francois Truffaut.

Truffaut was both very critical of the trend in French cinema to identify the author as the screenwriter and very aware of both his, and his other Nouvelle Vague counterparts’ signature styles. In 1954 Truffaut wrote an essay entitled A Certain Tendency in French Cinema, in which he identified the “Director? as artist or author [auteur].  Within his definition though, he made a clear distinction between the metteur en sc?ne - a director who simply translates the screenplay on to the screen - and the auteur - the artist who makes it his own. It was André Bazin who coined the concept of Auteur Theory in Cahiers, Bazin identified that what distinguished Auteurs from other Directors was a specific signature (a conflict between their life and their film expression) that crossed their oeuvre.

In his seminal essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory? (1962), American critic Andrew Sarris desired to clarify the Auteur Theory for the American Industry and Critics. He defined the Auteur as more than just an author or artist of a film, and expressed levels, all of which a filmmaker must show a flair for in order to be classified as an Auteur;

  • a filmmaker should be technically competent [a technician]
  • he should have a particular artist signature to his films [a stylist]
  • that there should exist a sense of the personal battles between the filmmaker’s personality, life and influences and the diegesis of the film [an auteur].

Sarris visualised his theory on Auteurism like so:

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The diagram represents both the necessity for Auteurs to be Stylists and Technicians, but also that the majority of Film Directors are technicians, some are stylists, whilst...


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