Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema, 1950-1980

By AndrÁs BÁlint KovÁcs | Go to book overview

5
Genre in Modern Cinema

Narrative techniques frequently used in modern cinema became fashionable not as self-contained play with the form. They are the most appropriate tools for telling specific stories. For example, stories about itinerant characters, having different encounters with various people, and exploring different environments naturally involve episodic narrative form. Stories in which someone is in search of something or someone missing or wants to elucidate some kind of mystery are favorable to elliptical narration. Stories focusing on a character's state of mind or on her problems as she searches to find a way out of an existential situation are the ones that are the more likely to resort to dissolving the difference between past and present, reality and imagination. Stories emphasizing the unpredictable character of the world are likely to incorporate chance as a motivation of important events. All of this makes us suppose that in modern cinema we will find certain recurring story patterns just as popular genres are patterns for recurring stories in classical entertainment or classical art cinema.

Modern art cinema tells stories about the “individual” who has lost his or her contact with the surrounding world. Stories about the lonely, alienated, or suppressed individual are endless, but the forms in which these stories can be made intelligible are not. These forms are the essential genres of modernism.

Modern films, just like modern narrative in general, are said to transgress the limits of narrative genres and conventions.1 The modern artist's goal is

1. Peter Bürger says for example: “According to the premodern conception of art the
concept of form is linked to universal characteristics of genres In turn, the modern
concept of form is strictly linked to each particular work, it refers to the individuality of

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