What is Genre?
“Genre is a collection of shared rules that allows a film maker to use established communicative formulas and the viewer to organize his own system of expectations”. – Moine (2009)
In the world of film, Genre can be known as a ‘type’. Films and TV Programmes are categorized into a type of genre for example: Action, Romance, Adventure, Drama, Comedy, etc. This gives choice to the filmgoers to make it easier for them to decide, what type of film they want to see.
There are a wide verity of Genres all of which are very versatile to definitively describe a style of film. Moine describes the wide range of Genre as being ‘a jungle’. Therefore it describes how difficult it is to make out just exactly what any Genre is.
One of the things that make a Genre difficult to describe is the fact that in terms of society you could possibly consider that a genre reflects what goes on in the real world. Standards in society come out in how the film is made.
The Gangster storyline in the 1930’s reflects on how crime was at that time ‘a good guy being brought down by society and becoming a criminal.’ (Moine. 2009) For example Moine describes that gangster films ‘frequently tell the story of an individual, a victim, who has only been made blameworthy or turned into a criminal by society’ – Moine (2009)
Moine goes on to say that an audience expects certain things to happen when approaching a type of film and one would expect to see ‘guns blazing, cars screeching, and fast paced, tough and slangy dialogue’ – Bergan (2011) and there is a principal which Moine calls ‘Shared Rules’. This collection of pointers give the audience expectations of what will be in the film.
However when viewing something like ‘Pulp Fiction’ – directed by Quentin Tarantino 1994 - the audience gets some of what it expects, like crime and different types of violence like cathartic violence and glamorised violence, but there are also elements of black comedy and excessive drug-taking. Tarantino dares to go beyond the Shared Rules and make a certain type of film, which is out of the ordinary and problematic in its structure, going against the simple ‘Good VS Evil’ storyline.
Tarantino uses the guideline to the gangster genre in Pulp Fiction, but he also adds casual dialogue to disguise the true nature of what is about to happen for instance, in the scene where two hit men are on their way to commit an assassination. Audiences usually expect Gangster films to be serious, but in Pulp Fiction the comedy comes through in unexpected moments like this one.
Tarantino also makes his films unique by providing a signature in the selection of the choice of actors for his films.
With Samuel L Jackson you have the stern, seriousness in the eyes of a character, a hit man who later dares to question fate and destiny and his place in life. He sounds more like a preacher than a hitman. Tarantino puts this in the script and Jackson provides.
John Travolta is also termed as unusual casting when you watch him on screen. At the time no one wanted John Travolta and the last film he did before ‘Pulp Fiction’ was ‘Look who’s talking 3’. However, Travolta being a versatile personality is not only an actor but a dancer as well, and he dances in Pulp Fiction. Tarantino wanted Travolta to dance in a certain kind of way. That comes out in the twist when you watch the dancing scene. Travolta dances in quite a rigid way. It shows off character in the twist in contrast to Thurman’s Zsa Zsa Gabor catlike movements. Once again, Tarantino’s involvement in how he wants the dancing to be portrayed makes the scene quirky and quite humorous.
Tim Roth is English and also dynamic, but also lower status in terms of rank however he delivers the clever wit of the script off well because when you watch his character interact in the ending scene that low status is seen throughout even when he has the power of holding a gun in attempting to scare people into robbing them.
Other stars such as Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames and Harvey Keitel have special qualities of their own that fit into Tarantino’s vision of the piece, wither it is comedic, serious, profound, nostalgic or a mixture of all four said things. Tarantino’s vision of life combines anger and comedy into the Gangster genre and Drama but at the same time viewers watching his films know that what they are watching is a fiction. The events in Pulp Fiction are not based on real life and the characters are not based on real people. Tarantino specifies that his films stay within a fictitious reality. Tarantino comments that he considers it to be “Good Cinema” when asked about his view on audiences watching violent movies, people who are not violent people going into a watching a heavy action movie its okay for them to sit back and enjoy the violence Tarantino commented “It’s a movie. It’s a fantasy, it’s not real life you watch a kung fu movie and one guy takes on a bunch of people in a restaurant that’s fun”. Implying that because it is fiction there is a security blanket about keeping what is contained within the movie, within the movie and audiences respond to it as being a fictional representation of real life, but they know it is clearly portrayed as not being real life.
Pulp Fiction is a problematic film which is about many alternate stories, involving several characters’ back story, and how all these alternate stories tie into the one complete day which is equal to the main plot; which in turn makes up the film. Audiences hoping to see a gangster film do not get a straightforward storyline that they might expect in the way that Moine suggests.
In developing a story idea for a short film, it is all about coming up with a story and finding out where does it fit in terms of a specific place. Horror? Sci Fi? or combinations of different genres like Romantic Comedy, etc. I thought of films and TV like: Minority Report, Independence Day, 28 Days Later, Torchwood – Miracle Day because they mixed genres.
The film I helped with is set in a dystopian version of our future. This brings in the Science Fiction element into it, but it is also drama because there is a conflict between two brothers. The background of the surrounding world is important because the audience will understand more about the strict rules in the society that the world is based around, academic intelligence rules over everything else which make a character under emphasised pressure that he ends up betraying his brother.
The Thriller elements come into the storyline making the pace quick and sharp emphasising time running out and my team wanted to highlight this and make it clear the audience watching that the film is restricted and we show and tell in presentation which helps the overall interpretation of our idea come out in much more bold and stronger way.
The Horror elements make the drama all the more enticing and gripping due the natural sense of threat surrounding the negative responses. Characters who fail meet a horrific end, but this is left more to the audiences’ imagination. It the power of suggestion, which plays on the mind of the viewer to actively engage them into everything the short film, is about.
“Producers and consumers both recognise a genre as a distinct entity…” according to David Bordwell quoted in ‘Film Genre from Iconography to Ideology’ (Grant. 2007) However Genres can be mixed up. Pulp Fiction is not clearly a specified as being ‘just’ a gangster film because of the comedy elements to it. The short fiction film I worked on is not specifically just sci-fi because of the drama elements between the two brothers.
The ‘Shared Rules’ set up of expectations is there to allow the viewer to have a freedom of choice in their own personal tastes in what they like and what they don’t like as well having the choice of films which are a combination of different genres mixed together as an experimental format. The jumble combinations reverts to the set of the way Television and Film is today as most audiences need something to grip and or persuade them into not partly watching but fully committed to watching it. Therefore the differentiation of what genre is and the identification of genre is very important for that reason.
NEXT TIME : Avengers - Age of Ultron