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Film as a Vehicle of Ideology Essay

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Updated: Jul 28th, 2022

Introduction

Over the recent decades, film has become the primary form of both art and entertainment, engaging audiences with a complex arrangement of narrative, visual presentation, special effects, and music. As a creative medium, it is one of the most creative and versatile avenues for the human mind. The multitude of different tools developed over the years allows unleashing human creativity upon the world fully. Cinema gives people an opportunity to share something with others, and create a unique and unified vision of reality with varying degrees of accuracy. Widely recognized as a form of entertainment, films can also be deeply moving at their core and affect people in various ways.

Due to the ability of humans to derive understanding from what they see and a capacity for empathy, movies can be used to make individuals feel particular emotions, and think or act in certain ways. The power of film as a medium and as a form of expression is exactly why each film has its own identity. Every piece of cinematic media has something to say, both intentionally and unintentionally, being born due to the unique perspectives, thoughts, and experiences of the people that made them. In addition, the way such messages are perceived and understood by the audience largely depends on the film. Through its use of storytelling, camerawork, musical composition, and editing, a movie finds a way to offer a comprehensive way to understand the world around or a particular part of it.

This ability can be understood as cinema’s inherent role as a vehicle of ideology. Films that a person views present information in a pre-determined, specific fashion, offering an outlook on particular subjects from the point of view of their creators. In recent years, with cinema being recognized as a thought-provoking form of art more than ever, individuals are able to translate their perspectives on life into a creative medium. Ideological perspectives in film make people think, and make them question the preconceptions formed during their lives and the way they can be interacting with the environment. This phenomenon can be best explored using particular examples, and for this work, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette will be discussed.

What Is Ideology?

Ideology is a complex and important term for understanding all aspects of human life. By definition, it is a collection of beliefs and ideas that shape and contextualize a person’s understanding of the world (Martin, 2014). As the material reality people live in is viewed by each person exclusively through the lens of their own experiences, perspectives, and circumstances, a completely objective outlook on the world cannot be formed.

The inability to fully understand and the desire to get as close as humanly possible to this ideal drives many ideological positions. They allow people to direct their decision in life and the main anchor to both morality and justice a person uses. An individual’s daily routine, interactions with others, the information they receive are all formatted by the ideological framework that a person adopts.

Some people consciously choose what they find to be right and true, while others form assumptions by living their lives and do not give those considerations more thought. As with any other theoretical concept, ideologies can be expressed and shared in various mediums, allowing humans to decide which ideas they find to be most reasonable, feasible, or morally good. Ideologies change and evolve with time, during our interactions with each other and the process of societal development. Overarching massive frameworks of understanding can be both beneficial and detrimental, being rooted in completely different concepts.

How Film Positions and Presents Its Ideology to the Viewer

Art reflects ideology, music and literature reflect ideology, and film reflects ideology as well. To make one’s ideas more appealing to others, find a way to understand them better, or say something a person finds important, they create art. Film has been a prominent contributor to the process of spreading ideology, as seen by the prevalence of propaganda and advocacy films that were created over the years. These particular films exist for the explicit purpose of introducing people to their ideology, producing either convincing or, more often, emotionally resonant messages to sell ideas. Films are useful as a method of delivering ideology because they exist as a combination of different mediums, being able to most accurately reflect the reality of the human experience and deliver large portions of information at once.

While some movies act with explicit intent to convince, others work in more subtle ways or do not promote ideology as their main consideration. Those pieces of cinema often desire to make people think, to reasonably and thoughtfully engage with their messages to arrive at their conclusions. This method treats audiences as grown individuals capable of deriving understanding from the media they consume.

The third type of film focuses on telling stories as the main priority, focusing on decoding messages or forming perspectives fully on the viewer. Such pictures may not “desire” to deliver any kind of ideological perspective to the audience, who then have to give meaning to art through their interpretations of it. This approach can often give people new ideas, inspirations or give them an ability to re-examine their approach to ideas.

When talking about film and ideology, it is also important to note that cinema does not present ideology fully or without bias, much like a person, it offers its audience a particular position on an issue. By presenting its narrative from a particular angle, using framing devices, dialogue, storytelling, and music, a film presents a point of view fixed in place, which offers a particular look at a set of events or ideas. A single ideology may be presented, commented on, and discussed from various perspectives depending on the movie and its authors.

Parasite

Bong Joon-ho’s critically acclaimed film Parasite is a combination of a dark comedy and drama. The film is unapologetically harsh at times, working to effectively showcase some of the worst of society to its audience. Its borderline unrealistic plot, vibrant and extreme characters all serve to deliver a particular message to the watchers. This movie explores class issues, capitalism, poverty, social status, and human relations, all using the framework of two families. Parasite gives its audience a striking way to look at the lives of the poor and the wealthy, as well as how their social status shapes their interactions and lifestyles.

The film practically argues that the two groups live in completely different worlds, with those having the money and resources to live well, not considering those below them. Even the flood that occurred during the latter part of the film is seen by the Kims and the Paks from a completely different standpoint. The latter treat is as a refreshing, invigorating force, something to be happy about, as it made their lives cleaner.

However, for the former, it was a horrible tragedy, an event that has brought tangible and almost irreparable harm, a disaster that took the shreds of their normal lives away. This discrepancy between the two groups gives the audience an ability to see the vises of extreme class differences. It allows them to think if the society they inhabit is truly good for them. The poverty of the lower classes is inescapable, as all the world’s problems keep piling onto people who barely manage to scrape by as is, while those fortunate enough to be wealthy can never lose their status and privilege. The world of Parasite, the unmistakable criticism of the world today, births suffering just by existing.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette is a historical drama detailing the life of the titular queen Marie, one of the most famous royal personas. Being the queen of France, the woman can be considered a figure of extreme importance, an individual with power and influence. However, this is not how the film portrays her and not how the audience sees Marie. The queen is an outcast of the royal society, an outsider in an uncomfortable environment, having expectations and needs of others constantly stacked on her.

Despite Marie’s negative qualities and image in history, the film positions her as a tragic and empathetic figure; a young girl caught up in an inescapable golden net. From a young age, she was deprived of her agency and used as a bargaining chip in political relations. The society she inhabits does not consider her to be a part of it and constantly derives her of privacy or personality. By showcasing the life of Marie Antoinette and making her the main character of the film, the piece argues that even those born to fortune and wealth can be persecuted and denied the ability to be themselves.

The world of rules, expectations, etiquette, and pretense works to snuff out any joy from Marie’s life, to make her conform to the expectations others have set for her. She is shown as an undeniably tragic figure, odds stacked against her in almost every possible way. Through showing the disdain others near the royal court have for her, the lack of any romance in her marriage, and the need for Marie to engage in reckless behavior, the film forms its perspective on the weight of social restrictions and rules. The audience sees the world from the heroine’s perspective, lives the reconstructed entirety of her previous experiences, and gains insight into why she acts in the ways she does—perspective constructed by the film act as an ideological framework for the filmmakers to deliver their message.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it should be noted that cinema is a varied and nuanced form of art, translating meaning through a synthesis of other creative avenues. Emerging as a culmination of both technology and creativity, film has been used throughout the years for the purposes of entertainment, education, and self-expression. It is a most versatile and ample way of creating narratives and sharing them with other people. The use of film as a vehicle for ideas is its main purpose and can be accomplished in various ways. People can share their thoughts on particular subjects, make others see a subject through a completely different lens. Most importantly, it can be used to share, critique, and examine ideological perspectives.

Through its combination of visual and auditory components, a movie is able to use narratives to make people think. The process was used in both beneficial and detrimental ways to convince people or make them think for themselves. Cinematic perspective is never full, or absolutely objective, being created by human hands. What it is, however, is moving. Film can showcase ideas and their resolutions indirect and metaphorical manners, creating a full perspective a person can give from a particular perspective. Movies position their audience in specific ways through the use of their cinematic language and thoughtful narratives.

As exemplified by both the Parasite and Marie Antoinette, they can be used to create compelling and engaging reflections of the world that make people think about the lives they lead. The former engages in active criticism of the class relations of the modern world, showcasing a portion of society at its breaking point. It can be seen as a presentation of a common ideology from a unique angle, coupled with a strong presentation and emotional impact.

On the other hand, the latter creates a more personal story centered on how a person’s social status and role can be damaging to their well-being and general happiness. While a critique to a lesser extent, the movie still presents its watchers with some questions about the world they know. Both films examine how people exist in society, but their frameworks and messages are uniquely different.

Reference

Martin, J. L. (2014). What is ideology? Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas, (77). Web.

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