Film Movements in Cinematic History - dummies

Film Movements in Cinematic History

By James Cateridge

Part of Film Studies For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Trying to get your head around global film history is a challenge, and so knowing the most important moments or movements over the decades is helpful. Following are some of the best-known filmmaking movements, in chronological order:

  • Cinema of attractions: From the first films screened in 1895 through the nickelodeon boom of the 1900s, film was a sensational fairground attraction out to shock, fascinate and scandalise its audience.

  • Soviet montage: From 1917 into the 1920s, Russian filmmakers experimented with radical ways to put films together, instigating avant-garde and documentary film.

  • German Expressionism: Films made in the Weimar period of the 1920s visually represented extreme psychological states through heavily stylised sets, costumes and lighting.

  • Surrealist film: In the 1920s and 1930s, artists worked in the new medium of film to produce strange and disturbing avant-garde films that often shocked their audiences in order to challenge conventional ways of thinking about existence.

  • Classical Hollywood: From the 1930s to the late 1950s, Hollywood enjoyed a golden age of creativity and success based on the studio system of filmmaking.

  • Italian Neorealism: After World War II, Italian filmmakers produced a string of influential films characterised by gritty settings, non-professional actors and real locations.

  • French New Wave: In the 1950s and 1960s, young French cinephiles began making films that reworked and deconstructed the conventions of Hollywood, such as continuity editing.

  • Underground film: These experimental movies were made by and for reprobates, including artists and beatniks, in New York during the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Cinéma vérité: Developed in the 1960s, this form of documentary film highlights the presence of the filmmaker and often talks about filmmaking itself.

  • Direct cinema: Another form of documentary from the 1960s, this film approach takes the filmmaker out of the equation as much as possible and simply observes events: also known as ‘fly on the wall’ filmmaking.

  • New Hollywood: As the restrictive Production Code was abandoned, young American filmmakers began to make edgy, adult films about taboo subjects, which for a brief period (1967‒75) also enjoyed commercial success.

  • New German cinema: After the devastation of World War II, German filmmakers claimed their much-needed rebirth in 1962. The films produced were formally experimental and dealt with the difficulties of post-war German national identity.

  • New Spanish cinema: Spanish culture was tightly controlled under fascism, but after General Franco’s death in 1975 liberated filmmakers produced an explosion of hedonistic cinema.

  • Dogme 95: A self-conscious movement beginning in Danish cinema in the mid-1990s, this filmmaking approach set up puritanical rules about how to make low-budget realist films, such as using only natural light and no musical soundtrack.

  • Digital cinema: The shift to shooting on digital video rather than film began in the late 1990s; by the 2010s most films are completely digital in terms of production and exhibition.