I watched my now favourite film“Amadeus” with great reluctance, it was a movie well over 180 minutes, and based on the life of an artist. It did not appeal to me, and classical music was not my interest during the time. As minutes tricked by my face in a badly lit room, I was so engrossed in the film that I patiently sat upright and felt the ambush of my adrenaline every time Salieri complained to God as to why Mozart had been chosen to make the music of the Lord himself, and why not Salieri himself.
A movie viewing experience consists of many facets of movie making itself. Articulate direction, unambiguous editing, flattering cinematography and expressive story-writing are effects I personally look for in a film. Watching a film is a much more complicated and intimate process than most people might imagine. The story-writer and the director (and many other hands) have the right to toy with your minds, make you happy or sad, to build you or break you. It is intimate because no human has the vision or the lifetime long enough to experience everything, and movies and books are the best way to go about it. A movie is a more difficult piece of art to make, I opine, because it relies on the individualistic relation to the story and the perception of the story. This may or may not be coherent or even steady. An actor will be a different story-teller than the story-teller themselves.
The reason why I would assume that a movie watching experience is overall much more complicated than reading just a story is the number of details to be cared after in a movie. A novelist’s job is to make sure they do enough to make the reader imagine, but a filmmaker’s job is to steal the viewer’s imagination and make it their own. Although, I am of the opinion that script-writers and story-writers get much less credit than they deserve, a film is about much more than just that. When a film like Barfi! is viewed, it is going to create deep discussions about how much of a tribute it was, as claimed by Anurag Basu himself. Numerous scenes have been copied frame by frame in the film, and Charlie Chaplin has been responsible for most of the funny moments.
Before getting into the intricacies of the originality of a film, it is necessary to elucidate the meaning of originality per se. When a movie is made from an already existing piece of literature, one form of art is being converted into another altogether. The point here is, that even if a story is available to use, the director’s job is not even half complete. A whole set of visual cues and imageries are to be set up, score and dialogue is to be inserted and so many complications of the cinema in general that I dare not venture to explain. The movie may still end up being original. The basic construct of two movies can be exceptionally similar; it is how that construct is handled that shows us the skill of the filmmaker. For instance, the Holocaust has been a popular movie theme since ages; there are still movies which revolve around the theme. But, to emulate the excellence of Schindler’s List or The Pianist is a rare achievement. Both movies have told a similar story, of pain and suffering, and have told it differently. A much better example would be Maqbool (directed by Vishal Bhardwaj), an Indian spin on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I have watched Macbeth performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company and this movie and have loved both. The literature is essentially the same. In fact, even the characters are identical to that of Shakespeare’s creation. But Maqbool is still quite original because Bhardwaj has made the film his own creation by making developing in it a newer concept using cinematic discretion. All he has adopted is the story. This is much more than most filmmakers have been able to achieve.
Most movies have a complex story line as well, but some films have been impressive without making it over-dramatic and shockingly overt. For example, Before Sunset is a simplistic love story, very true in its essence. But the movie has been made such that it will move you. What I mean to prove by this example is that the essence of the movie lies in the movie-making itself, and the story pieced together with all the other elements is the only way a movie will worth the time we enthusiasts spend on it.
Why I stress that originality is not overrated is the fact that when a filmmaker starts to mimic another’s ideas and imagination, we can assume that the credibility of that film is under grave danger. This is because the filmmaker has refused to do the job that they are supposed to do; have original ideas to bring a story to life in its most blatant form – cinema. I cannot stress enough on the fact that the filmmaker has denied to do his job by taking scenes directly from another film, or even pick up identical characters. The more this is done, the worse the film is. If I find out that the movies that I have so loved have blatantly picked up ideas from other movies, I would dislike the movie. A filmmaker especially, as opposed to other artists, has more responsibility to create something new because cinematic excellence will be judged only by his final output. To summarize, the story of any film may not be new every time, but the essence of cinematic tact is in all the other things after all, all of which have to be as original and personal as possible.
Art has always been about new ideas, about privacy of emotions and feelings. If, as an artist, you fail to bring something new into the world, then you have ultimately failed. Whether it is in the form of a cliched story line, or a refreshing new story, there must be originality in a movie, which is in the filmmaker’s hand. I will always look for this, and if I see it lacking, the filmmaker has failed.