General Question

Riser's avatar

Why do we need redemption in cinema?

Asked by Riser (3485points) April 3rd, 2008

Kevbo provoked this question from an answer of his. I am well aware that this question has been disected in numerous books by well respected authors, filmmakers and critics but… they aren’t Fluther and most are dated by at least fifty years.

We are seeing a slight shift in American cinema, allowing films like There will be Blood and The Mist to break into the mainstream regardless of their highly unconventional structure, with those exceptions aside, American cinema is still very feel good, even French cinema, known for its endings involving the main character’s deaths, holds a sort of redemption within the tragedy, but why is that necessary? I am aware of our own conflicts as humans, desiring to see a hero nearly destroyed by their opposition only to rise triumphant in the end, but are there other reasons beyond our own humanity and insecurities?

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4 Answers

GD_Kimble's avatar

American audiences still largely view film as entertainment, a diversion—- not art, and there’s a big difference. We don’t like to be challenged by our films, and in this current climate of studio “group think” (in which teams of 8 writers are needed to ensure Transformers meets its quota of Burger King tie-ins) movies aren’t doing anything to change that. The studios are trying their damnedest to puke out a product that will appeal to the lowest common denominator, and not upset the applecart. Redemption is the backbone of this country’s Judeo-Christian framework, so they want to make sure that “Johnny Red State” and his 2.4 kids and white picket fence take away that good feeling of seeing the good guys win and the bad guys get their just desserts. Everybody learns a little life lesson, hooray. Also, look at examples like the recent Ocean’s 11 films. Notice how in those films the protagonists are thieves, yet we can root for them because they are stealing from some “evil” guy that has wronged them somehow, whereas in the original Rat Pack film, part of the fun was the fact that these guy were thieves because they LIKE TO STEAL. Try that now, and every nothing-better-to-do media watchdog group will be carping for “better standards for our children, blah blah blah”.
Or think of the “controversial” Sopranos finale. I think what upset people most was that Tony didn’t pay for his wrongs, there was no reckoning. He was pretty much the exact same guy at the end of the series that he was on the first episode. He didn’t learn, he didn’t grow, he didn’t change, and folks couldn’t deal with it. American cinema directly reflects that we like to ignore that sometimes, often, most of the time—the bad guys win, cute kids get cancer and die, bad things happen to good people and no one pays for it….. and the world keeps spinning.

sinscriven's avatar

The whole media/publishing industry does not give the American public credit for appreciating more complicated and darker stories and endings. And in a sort of way, we encourage that thinking as well. Americans like underdog stories, they like overcoming adversity, they like watching the good guys win and the bad guys get punished; and anything that may have an obscure or not positive ending may leave the aduience feeling “uneasy” or even “robbed” of the ending.

This happened to A Clockwork Orange, the publisher told Burgess that Americans didn’t like that kind of ending he originally wrote. So there became the British/International version with the real ending, and the American edition with a gimped one that doesn’t include the darkness and uncertain end.

steelmarket's avatar

I agree with GO Kimble, but have my own questions to ask – about “art movies”. If a movie, or any piece of art, is created as art (and not as a product), then isn’t the fulfillment of the creative vision of the artist the main purpose of the piece? Isn’t the wide spread acceptance, or even publication or viewing, of the piece completely secondary? Or is the desire for acceptance and recognition on the part of the artist inextricably tied up in the artistic process?

Smashley's avatar

The crisis/victory model is pretty standard in most forms of drama. It easily provokes an emotional response and making a person leave a film with in a happy mood rather than a depressed one is far better marketing. The lift people get at the end has come to define cinema that has many investors and a huge budget. Sure, cinema can do many things for society besides engaging them on so obvious of an emotional level, but when there are big dollars at stake, it’s best to go with what you know will work.

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