Understanding the Basics of Film Genre

What is a Motif?
A motif is something that is repeated or has a pattern. This could be a colour, music or a phrase etc. A film’s motif can give you a greater understanding or clue for the development of the film, so when you find one you need to question why it has been used and why is there a pattern. Therefore you need to identify, track and then propose a meaning.

Film Genres
A film genre is a type or category of film.

Film genres were created when people started noticing that certain story lines were more successful than others and so repeated them. These successful story lines were then put into categories.

Throughout time more and more categories have been created, however the main types of genre are:
-Western – Stagecoach, High Noon, Cowboys and Aliens
-Gangster – The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, Bugsy Malone
-Musical – The Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, Mary Poppins
-Romantic-Comedy – Clueless, Pretty Woman, Easy A
-Action/Adventure – Casino Royale, Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible
-Science Fiction – Alien, Blade Runner, Avatar
-Comedy – The Hangover, Dumb and Dumber, Superbad
-Drama – Fight Club, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption
-Historical – Braveheart, The King’s Speech, Gladiator
-Horror – The Exorcist, The Shining, Dracula

Within each genre there are stock characters, where the same stereotypes are repeated within the same genre. For example, in a horror film you would have the dumb blonde, hero, evil character, hysterical character, non-believer etc.

There are several ways to categorise films into their genre. The same themes are repeated in the different genres, for example, in a romantic comedy the couple always seem to go through struggles but then find a way to be together by the end of the film. Icongraphy are repeated images throughout a film in a certain genre, for example, in a Western you will repeatedly see images of guns, the cowboy hat, horses, the bar scene etc. Each genre will have the same overall mood, for example, in a si-fi film there is a fear of the future. The same cinematic style will be used in each gener, meaning how the film is shot. An example of this would be in a Western there is always dramatic scenery, shots showing tumble weed and cacti and most scenes are shot in the day; in contrast to this, a detective film would be shot in low key lighting, with heavy shadows to create tension and there would be dramatic closeup shots and high and low shots.

Stages of Genre – the development of film genre over time.

1. Primitive – This is when the genres are starting to develop and so the audience has nothing to compare is to and therefore no expectations.
2. Classical – This is when the genre is the most popular with the audience and the audience now knows what to expect as the patterns are continued.
3. Parodic – This is when the genre becomes so predictable and stale that the film makers pick fun at the genre, by creating exaggerated characters or focusing on unexpected characters.
4. Revisionist – This is when the film genre’s classical mood, themes etc are challenged or questioned within a film.
5. Extension – This is when the film has the same values and themes of the genres but when unexpected things happen, meaning a certain aspect of the film would not fit in with the genre that you thought.

Many modern day films do not fit into one genre. It is very common to have overlaps.

Dirks, T. Main Film Genres [6 October 2015]. Available from: http://www.filmsite.org/genres.html

WARNERJORDANEDUCATION, 2012. Motifs in Film [6 October 2015]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RRnHgYpSBk

WARNERJORDANEDUCATION, 2011. Introduction to Film Genres [6 October 2015]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS7EHDwIzPc

FRIEDMAN, L.; DESSER, D.; KOZLOFF, S.; NOCHIMSON, M.; PRINCE, S., 2013. An Introduction to Film Genres. New York: W. W. Norton & Company


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