chapter  4
21 Pages

Realism in Film (and Other Representations)

WithRobert Hopkins

This chapter says a little about what is meant by "film" here, and exploring its structure. It presents five kinds of realism that have been found in film, so understood: accuracy and precision, recessive form, illusion, transparency, and "collapse". The justification for focusing so narrowly is that it is photographic fiction film that has been the focus of discussions of realism in cinema, and for which the widest range of claims for realism has been made. Given this structure, it's tempting to wonder whether film's realism derives from that of its constituents. This is certainly true of some cases. Some film is unrealistic because it involves unrealistic theatrical representations. For example, the German expressionist classic The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari shows the actors walking through streets represented by sharply angled and angular sets. Film may indeed be realistic in special ways. Whether it is realistic in every way that has been proposed is quite another matter.