Cinema – Concept, origin, history, genres and elements

We explain what cinema is, its origin, history and what are the cinematographic genres. Also, what elements compose it.

Cinema is one of the main contemporary cultural manifestations.

What is cinema?

When we talk about cinema we mean, at the same time, a technique, an industry and an art form, whose central feature is the ability to recreate the illusion of movement from the capture and display of continuous photographs (frames) at a speed greater than the eye can detect.

The word “cinema” is the abbreviated form of cinematography, a word formed by the Greek voices kine (“Movement”) and graphos (“Writing” or “inscription”), and that is how this particular technique, invented in the nineteenth century, is known.

Initially, it was a step forward in the evolution of photography, but from 1895 it began to occupy a formal place among the usual forms of spectacle at the time. When applied to the purpose of storytelling, the cinematographic technique also became an artistic genre: the so-called “seventh art.”

Today, the cinema is one of the most popular and consumed entertainment industries in the world, either in theaters specially adapted for it (the “movie theaters”), or through digital content services or television.

The evolution and sophistication of the cinematographer meant that movie making, especially within Hollywood and other large film production consortiums, employed gigantic teams of specialized professionals and typically grossed millions of dollars in box office, marketing, and advertising.

At the same time, different artistic schools have emerged around this narrative technique throughout its less than two centuries of life. Awards have been created to celebrate cinematographic masterpieces and cinema is considered one of the main cultural manifestations of contemporary humanity.

Origin of cinema

origin cinema
The first cinematographic camera was patented by the Lumière brothers.

The origin of cinema dates back to the end of the 19th century, when the cinematograph was created, that is, the machine capable of recording and reproducing images to create the sensation of movement. There were many antecedents to this invention, which went hand in hand with the first formal steps in the technique of photography.

Perhaps the most important of these was the “kinetoscope” of the Americans William Dickinson (1860-1935) and Thomas Alba Edison (1847-1931), whose functions were still very limited compared to the Cinematograph patented in 1895 by the famous Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie (1862-1954) and Louis Jean (1864-1948), sons of the photographer Antoine Lumière.

It was they who, On December 28, 1895 in Paris, they held the first public film screening. It consisted of a series of, to call them somehow, documentaries: shots of workers at work or of a train approaching La Ciotat station.

Precisely the filming of the train caused such a great impact on the spectators, that many fled the room in terror. Some time later, the Lumière family were also the first to make cinematographic fiction, adapting a comic strip by Hermann Vogel into two humorous short films, known today as “El regador regado” (L’arroseur arrosé).

Initially, these exhibitions were held in basements, nightclubs and cafes, with massive attendance and did not last more than a few minutes. It was a still rudimentary cinema, silent and in black and white, which accompanied readings, music and a lot of audience participation.

Yet these humble beginnings proved highly profitable, and a new industry emerged over the next 30 years, ready to invest in film production, but also in the innovation of its devices and materials. Thus was born the film industry.

Thanks to that, from the beginning of the 20th century the first attempts at color cinema took place, the first formal results of which appeared around 1915. But this would not be popular until the middle of the century.

As for the sound, the first films were accompanied at each projection by live musicians, or at most with musical recordings that accompanied the atmosphere of the story. ANDn 1927 the first feature film with a synchronized dialogue appeared in the United States, recorded on a separate disc with each reel of the film, and which had to be played in unison. It was “The Jazz Singer” (The Jazz Singer).

With color and sound conquered, in 1930 the “Golden Age” of cinema took place. The seventh art was here to stay.

Film genres

cinema genres
Nowadays animated cinema is usually computerized.

Cinema is a narrative artistic genre, that is, it tells stories. In this sense, his productions respond to the traditional classifications of theater and performing arts, or often literature, thus distinguishing between comedies, dramas, tragicomedies, and so on.

However, cinema also presents its own classification, which takes into account the forms of film production and the degree of artistic intention behind them. This is commonly known properly as film genres.

  • Commercial cinema. Equivalent to the best-sellers in the book industry, these film productions always have economic profit as a fundamental objective, that is, they seek to reach the widest audiences and raise the greatest possible amount of money at the box office. They are usually accompanied by large publicity displays and, in artistic terms, they usually respond to very traditional or not very innovative standards.
  • Author cinema. This title was coined by the critics of the French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, to differentiate film productions in which the director leaves an obvious authorial mark, that is, that constitute part of a recognizable and personal artistic project, and therefore also of a notion of cinema, of aesthetics and a unique style of narrate. They are, let’s say, the artistic films par excellence.
  • Indie movies. It generally refers to modest, low-budget productions, carried out by small production houses, outside the traditional film consortiums. They do not usually have big acting stars and in many cases they serve as debut for creators and interpreters.
  • Animated cinema. These are productions devoid of actors, and based on cartoons using the cinematographic technique. At present they are more or less computerized, and actors usually intervene only to contribute their voices to the animated story. Many of them are dedicated to children and young people, although this is not an exclusive feature.
  • Documentary film. Film productions that seek, precisely, to record reality: document it, capture it as it is, and therefore do not use fiction, but rather pursue a more or less objective look, one would almost say journalistic. . However, it should not be confused with the journalistic report, since documentaries also have their own position on what is told.
  • Docu-fiction cinema. Productions that are managed in a thin and ambiguous boundary between documentary and fiction, often for humorous or satirical purposes. False documentaries and so-called “mockumentaries”Or satirical documentaries.
  • Experimental cinema. This category includes productions that try to push the limits of what is possible in the cinematographic genre, that is, that try to find new forms of expression with the camera. They can be considered as the equivalent of abstract art.
  • Environmental cinema. Productions dedicated to the registration of nature and wildlife, often for ecological or environmental purposes, so they can constitute true pieces of social or political denunciation. They can be understood as very specific forms of documentary film.

Elements of cinema

cinema elements
Filming is just one of the elements of cinema.

The cinematographic process is complex, and different instances and elements intervene in it, which we can approach according to their role played in the normal process of film production.

The script. The first stage of the entire production process of cinema consists of creating the first element of cinema: the script or storyboard, that is, the more or less complete sketch of the story, detailing the way it will be told and even the types of photographs to be taken for it. From these preliminary texts, a literary script (which tells the story) and a technical script (which details how they are going to film it) is obtained.

The casting. This is the name of the process of selecting the personnel who will work on the film, and it is the responsibility of the production and the director, who will choose among the interested actors who are best suited for the role, either for talent reasons or for reasons of talent. appearance or otherwise.

The filming. It is known as “filming” to the actual filming of the film, according to what is stipulated in the script. For this to happen, different actors intervene in the process:

  • The direction. The director of the film is in charge of leading the team so that their particular vision of the story can be brought to life. He is, if you like, the “author” of the film, and is responsible for coordinating the technical and artistic aspects of it, together with his team of professionals.
  • The acting. Actors are indispensable to make a movie. It is expected that they know the script very well and that they embody their characters as most credibly, lending their image and their voices for it.
  • The lighting. Since you do not always have the necessary weather conditions to film properly, there is intense lighting work that guarantees the camera the right lights to capture the image. Do not forget that cinema is a form of photography.
  • The photograph. Precisely, cameramen and art directors ensure that the captured image meets the aesthetic, narrative and quality requirements necessary so that, once the frames are projected, everything turns out as the director wants it to.

Assembly and editing. Once filming is complete, which can take days or weeks of intense fieldwork, the result is often a cluttered and bulky set of film material, which must then be organized and selected.

  • The montage it is the assembly of the tape, literally: the ordering of the scenes according to the narrative logic, adding sound and other necessary elements.
  • The edition it is the intervention by the director in said narrative order, to choose which shots to keep, which ones to eliminate and how to move from one to another. At this stage critical decisions are made for the structure of the story.

Post-production. Also called “finalization”, it is the last stage of the film’s intervention, in which changes are added and modifications are carried out, generally using computer programs. At this stage, the special effects are incorporated, the missing sound is re-recorded, and so on.

The distribution. Once the film’s production is finished, it is distributed in showrooms and other formats that bring it closer to its audience, and that complete the circuit through its commercialization. Advertising and promotion of the film also participates in this.