Updated: Jan 24
Welcome to another film post! Now, lately I’ve been talking about the generals of filmmaking, but I’ve forgotten one major point. Films are stories. At their core, films are nothing more than a retelling, in one form or another, of a story. Let me show you. The Marvel films are not completely original. Yes, their plots are, to some extent, but they are a retelling of the comic book versions of all our favourite superheroes, from Iron Man to Dr Strange and Deadpool.
You could argue that documentaries are not stories, they tell you facts about things that have happened, or about to happen or how things are made. Well, yes that’s true, but again, at its core it’s a story. You’re listening to the timeline of a culture; you’re watching the birth of planets and solar systems. You’re even reliving the lives of individuals and moments in time, right? Think about it deeply, these are not just informative pieces, you’re being told their stories. The only difference is that it isn’t an original, it’s a retelling. You see?
That’s why I say all films tell stories, whether they’re in an abstract form, or they’re in your face as a story. All films are stories.
I Don’t Believe You Feather
It’s ok, we’ll take it a step at a time. First off, let’s look back at some of the posts I’ve written here, about certain films that didn’t have a coherent plot. I’m talking about The Big Lebowski and Easy Rider. Now, I argued that these films didn’t have a plot, and in many ways that’s true. What you saw in these films were progressions of events that didn’t lead to any meaningful ending, unlike what you see in films like Labyrinth or Avengers. However, that does not mean they don’t tell a story.
Sometimes, these stories are deeply embedded in the abstract film, you can’t even see it clearly, but it is there. Ok, let’s take The Big Lebowski, since that story is much clearer. You’re following “The Dude” as he tries to navigate through a bizarre series of events that really don’t impact him and his life. True, he’d probably remember it for the rest of his life, but it doesn’t change his character in any way. Now, despite the lack of a meaningful end, or a profound message, the truth is, it is still a story, because you’re following the events that happened in this man’s life, a fictional life, but in the story, it is real.
Now, let’s look at Easy Rider. This one is a lot more abstract than The Big Lebowski, but once again, the truth is that you’re following the story of two men who travel across the United States of America, on their way to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Despite the lack of a coherent plot, it still tells the story of the two main characters, Wyatt and Billy. You follow them as they meet a hippy colony, out in the western deserts of Texas, New Mexico and the other southern states. Then, you follow them to Louisiana, where they get beaten up badly because they’re not locals and seem dangerous to the authority figures there. You follow them as they party hard in New Orleans, and eventually find themselves harmed on the way back home.
Again, this film is very disjointed, and it doesn’t have a plot, that we can associate with, but it still tells their story, and yes, once again, they’re fictional characters, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not real in the story. Do you see what I mean? Even these sorts of films that don’t seem to portray a particular message, are stories in and of themselves.
What About Documentaries?
What about them? They still tell a story; the only difference is the style. After all, they’re not original stories, they simply tell you what happened at a particular place, at a particular time, and how. Alright, let’s look at The Blue Planet by David Attenborough. Yes, it’s a showcase of Earth’s wildlife, and yes, you literally are just watching a bunch of animals doing their thing in the wild, but if you listen to what Mr. Attenborough is saying, it sounds more like a romantic story than anything else.
You learn about the different lifestyles of these various and endangered species. You are told about the impact humans have on them, and as he’s speaking, he’s telling you what’s going on, like a story, as if these animals are conscious about what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it. If you look closely, these aren’t just shots of various animals and plants, smashed together, they’re edited in a way that they tell the story visually, as he’s telling you what’s going on.
What about those science ones, where they talk about the human body or something? Yeah, they tell a story too, except, these stories are more informative than entertaining. Rather than telling you a story that’s romantic, or epic, or adventurous, their stories are educational. What I mean is, they talk about a process which happens naturally. Looking at documentaries about astronomy and the solar system are great examples of these. They don’t just look at the scientific facts that astronomers are proving real, every day. They tell it within a timeline of events, from the big bang to what they predict will happen in the future. These may only be hypotheses, but they’re still telling a story, the story about the universe.
Even cultural documentaries are stories too. After all, you’re looking back at the history of humanity, within a certain context, like a country, or a period of time. Sometimes you follow the lives of individuals who played an important role in a country’s history, or a cultural movement.
What About Those Experimental Films That No-one Understands?
These ones again tell a story, albeit it is buried deep within its narrative. It might not be outright, but it is there. You might not understand it, and that’s ok, because the person or the people who do understand it, are the ones who made it, and they can tell you what it’s about. The only reason why we, as a general audience, can’t understand them, is because they don’t have clear and concise narratives.
They aren’t meant to show you the story as they are. Most of the time, experimental films help you create the story for yourself. That's why, even though they don’t tell you what the story is, they help you decide on what it is for yourself. So, despite the lack of a plot, or narrative, experimental films do tell stories, because it is up to their audiences what the story is. Does that make sense?
Stories Are Everywhere
So, do you guys believe me, or not? Do you think films are stories? I do, at least from all the ones I’ve watched, I understand that everything is a story, because we portray them as such. I’ve yet to see a film that doesn’t have a story. So, I dare you to try to convince me otherwise.
And if you’re a filmmaker yourself, remember, that sometimes it’s ok not to tell an original story. Sometimes, you’ll find re-telling a story is easier, and if you do it right, you might find yourself with a hit on your hands, who knows! Sometimes, you’ll find going down the documentaries path is something that feels right to you. Remember, film isn’t just built for entertainment, it can be used to inform and educate people.
Well, that’s it from me today, I’ll see you guys next time. For now, don’t forget to like, subscribe and follow for more updates and the latest posts here on Feather’s Charm and on my social media accounts. Oh, and share these posts with family and friends, those who you’d think might enjoy these topics and tips! I’ll see you later!