Alain Bergala is a critic, film maker and a teacher. Through the analysis of chosen extracts, he highlights the challenges of some emblematic and universal situations that can be found throughout the history of cinema.
Watching and making: a specific question of cinema which allows the discovery of the different parameters of cinema on every encounter (mise-en-scène, sound, light, acting, editing…), and resources to be explored in an educational context (film clips, film analysis, texts, practical exercises, workshops films). Places and stories under examination: As they go through situations – wanted or forced onto them, classified or unknown – the characters change, metamorphose and even sometimes shift as part of some decisive moments.
A scenario is the series of events which happen in the space between the first and last situations of a film. A film progresses from one situation to the next, sometimes the situations are returned to, sometimes the situations completely flip and change direction.
Encounters between characters, especially romantic ones, often allow a film to get started and set it on its way to develop the story that it wants to tell. It brings a specific aspect of mise en scene into play, where the space between two figures decreases as they get closer and closer together, starting with an exchange of glances at a distance, then progressing to the exchange of a few words nearer to each other, until, at last, there is physical contact between the characters. Throughout the history of cinema filmmakers have often filmed identical situations, such as the romantic encounter, as the situations from which narratives are built are ultimately reduced in number.
This situation proposes that the person watching the film and the character on screen are having the same experience, as a viewer is in the process of watching a film full of characters who are unaware of their existence and the characters on screen are watching others who can’t, in turn, see them. The act of watching places every viewer in a voyeuristic position, looking in a the sealed, fictitious world that the film offers up for view. This position creates the desire to see things. The distance between the person who observes and that which is observed from afar bring several fundamental impulses into play, with which the viewer is invited to identify – desire, jealousy, envy, trying to understand what’s going on, the impulse to kill and many others. These decrease following the choice of continuing not to be seen, or on the other hand, to be exposed to the gaze of the other, to reduce the distance or even to come into contact.
Shame is a sentiment that both children and adults experience. It is born out of situations where a character becomes aware of a painful discrepancy in their relationship to their place or status in the world with regards to themselves and others. Staging and filming shame brings into question whose point of view we are seeing something from, and with whom we as an audience identify.
A train station is a location that is loaded with cinematic potential as it is filled with a myriad of potential situations – the act of waiting, finding someone, arrivals, departures, meetings, people following people, people fleeing… The physical topography of train stations all follow the same pattern with their waiting rooms, platforms, trains themselves and their internal compartments. This layout offers a wealth of riches for cinematic exploitation, offering a vast array of options for mise en scene. From a storytelling point of view a train station is a place of both transition and waiting, which justifies nearly any random encounter. From a dramaturgical point of view the train station offers a moment of stillness as characters wait for their trains whilst suspended in time. It is also a space that can be brought to life through drama as dramatic elements can be introduced, with the presence of clocks and announcements and the fixed point of a train leaving at a specific time, which creates suspense and offers a countdown and with it the potential of drama.