The Nature of Good Films
For any film credit to be able to judge or critique a film he or she must have a firm grasp about what a good film is and in turn be able to recognize ingredients or universal natures of good films. Just as a food critic must have an abstract idea of what good “taste” is in order to be able to recognize it in the foods he or she is critiquing. Same holds true for the critic of film, but how to get at the abstract but universal idea of what good films are. The purpose of this paper is to get to the core nature of a good film, and describe the universal ingredients all great films will have.
In order to know what a great film must have a critic should know what film is and how to dissect it. First film is of two parts, Medium and Story. The Medium in the method of delivery for a story, just like plays and books are other mediums used to deliver and tell stories. The second part of film is the story itself constructed of a plot and characters aimed at reaching the Telos (end point of the story in terms of action and also significance i.e. Theme). Because a film is made up of these two parts and well made film can be inferred to be a film which excellence is achieved in both parts. Achieving excellence in each of the two parts of film can be defined as the successful use and harmony of all the sub parts. Now I will define further the subparts that are found under the two main ingredients outlined to constitute what makes a film.
Starting with the medium of film there are many sub parts but each can be categorized into nine general categories:
Makeup/ Set/ Costume
Special/ Visual effects
These nine categories make up the medium of film and are used to tell the story, these categories found within the medium of film is what separates film from other mediums of storytelling such as plays, books, or even oral interpretation. Therefore it can be concluded that in order for a film to be constructed well, the appropriate use and harmony of all nine categories must be achieved.
Story makes up the second half of what makes a film a film and story has too it’s own subparts that must be used well in order for the story as a whole to work. The sub parts of story are:
Plot is the series of actions carried out by characters following a certain path of story. Path of story is the universal formula that all plots follow in terms of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution, in order to reach the Telos or point of the story. Telos can be defined as the action which the whole plot builds to but also the significance of that action in terms of reveling the theme of the story. Therefore all good stories will include a well developed plot working harmoniously with well developed characters and will work together to reach the Telos.
Well developed characters can be defined using Aristotle’s laws of characters, which he defines as the rules a poet must follow in order to construct well rounded and crafted characters.
“Goodness: For Aristotle, the most important aspect of a character is goodness, which seems to be linked to some sense of the character's intentionality.
Propriety: The behavior of characters must be suitable for their social rank. Here again, the stratification of the society of Aristotle's time is quite clear.
Verisimilitude: Characters must be believable. Attributes assigned to characters must conform to what would be expected from the same kinds of persons in real life.
Consistency: The kinds of behaviors assigned to a character must not change suddenly and inexplicably; if a character is meant to be represented as indecisive, erratic, or otherwise inconsistent, this inconsistency must be consistently portrayed.
Deus ex machina: Aristotle is concerned with preserving the identification of the audience with the actions depicted in the tragedy. Any of us who have read novels or seen plays or films in which something doesn't "ring true" can understand how flaws in plotting and characterization can interfere with our capacity to get caught up in the story. Both character and plot must be consistent and develop in ways that conform to the laws of probability.”
(Taken from an analysis of Plato’s Poetics from the source: http://www.english.hawaii.edu/criticalink/aristotle/gloss/gloss15.html)
Now that film has been shown to be constructed of two main parts (Medium and Story) each with their own set of sub parts, a well made film will be a film that makes effective use of all the subparts in order to bring harmony to the whole part and in turn harmony to the film itself. A well made film is like an organism that has all of its parts working harmoniously to serve the purpose of its existence. Therefore critics should use this outline and grade films based of this asking the questions “Did a film achieve all of its goals?” Meaning did a film have an effective story and did the film tell the story an effective way using well all the tools at its disposal.
A good film if a film with a well constructed story with well developed characters and an effective Telos and told in an effective way by the use of the appropriate amounts of the nine categories available under the medium of film.