Is Film Dead?

For over 100 years now we’ve been watching films on just that, film – 35mm film, to be precise. It is then pieced together, often in the most rudimentary ways, and projected onto the screen by that ever more elusive being: the projectionist. That is, until recently. In the past few years, we have seen a digital takeover in the film industry and although eminent directors such as Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino refuse to part with celluloid, there are others who are committed to finding new ways to create a clearer picture and impressive special effects. The question is: which is the future of film?
This month sees the release of a documentary produced by Keanu Reeves, ‘Side by Side’, which explores the development of film from 35mm into digital technology. He questions old hats such as David Lynch and Martin Scorsese, as well as up and coming filmmakers such ‘Girls’ director, Lena Dunham. The subject is not new, and the trend up until now has always been to fear the idea of film as a purely digital art form. This worry is expressed in recent films such as ‘The Last Projectionist’, a nostalgic account of the slow demise of 35mm film in Birmingham’s electric cinema. Much like the use of vinyl in the music industry, it is certainly easy to romanticise 35mm as a format: its imperfections are celebrated and this grainy, flickering image presents a labour of love which the digital age threatens to destroy. However, there are other ways to approach the digital age of cinema – not as a sign of the immanent end of filmmaking altogether, but simply as what it is: a new format in which to explore how we can create movies.
James Cameron has always been a fan of new and innovative filmmaking technology, something which is perhaps not its best advertisement. But it is not only big 3D, CGI movies that use digital technology. Not only was the latest Bond instalment, ‘Skyfall’, shot in digital format but, even more surprisingly, Michael Haneke’s new film ‘Amour’, a beautiful tale ideal for the grainy and imperfect effects of film, was a perfectly resolute digital image.
As this proves, digital technology can still create great films that we associate with the beauty of film; and what’s more, for an ever-more technologically fluent generation, the use of digital makes filmmaking more accessible to new filmmakers as the technology is simply much easier to use.
There is still something wonderful about celluloid and the flickering of the image, the slight jump as the expertly trained projectionist changes the reel. Film will never disappear completely. Even so, digital should not be considered the soulless enemy that it is made out to be. Certainly in the hands of James Cameron and the like it appears to take some of the magic away from cinema, but when it allows new stories to be put on screen, ones that we would otherwise miss out on, it shouldn’t be condemned entirely. If the day comes that film is gone completely perhaps the debate will be re-sparked but, until then, I think Hollywood is big enough for the both of them

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