The technological age has blessed us with a wealth of formats in which to view films. As well as enjoying them at the cinema and our home entertainment systems we can watch them on demand via the internet, via IPads and IPhones and if we have the patience even sit through them on YouTube, despite the usual lack of quality and pixels. While I agree it is a great thing that more films are being watched and more people have access to them which allows the potential to see and admire something that one would otherwise be ignorant to, I was wondering if some of these formats were a good thing. By watching a film on a four inch screen on a smart phone, does this conflict with how the filmmaker intended it to be seen? Does the lack of size and possible reduction of picture and sound quality jeopardise somebody’s understanding and ultimate enjoyment of the feature?
I mean surely a cinema packed to the rafters with technical equipment and a 300 inch screen should be more compelling than the prospect of the same film on a phone that can fit in your pocket. An expensive home entertainment system should make the film better than that same one uploaded, second hand, to YouTube, shouldn’t it? It is the same film but don’t you need the screen as big as possible and the sound sharp so that you pick up and enjoy every nuance within the film?
That said, when home video first become popular in the 1980s many of the televisions that played the tapes weren’t that big or special and the video had a tendency to wear out, too but people speak very fondly of those films that they could take home, watch by themselves repeatedly, despite cassette jumps or the picture quality not being as crisp as possible.
Maybe there are just certain films that should be reserved for the high def, high fidelity treatment. I don’t think anyone would consider watching 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars for the first time on an Iphone, surely that limits the enjoyment from the spectacle as a whole.
Imagine watching The Lord of the Rings on your phone, constantly being distracted and wincing at the screen size and then compare it against somebody who has just seen the whole spectacle at the cinema. There would most certainly be a different opinion of the film. The whole art of film watching is very subjective and audience’s remembrance of the viewing experience often correlates with their view of the film. If someone at the cinema is chewing too loud on popcorn or the sound quality keeps failing, these things will affect the enjoyment of the viewer. Something as material as the format in which the film is being watched can affect the film as a whole.
At the beginning on the DVD/Blu Ray of Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life there is a message to the viewer beforehand asking at the behest of the producers that the viewer play the film loud. This obviously means that producers and directors intend that their films are seen with a loud volume and good sized picture, thereby allowing for their message and their story to come across as intriguing and striking as possible.
I’m sure that audiences will watch more and more films on smaller and more compact devices in the future and although it is good the film is being watched and being paid for it is a shame that we are dismissing the original intentions of the film makers. I doubt Kubrick would have wanted us to witness 2001 on a device smaller than a pencil case and without enough speaker volume to truly appreciate the first few cords of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Personally, I struggle to see how someone could be getting enjoyment from the film using such a small device to watch it. But, maybe that’s just me, I’m a cinematic romantic and I consider it an affront that cinemas are suffering in favour of on demand films to phones and people uploading grainy copies of classics on YouTube. Maybe this is the future. I’m sure though there are many people who would still rather see these great spectacles on the big screen and maybe cinemas need to take a look at themselves and how they can attract these customers back.