Is the novelty of cinematic romance lost in the 21st century?

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Is the novelty of cinematic romance lost in the 21st century?

Category: Dissertation discussion

Subcategory: Drama

Level: University

Pages: 1

Words: 550

Historical Origins of Romance Films
Romance films have been in existence since the 19th century. The original meaning of romance genre is that the plot centers on the theme of love or love between the main characters as they endure the challenges of love. This aspect of romance films was first explored in the year 1896 when an American short film, 20-second long, referred to as The Mary Irwin Kiss became the most popular film of the time (Sorlin 1980, p.15). The film showed a couple of kisses. The film was recreated from the two well-known stage actors’ performance in the hit Broadway play known as The Widow Jories. At the time, it was considered scandalous to see two people kiss and the image magnified on television. It was not only scandalous in America but also in other countries. However, the film changed the whole perspective of romance film. From a genre that was considered untouchable due to the cultural beliefs of the immorality of public kissing to a loved genre, romance films became more and more desired by audiences around the world. Therefore, the evolution of romance films started with a 20-second film that showed a couple kissing and romancing in public. The film also influenced romance films in other countries since some films began uproar due to the kissing scene.
Ideally, a film in the 19th century was not as long as they are today. For instance, The Mary Irwin Kiss was 20 seconds long and was created by Thomas Edison. The film was filmed in Black Maria Studio, Edison’s studio, in Orange House, New Jersey. The scene was filmed for a New York Stage Comedy at the request of a New York World newspaper. In short, romantic films originated in America before spreading to different parts of the globe (Blum 1953, p.101). During this time, movies were not popular in America and the world. The short film brought romance into the screens and demonstrated the potential of a romance genre. In 1919, “Different from the Others” was released as a romance film (Sorlin 1980, p.18). Compared to the previous film in 1896, “Different from Others” address fundamental romance issue at the time: homosexuality. The film was released during World War I by Richard Oswald in partnership with Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, a “Sexologist.” Essentially, the film demonstrated the boldness of film producers. They were willing to tackle contentious romance issues through film. In this regard, it showed the slow evolution of romance films.
The subsequent years after World War I saw a massive evolution of romance genre in film. As opposed to the focus on sexuality that was portrayed in “Different from the Others,” romance now focused on love and tragedy. For instance, in 1939, Gone with the Wind” was released featuring love and drama. The focus on these two themes demonstrated a shift in tone in romantic films. In 1996, two popular films were released with the themes of love, drama, and tragedy. The British film, “Jane Eyre”, focused on love and drama because of the chaos surrounding the person Jane fell in love with. Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” combined all the elements: love, drama, and tragedy to tell the story of love (Sorlin 1980, p.25). To this point, romance films had seen a tremendous change in tone about romance films. The tone was carried on to 1997 when the famous “Titanic” was released. The film mainly featured true love and tragic loss. In India and Korea, films such as Jack Dawson, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Rose DeWitt, played by Kate Winslet showed love and tragic loss since the characters had a love relationship that ended tragically. The two were from different economic and social classes: Jack was from a lower social class while Rose was from a higher social class. At the time the film was set, these kinds of relationships were not allowed. People married from the same social classes. In this regard, their love story demonstrated the theme of true defiant love and showed how romance films have evolved.
In all these movies, one element remains constant: love is always the main theme — the stories revolved around the emotions, feelings, and affection between the main characters, the challenges they undergo to test the strength of their love and how they demonstrate this love to each other (Rosenstone 2014, p.71). Modern romance films have been influenced by this approach to romance films. Although sex is included in a romantic capacity and has taken center stage in many romance films, tragedy, drama, and love still play an important part. For example, in 2016, “Me Before You” was a romance film about a disabled man who falls in love with his caregiver. Despite the hostile treatment the caregiver underwent, she still managed to show her emotions and affection towards the disabled man. Influenced by 20th-century romance films, the story challenged the stereotypical angles of falling in love demonstrating that love could come from unlikely situations. In this regard, modern romance films have broken from prejudice and revolutionized to create a more diverse inclusion of character and plot. However, the films are still influenced by 20th-century love stories since the themes have remained the same.
Cinematography and Sub-Genres in Romance Films

Filmmaking, cinematography and subgenres influence the audience in romance films.
Today, all romance movies include sub-genres, including comedy, drama, thriller and chick flick. In India, romance films include subgenres such as thriller, fantasy, comedy, musical, romantic horrors and historical films. All movies focus on at least one of these sub-genres to tell love stories. For instance, in the U.S., chick flicks have gained massive popularity among viewers. In this regard, it is important to understand what these sub-genres focus on, the historical perspective of each genre and how they differ.
Chick Flick
The term ‘Chick Flick’ is related to romance films. As a sub-genre, it was first introduced in romance film in the 1980s and focuses on body-centric facets. However, the central theme in this sub-genre is not necessarily romanced. In most cases, films of this sub-genre often target women audiences. They mainly discuss issues affecting women, and the casts are predominantly women. In the 1980s, the subgenre was developed to discuss issues that women faced (Virdi 2003, p.47). One of these issues was male-domination. It was a time when females found it hard to cope with the male-dominated society. For instance, most film protagonists were male, and this created a gender imbalance which needed to be addressed. In this regard, chick flick was developed to cast women as protagonists. A good example of romance films with chick flick as sub-genre was The Notebook. The movie features an old man who reads a story to an old woman in a nursing home. The story is about the love life of Noah and Allie who fell in love in a carnival but are separated by Allie’s family who disapproves Noah for his poor status. Allie is the protagonists in the story since Allie gets married to Lon, a soldier despite her love for Noah. It comes a time when she has to choose between her first love and her fiancé. Apart from telling a love story, the film sought to demonstrate the power of women and what women meant in society. Therefore, it mainly targeted the female audience.
The issues women deal with today are different from what they dealt with in the 1980s. In modern society, the portrayal of women has changed. For example, as opposed to the 1980s, young girls are overly sexualised and deal with the constant pressure of maintaining their body image. This is different from previously when young girls had to wear long dresses and cover most of their body. Today the society encourages them to expose skin. Most chick flick films focus on this aspect of women issues. In America, body image has been extremely valued in films. An example is the TV show “Friends” which first aired in 1994. Even though the show’s plot revolves around the six main characters and their daily lives as friends, one of the major themes is body image (Blum 1953, p.56). The women in the show constantly deal with the pressure of maintaining their body image to remain attractive. Ideally, these are issues that romance film in America deals within modern society. In South Korea, most romance films revolve around motherhood and family. Chick flick sub-genres mainly portray women in the context of motherhood. Compared to the United States, chick flicks in South Korea focus on completely different issues. For example, A Moment to Remember is a Korean Chick flick about a couple, Su Jin and Chul Soo who fall in love and later marry. Su Jin becomes a housewife and her husband takes care of her but she that she has the Alzheimer’s disease. Su Jin is sad that she will forget her husband. However, despite the illness, they decide to stay together and face all the trials.
Similarly, Indian chick flicks also focus on different women issues. In the late 1990s, Indian women were portrayed in chick flick movies as submissive. For example, the 1995 film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge talks about arranged marriage. Their roles were mainly associated with the domestic setting. However, the modern evolution of romance films has seen the industry change the way they portray women (Virdi 2003, p.103). In chick flicks, Indian women are portrayed as confident, independent and career oriented. For instance, Khoobsurat, a 2014 film features Milli Chakravarty who works as a physiotherapist. She meets a prince in her line of work. The issues they deal with and discuss in these films are mainly associated with these aspects of their lives. In this regard, chick flicks have evolved over the past few years mainly because of the change in global society. Since these shows target women audiences by discussing issues that affect their lives, the portrayal of women has changed from the submissive types to confident and independent, in the case of India. In South Korea, most films still portray women in the context of motherhood; showing how some women are wise mothers. Lastly, in America, the issues young women deal with are also the focus on modern chick flicks. Issues of body image take center stage in most of these films. Therefore, the evolution of chick flicks in all three countries is evident.
Romantic Comedy
A romantic comedy in its most includes films that use comic elements to tell love stories. The comic in this sense refers to the mood created by the movie and not the plot. In most cases, the plot always sticks to the fundamental aspects of romantic films which are love, tragedies, and drama. However, the delivery of the themes of the films is always meant to create a mood of comedy. Ideally, the vast majority of romantic films have happy endings such as an ending in marriage between the main characters. The happy endings do not necessarily mean the films are romantic comedies (Kroeber, Marquez and Wells 1988, p.99). The various obstacles experienced in the love stories typically triggers the humour in the films, especially the misunderstandings or miscommunications between characters. In this regard, the dialogue is an essential part of romantic comedies.
There are four distinct sub-genres of romantic comedy films: romantic farce, comedy proper, relationship story and screwball comedy such as Intolerable Cruelty, 2003 and She’s Funny That Way, 2014. The definition of each subgenre depends on how romance, love, and marriage are depicted. For example, in America, the film “Pretty Women, a romantic farce, mainly focuses on the body image of women and how they perceive themselves. Equally, “Maid in Manhattan” also revolves around love and romance as well as body image. Most of these films in America contain strong language, sex scenes, and sexual references. However, in South Korea, film portrayals are more conserved. The portrayal of women is mainly in the context of motherhood and is targeted at mature audiences, mainly from 30 years. The films portray motherhood as a screwball comedy. India is also conservative when it comes to demonstrating love through sex scenes. Compared to ‘Pretty Woman’ women in Indian films do not show their full front but they kiss. The women are portrayed as confident and independent. Indian women also appear principled and want men to earn their love. In short, romantic comedies in the three countries are portrayed differently.
Romantic Drama
Romantic Drama film explores the most complicated aspects of love. The plot usually revolves around the challenges faced by two characters in the quest to be together. The challenges can range from disapproval from family to forbidden love or psychological restraints. Most Romantic Drama endings see the character separate due to these challenges or the realisation of incompatibility. The conclusion of these films does not demonstrate whether a last union of the two main characters will occur. Examples include “Titanic” where the difference in social class between Rose and Jack was the main obstacle in their love story. Essentially, the theme and portrayal of characters in this sub-genre are the same in all three countries. Romantic dramas in all the three countries focus on obstacles, and these obstacles can be similar. However, in South Korea, cultural differences can be an obstacle- this is not always the case. Therefore, a romantic drama also focuses on the theme of love and the challenges main characters go through to fight for their love. For instance, the Indian film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil of 2016 tells a story of two lovers who discover that their partners are cheating on them. The movie features the journey of love including heartbreak.
Normally, romantic dramas involve creating suspense among the audience. The viewers are treated to various challenges and obstacles that make them connect to the characters. For instance, in “Titanic,” Jack and Rose were genuinely in love. However, Rose’s parents were opposed to the relationship because Jack was not in the same social class as them. During the time the film was set, classes were essential in relationships. People either married those in the same social class as them or those in the upper social and economic class. This is the same case in other countries. Creating these obstacles in films enable the audience to connect with the characters emotionally. They begin by sympathizing with the characters. The viewers adored Jack because of his persistence to be together with the person his lover. Rose was also persistent. Through their situation, the audience could see how emotionally they were connected, which is associated with true love. In other words, romantic dramas create these challenges and obstacles to demonstrate how emotionally connected the characters are and the extent they must go to ensure they overcome these obstacles. However, most of these romantic dramas end with the characters separated, either because they have failed to overcome the obstacles or by fate. Therefore, the obstacles distinguish the dramas from other genres. The Eastern directors follow the strum setting. For instance, the Bombay film of 1995 tells the story of a religious family before and during the Bombay riots.
The cinematography is an essential filmmaking technique, and in particular for romance setting. In mainly comprising camerawork and photography in filmmaking, different shots assist in establishing the setting, but more importantly, showcase emotions. The use of different shots in a film engages the audience by emotionally connecting them to the love story. The physical features captured when taking the shots divert the audience to connect with the characters and setting. The most frequent shots commonly used in the romantic film are; over the shoulder shot, close-up shot, mid-shot, long shot, and extremely long shot:
The over-the-shoulder shot:
It is commonly used in the romantic film to show the viewer the facial expressions of the character while having a conversation (Hines 1997, p.67). The over-the-shoulder shot creates a connection between the characters and provides the mood of their current situation. The figure below shows an image of an over-the-shoulder shot. The picture was obtained from the South Korean film “Mood of the Day.” The shot features a date scene where the characters are having a conversation.

Close-up shot
Close-up shot lets the audience see a detailed view of the characters’ facial expressions. The close-up shot is also common in romantic movies because of its usefulness in establishing feelings between the characters as well as create a mood. For example, sadness, happiness, anger or enthusiasm may be efficiently reflected in a close-up shot. Particularly, in a romantic comedy, it can be used to show if one of the characters is rejected, hurt or in love by showing their facial expressions and body language. The image below shows a close-up shot obtained from American film “Blended.” The character is amused.

The image below shows a closeup from the movie, Bridesmaids. It shows different facial expressions of different characters.

Mid-shot shows the characters’ body languages. The shot normally shows half of the body of characters, mainly focusing on the upper side – facial expressions are also targeted (Roack 1983, p.51). It helps in understanding a connection between characters and the expression of their feelings. The image below shows a Mid-shot obtained from South Korean “Mood of the Day.” The lady’s body language shows that she is not ready to engage in a conversation while the man wants to talk to her.

The image below shows a mid-shot from the movie, The Heat. From their body language, the characters are exhausted.

In-a-long shot
The shot shows the whole body of the characters together with their surroundings. It mainly shows the audience the location of the character to understand their setting. The shot can also be used to distinguish if the characters are close or distant from each other. The image below shows in-a-long shot obtained from Indian film “Dilwale.” It is the love song scene. The characters connect from a long distance.
The image below is a long shot from the movie, La La Land. The movie is about two artists who are chasing their dreams in Los Angeles.

Extremely long shot
An extreme long shot is normally shown at the start of a new scene. The intention is to provide the viewer with the context of the setting of the next scene- where the characters are located. It rarely focuses on the characters; it mainly focuses on the setting. The image below shows an extremely long shot obtained from South Korea’s “Mood of the Day.” The film is set in South Korea, Busan City.

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