The Auteur Theory of Filmmaking

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An auteur is a person who single-handedly controls all the principal aspects of a collaborative piece of artistic work. The Auteur theory of filmmaking suggests that a director is viewed as the main creative force in determining the final outcome of a film, and therefore can be considered as the ‘author’ of the film (Kramon, 2002). Consequently, films produced by a particular director will seem to bear the same theme or systematically develop a consistent pattern in their subject matter (Jeong, 2017). This is seen in the case of renowned film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor, Wes Anderson.

Wes Anderson trademark is the recurrent theme of family, dysfunctional families to be precise, in almost all of the films he has directed with common scenes of European and French cinematography featured in them. This could be attributed to the fact that he himself grew up in a dysfunctional family and his parents ended up divorcing when he was eight years old (Braudy, 2009). His motion pictures feature lack of parental support in childhood or possibly inefficient parental figures available into adulthood. According to him, the family can be the source of conflict but also the solution to the conflict. He derives comedy, adventure, and drama from the conflicts within the families. For instance, the ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ in which the protagonist, George Clooney, is questioned about his capability to be a parent and support his children without endangering the welfare of his family. In fact, even if a parent is not portrayed in his film, a parent figure is introduced like in the case of ‘Rushmore’ where Bill Murray plays the father figure where a character tends to look out for the protagonist and often give advice and support to them.

Subsequently, most of his themes are derived from the main theme of family. For example, the theme of love, friendship, and death. Death could be metaphoric of absence as in the case of a close relation leaving their family members. Love depicts the creation of bonds and building of trust between characters and always leads to friendship. Friendship consequently leads to romance thereby continuing Wes’ trademark of narrative filmmaking (Braudy, 2009). For instance, in Rushmore, a teenager, Max Fischer, falls in love with an elementary school teacher, Rosemary Cross. However, the rich Herman Blume also falls in loves with the teacher despite being Fischer’s friend and even offering advice to Fischer on how to woo the teacher.

Likewise, Wes’ films are characterized by a signature theme of loss which ends up defining a subject and therefore forms their driving force in the film (Jeong, 2017). For example, Max’s mother had passed away and therefore he lacked a mother figure in his life. As a result, Max pursues an older woman for attention and ends up falling in love with Miss Cross. On the other hand, Miss Cross is widow mourning her husband and therefore, the loss describes her character and response to both Max and Herman. Likewise, the three brothers in ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ lost contact with each other after their father died, and all of them often carried his suitcases and some even dressed in his clothes. However, each of them discards these ‘baggage’ at the end of the film and resume with their own new life. Notably, all the characters in Wes’ films come to terms with their losses and realize their new lives and consequently strive to live their new lives without regrets, doubt or shame.

In addition, Wes’ film direction and production are characterized by a mixture of fantasy, drama, adventure, drama, and comedy. The main theme, family, unravels a series of events which create drama, adventure, and fantasy (Jeong, 2017). For instance, to fend for and maintain his family, Mr. Fox is compelled to steal from three mean but rich people, who finally get fed up with him and decide to pursue him and his family members. Besides, Herman falling in love with Rosemary causes strife between him and Fischer which brings about the drama. Conclusively, the themes exhibited in the motion pictures directed by Wes are social themes and mainly are intended to teach the audience the importance of creating and maintaining positive bonding with friends and relations (Stam, 2000). Besides, the themes emphasize the need to be reliable, trustworthy and supportive to friends and family members.

Furthermore, Wes’ rubberstamp brand is witnessed in his cinematography techniques throughout all his films. First, Wes usually places characters in a symmetrical set-up scene and mid-shots are usually used to emphasize this set-up (Braudy, 2009). For instance, in ‘Rushmore, there is a mid-shot when Max is introduced by Rosemary to the nurse friend, Peter, and symmetrical set-up is observed as the three characters are placed in the scene. Likewise, the symmetrical set-up is evident when Rosemary and Max kiss on the bed. In both instances, all characters are given equal coverage by the camera. The set-up is also observed in the ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ movie also directed by Wes. For instance, when Bill Murray is talking to ‘M. Jean’ at the ring service desk their appearance on the screen is balanced and one character does not overshadow the other, with a mid-shot that enables the audience to see the body movements and gestures on both actors’ body.

Second, Wes employs a number of high-angle shots to enable the audience to get an inclusive view of the subject in his environment (Stam, 2000). The technique also aids the audience to know the direction and show where and how the subject is traversing his surrounding environment, and how the elements in his environment are relevant to the scene (Stam, 2000). For example in ‘Rushmore’, top shot is witnessed when Fischer is portrayed in a French club class with other French students to whom he is their president. The surrounding students and the fact that all of them are wearing headphones around Fischer creates the mental idea that all of them are French students and Fischer, wearing a French flag sash, is their president.

Moreover, unnatural camera work like the left-to-right movement of the camera between two subjects, and dramatic zooms into the subjects is a common cinematography technique in Anderson’s motion pictures works. The technique enables Anderson to incorporate space that usually is not able to feet in a certain scene (Lehman, 1980). For instance in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ panning is evident when Bill Murray shouts stop to an unseen character and the camera shifts horizontally to reveal a small boy playing a prank on Bill. Likewise, panning is exhibited in ‘Rushmore’ when the camera shifts from the teacher who summoned Fischer to work out a sum on the board to Fischer, who is so self-confident after correctly solving the sum. Conclusively, Wes’ films have a signature feature of camera works which are consistent throughout his works making him a practical auteur in filmmaking.

Moreover, Wes capability of depicting the auteur theory is through his precisely assembled and set mise-en-scene in his films. His décor, objects, pictures, music, and background, which always sidetrack the audience, are usually anachronistic to the time when the film is set. The technique is useful in instilling a feeling of past time action in the audience (Morrison, 2018). In addition, his characters usually wear costumes that appear outstanding thus setting them apart from their prevailing setting. For example, the three brothers in ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ wear quite expensive suits that set them apart from the surrounding poorer locals. In addition, Fischer in ‘Rushmore’ wears the signature red beret as Steve Zissou in ‘Life Aquatic’, and a blazer in his uniform thus setting him apart from his fellow students. Besides, Anderson uses exclusively British artists’ soundtracks that date back to the ‘60s and ‘70s for example ‘I Am Waiting’ by The Rolling Stones in ‘Rushmore’ and ‘Strangers’ by The Kin inks in ‘Darjeeling Limited’.

Furthermore, Wes’ movies are characterized by repeated character appearance in most of his films. For example, Bill Murray is featured in most of Wes’ films or example in ‘Rushmore’, ‘Life Aquatic’ and ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Other characters featured in multiple movies directed by Wes are Jason Schwartzman, George Clooney, Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson. The move creates a sense of authenticity and rubberstamps the fact that an appearance by any of the above-mentioned actors in a certain film is most probably a Wes’ film production (Morrison, 2018). In addition, Wes likes to employ different shades of colors which are off the normal shades by a notch or twice hence a little paler, known as color palette, to interestingly create an old age era different from the time the film is set. He uses a mustard form of yellow in ‘Rushmore’ and ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ rather than the normal yellow. Likewise, he uses a paler navy blue rather than normal blue and navy blue in ‘Rushmore’ for Fischer’s suit. Besides, the vegetation is represented by a mossy green instead of a normal green in ‘Moonlight Kingdom’. This is cunningly directed at drafting an outdated or past tense time in the scenes as the audience watch the movies (Morrison, 2018).

Finally, there is the consistent use of slow motion in most of Anderson’s motion picture works. He mostly uses slow motion in emotionally loaded scenes to move the audience and enable them to grasp the weight of the emotion in the particular scene (Kramon, 2002). In fact, the most slow motion is witnessed at the final scenes of all his movies, where emotions are often weighty after a dramatic and adventurous experience of the characters conflicting and final resolving their conflicts. For instance, in ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ a man is seen running in the beginning of the movie but is later overtaken by Peter, after which slow motion is introduced to enable the audience experience the tension of the competition between Peter and the man, and the ability of Peter to make it to the train before it leaves him. The slow motion also brings out the importance of the trip to Peter. Likewise, at the end of the movie, the three brothers race the train and slow motion is introduced to depict the triumph of the brothers to resolve their conflicts and start new lives by abandoning their ‘baggage’ both literally and metaphorically.

In conclusion, Wes Anderson is a highly experienced auteur whose works bear his signature stamp thereby making them authentic, known and reliable (Jeong, 2017). His themes are well illustrated by the characters and the sub-themes carried on well in developing the plot of the movie. Besides, the visual style of color palette is interestingly infused and arouses the audience emotions and keeps track of their focus. Finally, his cinematography techniques are knowledgeably mixed and balanced to ensure the audience can navigate and travel with the characters through the scenes without losing the connection.

ReferencesTop of Form

Bottom of Form

Braudy, L., & Cohen, M. (2009). Film theory and criticism: introductory readings. New York,      Oxford University Press.

Jeong, S.-H., & Szaniawski, J. (2017). The global auteur: the politics of authorship in 21st     century cinema.

Kramon, J., et al. (2002). The Auteur theory. [Place of publication not identified], Pathfinders      Home Entertainment.

Lehman, P. R. (1980). John Ford and the auteur theory. Ann Arbor, Mich, University             Microfilms International.

Morrison, J. (2018). AUTEUR THEORY AND MY SON JOHN. [S.l.], BLOOMSBURY             ACADEMIC USA.

Stam, R. (2000). Film theory: an introduction. Malden, MA, Blackwell.

September 25, 2023




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