VOTD: How Important Is Realism in Cinema?

Speed Racer - Movie Realism

For most people, going to the movies is meant to be an escape from the real world. Therefore, it’s somewhat surprising that there are viewers who have a hard time connecting to movies simply because they’re not realistic. Whether it’s because the science of a movie isn’t accurate, or stylized visuals make it hard to relate to the narrative, some people just can’t suspend their disbelief enough to get lost in a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lord of the Rings or La La Land.

A new video essay attempts to explain the importance of realism in movies, why people seem to look for even the most fantastical of movies to have some semblance of realism, and why realism isn’t really what those viewers should be looking for. Watch the movie realism video essay after the jump.

The video above illustrates the difference between formalism and realism, and explains how pretty much all movies fall somewhere in between, but usually lean a little more towards one or the other. Some go for a more realistic style, presentation and narrative while others go for the more fantastical and unbelievable in those arenas. When a movie tries to strike a balance between those two, it doesn’t always work out, as in the case of Ang Lee’s Hulk, a movie that tries to be serious but doesn’t jibe well with the exaggerated comic book visual style.

Regardless of whether a film is realistic or not, the video essay explains that what’s really important is a movie’s verisimilitude. By that they mean a movie’s inner truth, or their own concept of reality. As long as a movie’s narrative doesn’t betray the reality of the universe in which the story takes place, then the audience will hopefully never be taken out of the experience to think that the film lacks realism, even if it’s a movie that’s basically a live-action cartoon like Speed Racer. That doesn’t make a movie critic proof though, since even scenarios that logically make sense within the reality of any given movie can still downright stupid, such as the Batman credit card in Batman & Robin.

What do you think about realism in film? Is it hard to swallow a film like Speed Racer even knowing that the verisimilitude of the movie is harmonious with the universe in which it exists? Is it easier to get lost in a movie that feels closer to the real world like The Dark Knight even if the concept of a superhero like Batman is still fairly unrealistic? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.

Thanks to The AV Club for bringing this to our attention.

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