Film Theory: Ideology–Idealism Vs. Cynicism

Research in progress:

Feb 6, 2022


Art is neither knowledge in the strictest sense nor unadulterated ideology.

Rather, it provides a particularly valuable epistemological  halfway house  between the two.

“What art makes you see, and therefore gives us in terms of seeing, perceiving, and feeling…is the ideology from which it is born, in which it bathes, from which it detaches itself as art, and to which it alludes.”

Dominant ideology turns what is political and partial and open to change into something seemingly “natural, universal, eternal.”

Dominant ideology is not limited to politics or economics. Its role is to construct imaginary picture of civil lifem nuclear family.

Fetishism: Valuing everything that’s natural

Nature is interpreted as the opposite of artifice and technology

Society and culture are not organic.

Individuals as constructs of ideology.

Ideology: the sets of discourses and images which constitute the most widespread knowledge, values, common sense.

Ideology is required so that the state and capitalism ca reproduce themselves, without the threat of revolution or radical change.

In American culture, it’s expected (and even demanded) by critics that art and artists be free of any specific political attitude.

This is why Oliver Stone’s career has suffered

However, film, of any period and by any director, speaks to an audience about specific things in specific ways.

Film’s form and contents, its fictional mode and the ways in which it’s read, are part of reflection of the larger social, cultural, and political structure.

That structure is determined by the way individual, alone and collectively, perceive themselves and their existence in the world. (Kolker, Cinema of Loneliness),

In classic Hollywood cinema, the initial cynicism of the hero or heroine are eventually and ultimately dispelled in the name of a new restored idealism.

This is the case of Bogart’s hero in Casablanca and of William Holden in Stalag 17.

The one exception to the norm is the genre of film noir, which thrives on cynicism.

Then, in the 1970s, the new cynical hero appear in the shape of Jack Nicholson.

But cynicism for its own good and in its own right is never celebrated or embraced.

In the popular disaster movie, Earthquake, the whole film, not just the characters are jaded and cynical.  At the end, when the hero (played by Charlton Heston), is cynically trashed along with the heroine–and the rest of L.A.–the audience is amused in a state of disbelief.  Like all the heroes, the viewers never get seriously involved in the story to get really upset at the sight of cynical destruction.