Film is Dead, or So We've Heard. Then Again, We've Also Heard of Zombies
We’re all, I’m sure, very familiar with the phrase “Film is Dead” and the like by this point. And that very well seems to be true, because of a perfect storm of emergent technologies — between the high-quality digital acquisition now possible and the the distribution possibilities offered by the internet, celluloid may finally be uttering its climactic guttural death-rattle. What some of us (including myself) may not think about as much, though, is how many times cinema itself has supposedly been finished in the past. An article by The Village Voice highlights how many times over each decade since its inception film has been declared deceased, and why.
Fittingly, the subtitle of the article is “The sky keeps falling!” Due to the sheepish, maybe tongue-in-cheek, maybe more-clever-than-thou style the article is written in (welcome to The Village Voice), it’s actually kind of hard to tell whether we’re looking down on all those who have historically voiced the death knell or now (finally, and accurately) voicing it ourselves. After all, if we’re going by history, all the cries of “it’s dead” were proven pretty spectacularly wrong. In the ’30s, the advent of sound may have incited riots, the ’50s saw the onset of the alleged “worst era in the history of art,” the ’60s saw the birth of Michael Bay (a watershed moment, in my opinion), the 80s proliferation of home media threatened to draw viewers away from theaters and turn ‘movie-goers’ into ‘movie-renters,’ and the 1990s elicited this response:
Cinema’s 100 years seem to have the shape of a life cycle: an inevitable birth, the steady accumulation of glories and the onset in the last decade of an ignominious, irreversible decline.
If history’s taught us anything, it might be that kicking the bucket may not be the final word, to mix metaphors pretty badly. Granted, and it’s worth restating, that filmmaking (and totally so, from back to front) has never been so democratized or affordable. If film was ever truly ousted or murdered by a particular era, that era is surely now. On the other hand, and it might be a little too soon to say for sure, but I think its pretty likely some kind of critical mass in creatives will see a major resurgence to celluloid and some kind of traditional filmmaking/movie-going model at some point. Or I’m totally wrong and everyone (particularly, the theaters themselves) will switch to digital and never go back, and only a fringe few will ever care to even consider shooting on film again.
What’s your interpretation of this state of affairs? Do you think I’m totally off the mark, or do you think a future film renaissance is somewhere in our future? What do you think of what this article tells us?