A very Different Film Experience…

z6-schilling-godzilla-old-a-20140523.jpg

Being a 21-year-old Australian I generally tend to watch films that are contemporary Hollywood blockbuster romantic comedies, so watching the film Godzilla was definitely a diverse experience.

During the beginning, the first thing I realised was that the film was in a square format, which I am not familiar with only watching modern day movies. This along with the black and white made me question how long I’d be able to dedicate my attention to the film. Being someone who is attracted to bright colours I assumed I would lose focus fast but fortunately this wasn’t the case. Come to think of it, I haven’t watched a black and white film before other than the Wizard of Oz but that was only black and white for a short period in the beginning, hence why Godzilla was far out of my regular film choice. Fortunately, the dramatic story line kept me entertained for much longer than expected, the effects were extremely impressive for such an old film and it was pleasant watching something from a different era, although I wouldn’t do this regularly.

Comparatively, I did think there were a few issues with the film in terms of performance and editing. The scratches in the film became quite distracting and there were times there was a need for sound but it cut out unexpectedly which was a let down. Not only this, the acting was very dramatic and highly staged in comparison to the mainstream Hollywood films I watch which are generally natural and realistic and this really emphasised how ‘corny’ Godzilla was at times. Especially referring to the monster itself, who looked fictitious and artificial, specifically in the scenes where it emerged from the water and ‘breathed fire’.

The subtitles in Godzilla created a new film experience for me, being someone who hasn’t watch a film with subtitles before. I’ve never needed to as I’ve always watch movies in English and had no interest in anything else. I didn’t realise until about 5 minutes into Godzilla that all I was doing was reading the subtitles and not actually watching the film itself. They became quite distracting because I knew I wouldn’t understand what was going on if I didn’t read them, so I continued to lose focus until about midway through. From here it became easier and easier as time went on to channel my focus into the entire film experience including the subtitles, actors, scenes etc. and it surprisingly became quite enjoyable.

Out of my own curiosity to decided to research how effects were executed before we had the luxury of all these fancy computer programs. According to Harness, the approach they took to editing especially in regards to films with animation or monsterous characters like Godzilla, was very time consuming and required a lot of patience (2010). Everything had to be done in a manual manner, and discovering the effort that went into the creation of the movie really made me appreciate it more.

Something I noticed was that there was a clear difference in terms of how women were represented in this culture and time in history. From what they wore, how they acted in front of men, to how the men treated them. It opened my eyes when comparing it to cinema today, female actresses now have much more power and equal rights than during the time Godzilla was filmed.

Overall, this movie was the complete opposite of what I’d usually choose to watch and although there were parts that made me slightly cringe, it was an insightful experience to see a cultural and historic film with a thriller story line like Godzilla.

 

Photo credit: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/z6-schilling-godzilla-old-a-20140523.jpg

Harness, J 2010, Special Effects before Computers, Mental Floss, viewed 30th July 2017, <http://mentalfloss.com/article/24209/no-cgi-please-special-effects-computers&gt;

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8 comments

  1. Really interesting points on your own experience in watching the film. I hadn’t noticed the square formatting when viewing but now that you point it out it is very different from typical Hollywood types. I agree with you on the dramatic nature of the film, though after researching it seems this is a typical characteristic of the Kaiju genre, especially when it comes to ‘the monster’ character, which was actually someone dressed up in a suit, filmed at all the right angles (this site gives some detail into this). – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/10788996/Godzilla-why-the-Japanese-original-is-no-joke.html
    This short clip has a bit more on the making of the suit if you’re interested 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfSARjZ0OXc
    Would have been cool to see some stills you liked from the film or other multimedia links etc. Great work overall 🙂

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  2. I missed the first week of class and this was a good run down for me. I’ll have to get around to watching the film and evaluate the quality you comment on. Knowing my minimal attention span, I am sure that the commentary and minimal special attention to effects, quality and detail may deter me. But I’ll watch with a grain of salt and an open mind!

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  3. From the sounds of it, you and i have had a similar experience with this film. I also was overall surprised by how a movie (that in the past i’ve had no interest in), was able to keep me so interested for the time that it did considering the style of the film and it’s quality. I quite enjoy watching films with subtitles because i feel like i’m getting a peak into a world i normally wouldn’t understand, but i also sometimes found myself distracted from what was actually happening in the scenes. Overall i loved your blog! It’s interesting to see how movies used to be created and further how that process has changed!

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  4. Hey, awesome post! I enjoyed the extent to which you detailed exactly how far out of your comfort zone this film was – and I can totally relate. I don’t think you are alone when you say that “The Wizard of Oz” was your only taste of black and white cinema. You make the point that women were under-represented somewhat in the film in terms of their relationship (possibly even their use?) to men. I agree with you that “Gojira” follows a male-driven plot, however I wonder whether this is attributed to the period it was composed in, as you suggested, or if this is more of an Eastern trend? Perhaps a combination of both. This article (http://www.richmondworldaffairs.org/role-of-women-in-japan/) examines how the evolution of the Japanese woman followed that of the Western woman, particularly after the second world war. Unfortunately, social norms don’t change overnight and the idea of females as a means for males thus prevailed in this cinema.
    -Claire 🙂

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  5. Nice spot, mate! I wasn’t aware it was square format at all till you remind me. There are two points I find most people really notice but I didn’t: their over-dramatic acting and the way women were represented. Talk about their acting, I totally agree with you. Also, I’d love to know how does that way of acting make you feel since most Japanese films has that dramatic nature? Before, I felt kinda drained every time I watched Japanese live-action. In terms of women representation in Japanese media, it is the long-term influence of Confucianism, even in modern films, you can still see it, because, I believe, Japan is one of the countries where gender norms is the harshest. You can check out any Japanese movie in the past 10 years to see that.

    This article has a point that I find really interesting, and you can find it not only in anime but almost any teen movie: “Girls in anime make a huge deal out of making lunch for their favorite guy because it is a wifely thing.”

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  6. I felt the exact same way after researching into the making of the film and finding out just how much effort went into the effects! It really makes you think about how we take all the special effects of Hollywood Blockbusters for granted hey! I also find it interesting how many of us who experience Gojira today won’t ever really understand just how it would’ve affected those who witnessed the movie when it was released, as we haven’t been through that kind of intense trauma. I remember tweeting about how overdramatic I found the acting in the film, both that and the lack of facial expression on some of the women’s faces – and this is purely because of the type of films I’m used to watching. This article explains that in much more detail and is super interesting http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/10788996/Godzilla-why-the-Japanese-original-is-no-joke.html. This article also emphasises my above point of just how intense the film would have been for its intended audience upon release. I really enjoyed how you incorporated your own context to explain how you felt when witnessing the movie. A really interesting read!

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  7. Interesting to read your thoughts! A lot of them align with my own. Once I became used to the dated aspect of the film I quite enjoyed it though. For me the over dramatic acting, jumpy transitions, effects and black & white colour were all something that gave the film more authenticity when looking back at a film set in post-WWII Japan. I agree that the way female characters were represented then is very different from the films we see today! Emiko was the kind of two-dimensional character whose only purpose it seemed was to add to the story-lines of the males in the film.

    I think a lot of us were similarly surprised at the historic and cultural aspects that ran throughout Godzilla, previously to seeing it I expected it to only be an action flick with little depth.

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  8. I think you’re the only person who has made mention of the 1.37:1 aspect ratio of the film, something that many wouldn’t be used to if only watching modern cinema. Having these technical constraints like the black & white colour and the lack of technology means the story and physical effects have to shine through, and as you said it’s extremely impressive for such an old film.
    The representation of women is also a great point to touch on. How we see women on screen now, and the roles that they play have come a looooooooooooong way. I think it would be interesting to compare this film with a modern Japanese flick to see if the gender disparity is still present.
    This was a great read and it was nice to some a post that more deeply considered the technical aspects of the film rather than its thematic quality.

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