Evolution of Cinema Language

I would have been more successful if I’d left movies immediately, stayed in the theatre, gone into politics, written, anything. I’ve wasted a greater part of my life looking for money and trying to get along, trying to make my work from this terribly expensive paintbox which is a movie. And I’ve spent too much energy on things that have nothing to do with making a movie. It’s about two percent movie-making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It’s no way to spend a life.” -Orson Welles 

The cost of Movies pushed the industry towards more control: star system, clear story arcs, spectacle.  Little room to fail.  The Hollywood Studio System defined the new system of storytelling – The Classical Hollywood Style (David Bordwell).

Cinema Form/”Language”

  • mise en scene – world depicted/in front of the camera, faces, landscape, gesture, costume
  • framing – camera position and lens, moving camera
  • editing – continuity and montage, order, rhythm, syntax/grammar
  • sound – voice, music, effects, 3d space

Cinema Space > Storytelling

Continuity Editing: connecting shot to shot so that there is momentum in the narrative telling and a seamless narration of causally connected events. All edits are discontinuous. Story and character drive the editing.




Eadweard Muybridge – motion studies (1878)

Thomas Edison – Kinetoscope, movement, sensational (1896)


Lumiere Brothers- outside (light), portable, travel, “documentaries” (1895)


Melies – theater, vaudeville, fantasy, special effects, illusion (1909)


HER TRUST – D.W. Griffith (1912)

D.W. Griffith

“A shot of a whole battlefield would be incomprehensible because looking at real things, the human vision fastens itself upon a quick succession of small comprehensible incidents like a mosaic out of such detail- the director counterfeits the operation of the eye with his lens and varies the length of shots to avoid the hypnotic affect.” – Griffith

Continuity Editing (The Classical Hollywood Style)

objective camera, invisible editing, dramatic tension (desire and obstacle), cause and effect chains


  • 180 degree rule
  • Cut in
  • Match on Action
  • Parallel action
  • Motivated Pov shot
  • Eyeline match
  • Flashback
  • Multiple camera set ups
  • Close up
  • Extreme long shot/Establishing shot
  • Cross cutting, intercutting / Parallel Action
  • Visual Dramatic climax. Form=Content


  • production design
  • mise en scène: set /costume / acting/ facial expression/gesture
  • pan
  • tilt
  • camera angle
  • lighting effect
  • fade
  • dissolve
  • iris shot
  • mask
  • split screen
  • soft focus
  • matte shot



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