Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Death of Film

Is there a place for film in a digital world?

The signs are unavoidable: film is dying. The rise of digital has been unstoppable for a long time, but now it is claiming casualties.

Eastman Kodak, the name internationally synonymous with film, filed for bankruptcy a few weeks ago and now it is attempting to have itsname struck off the theatre where the Oscars are held. There has been no bigger sign of the death of film to date.

Some may say that getting sad over this is anti-progress and nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. There is an element of that when you listen to bereaved filmmakers talk about its departure.

Steven Spielberg said that his company, Amblin, will be at the forefront of the move to digital, but he himself would shoot on film whenever possible (Tintin, obviously, had to be shot on digital). However, he can no longer cut on film because there aren’t enough trained editors to do so. He misses the smells and laboratory-feel of the old cutting room. “It breaks my heart”, he said.

However, this is more than nostalgic grief. There is a sense that a large part of the DNA of film is going to be lost, perhaps permanently. As The Artist has shown, film styles, techniques and technologies that go out of fashion or are killed off by the march of progress need not be lost forever. They can still have uses, and so does film.

Film is not as sterile as digital. It has a different feel, is less artificially crisp and is, of course, the form which carried the medium of cinema for more than a century. However, its impracticalities seem to be its undoing in the face of digital’s convenience. One can only hope that its stylistic worth can be enough to keep it alive in the digital world.

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