Apr 6, 2011

Dargis and the Digital Debate

In “Floating in the Digital Experience,” Manohla Dargis poses an important but daunting question about the future of cinema: should we care about the switch to digital? I first thought about this topic last September when I attended an event at Lincoln Center and heard director David Fincher (who has been shooting on digital for years), remark that “saying [he was] anti-film” would be “like saying [he was] anti-dinosaur.” In other words, he was not against shooting on film – he simply felt that this practice was on the verge of extinction.

If the switch to digital is as inevitable as Fincher suggests, Dargis’ question gains new relevance: should we bother caring about something that is going to happen whether we like it or not? For me, the answer is yes, because while the changeover to digital filmmaking may be unavoidable, the manner and style in which this new technology is utilized is still open for debate. There are different styles of digital filmmaking, and some are more beneficial than others. Fincher crafts his films in such a way that the use of digital shooting actually enhances the themes of the narrative; his masterful crafting of an eerie but oddly familiar San Francisco in Zodiac would have been inconceivable without the aid of digital technology. However, Michael Mann often uses digital filmmaking to create mystifying visual schemes that have little correlation to his films’ stories (i.e. Public Enemies), and thus have a detrimental effect on the success of their narratives.

Celluloid does seem to be headed the way of the dinosaur, but that does not mean that cinema is dead. Filmmaking is still a creative art form, and great directors will find innovative ways of using this new technology to further the artistic progression of the cinematic medium; Fincher already has.

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