Cinema Verite, sometimes understood as direct cinema, is a French directing style popularized by such filmmakers as Jean Rouch, Robert Drew, and Richard Leecock. Standing in opposition to Western modes of filmmaking emphasizing The Spectacle, Cinema Verite focuses on truth. Shown in contrast between styles within both film and television, Cinema Virte has since its inception become a major force in the entertainment world. The division is seen primarily in atmospheric tone: while Western forms of filmmaking are often high-strung melodrama, European forms such as Cinema Verite, explore the depths of normalcy.
To compare lets’ take a high budget production (Pan’s Labyrinth) and compare it with a film more oriented towards Cinema Verite style (After Lucia). On a superficial level the differences are obvious: it is high-budget fantasy juxtaposed against somber realism; the threat of Fascism versus the threat of school yard bullies. Yet delving to a deeper level the techniques themselves give away more profound statements.
Specifically speaking let’s examine camera angles. While Pan’s Labyrinth uses a great deal of shots (Long, body, close-up), After Lucia’s camera remains fix. Many would not indicate this as anything more than directing choice but it is anything other. Shots are important here because the former emphasizes the drama of the story (thus depriving it of realism) while the latter maximizes spectral gazing (bringing out the realist aspects of the plot). In remaining fixated with position the director is able to transition seamlessly towards storytelling.
In most aspects plot is where Cinema Verite makes a dynamic impact therefore greatly changing the viewing experience. Whereas typical dramatic filmmaking focuses wholly on plots non-relatable to the average worker, threads about alien invasions, sports stars, and military icons- Cinema Verite caters to topics which happen in everyday life. Regarding our selections it is painfully obvious: Pan’s Labyrinth- a story detailing a young girl as she teams up with otherworldly entities to battle her autocratic stepfather. After Lucia, meanwhile: a tale centered on an emotionally damaged girl who is relentlessly bullied at school.
The dialogue and events reflect this stark difference. Pan’s Labyrinth displays flashy language usually associated with fantasy stories; the chatter between characters is often indecipherable without being previously clued in as to the events and terms. After Lucia does the exact opposite- language never transcends modern tongue. The cast uses terms and words which the viewer need not memorize by scrutinizing a specific part of the film. In this manner the viewer is never ostracized from the act of watching: rather, they take a direct role in the film simply by relating to the characters as though they were an extension of themselves (which is skillfully shown in the brief scene halfway through After Lucia where after emphasizing a car crash the director uses real footage of a wrecked car on the side of the street).
Understanding such aspects of two conflicting film narratives by consequence allows us as the viewer to differentiate between films which are tailor made for large profit returns and between those created more to identify with the audience on a personal level (necessarily meaning a lower profit margin). Both attempt to unearth satisfaction from the audience yet the methodology used can be difficult to stomach for those accustomed to conventional filmmaking styles. So while Cinema Verite and “Hollywood Style” stand at opposing ends of the film gene pool, both, in the end, aim to impart onto the audience a meaning. Whether this message is grand mysticism or an average act of cruelty, the end result is the same: the intent is to enthrall.