1.What type of Fantasy film is Hunger Games and how is it ontologically different from our world?
2. Fantasy films often tackle ethics, morality, or politics in their narratives. How does Hunger Games present us with a sociopolitical discussion while remaining primarily a fantasy/action film?
3. Discuss the pace and style of the editing in the film and whether it works to create a cohesive visual story.
Instead of seeking a clear definition of what Fantasy is, it’s easier to think about what Fantasy is not. Other genres employ conventions of realism in their narrative. When we watch a film we have the sense the story is taking place in the “real world” which has very real rules (e.g. Gravity requires things tossed off a cliff will fall downward. Another rule of the real world is that people do not have the ability to fly). Fantasy films, or “Fantas- tic films” as suggested by Fowkes, do not conform to these rules.
“Although it has been notoriously difficult to pin down the genre, one central aspect of fantasy stories is that they each feature a fundamental break with our sense of reality. This break, an “ontological rupture,” is one of the hallmarks of the genre… It is generally agreed that fantasies tell stories that would be impossible in the real world.” (Fowkes)
In his 1989 overview, Kenneth Van Guden offered a pantheon of fantasy film types: Fairy- tale fils, Sword and Sorcery, Child’s Fantasy, the Guardian angel, Ancient Mythology, the Giant monster, the Hidden paradise, the Superhero film, the Child as hero, the Ghost film, and the Fabulous journey.
Later, Alec Worley surveyed fantasy films in a 2005 list which consolidates many of Van Guden’s categories. Worley offered: The fairytale film, the Earthbound fantasy, the Hero- ic fantasy, and the Epic fantasy.
One notable type, the Earthbound fantasy, is one of the most common types. While we often think first of the Fairytale or Epic when considering fantasy films. We should note that Earthbound fantasies are prolific. A film like Big with Tom Hanks, or Ghost with Demi Moore is in fact, Earthbound fantasy. Movies that take place in worlds that look very simi- lar to our own with the exception of one magical or fantastic element.
It is important to note that genres are convenient systems of classification meant to facili- tate discussion or give a viewer a general idea of what to expect when they purchase a ticket at their favorite Cinema house. They are not distinct categorical boxes for which a film must be placed into only one. There is a significant amount of overlap in genre.
One example of a Fantasy film is the 2006 film The Fountain, directed by Darren Aronof- sky. The film is an existentialist exploration of the lives of one couple told in three story- lines. The film explores themes of love, religion, death, and sacrifice.
Because the themes discussed in the film are so profound the visual language used by the filmmaker is pretty spectacular, creating a sense of epic grandeur as the characters travel from one life to another. One recurring theme in the film is to find meaning in death. This is represented by a golden nebula in the story. One of the main characters is often depicted within the nebula. This is something that obviously could not occur in the real world but in the world of cinema we are able to create fantastic images in an effort to make the story come to life.
The fantastic imagery is often juxtaposed against scenes happening in the everyday like the scene above where the main characters are running through the snow. Fantasy films need not contain narratives which take place in worlds completely different from our own. But instead, they can depict our everyday lives in ways that include the fantastic.
Fantasy films are not as suspicious of the status quo as Noir films are. But, fantasy films are often quite political. Questions and themes exploring ethics, morality, and social practices are often presented in unique ways. This allows the filmmaker to have political conversations with the viewer without the viewer feeling preached to. The political con- tent of fantasy films usually exists within the secondary or tertiary narrative.
The Wiz, for example, is a fantasy musical which explores themes of race and place. However, the racial discussion takes a backs seat to the larger adventure of Dorothy and her efforts to survive a foreign landscape to get back home. The film is filled with strange characters and magical occurrences placing it clearly in the fantasy genre. But the film has regular musical numbers which places it also within the category of musical.
One of the subversive narratives in The Wiz plays out between Dorothy, her companions, and the taxi cabs. The story world of the film is a strange and twisted version of New York city. Dorothy is lost and in need of a way home. But, whenever she comes upon a taxi cab and tries to hail it for a ride, it drives away and turns off its service light. This happens time and again in the movie.
This sub-narrative is presenting in sharp relief the experiences of many black people in urban environments who are often passed up by taxi drivers who refuse to allow them as passengers. The movie doesn’t yell about it or make any pronouncements. Instead we are simply shown Dorothy in need and the taxi driving away.
Ultimately, Dorothy and her companions realize they must get to where they are going by relying upon themselves. At this point they sing and dance on top of four taxi cabs. Be- cause of their placement in the frame relative to the taxi cabs we understand that they have overcome the symbolic violence of the taxis’ refusal to help them.
Fantasy films are not always epic like the Lord of the Rings series or Harry Potter. Fantasy films are also not just for children. Fantasy, as a genre, contains a huge collection of films which are bound together by the ontological break they provide. Fantasy is often blended with other genres to create Fantasy-Horror, Fantasy-Comedy, Fantasy-Musicals, etc.
As a whole, Fantasy allows filmmakers to tell stories in ways that would not be possible in our real world.
Works Cited Block, B. (2007). The Visual Story. Burlington, MA: Elsevier. Lewis, J. (2014). Essential Cinema: An Introduction to FIlm Analysis. Boston: Wadsworth.