European Cinema: How it Differs from Hollywood in Storytelling?

Cinema for me is a subtle medium of communication between the filmmaker and the viewer. It is also an expression of art that combines the world in a parallel universe of abstracts. Some people consider cinema as a religion because of the force of influence emitted by it.

Cinema is a form of unique storytelling that goes beyond language. A person passionate about cinema and its derivatives finds himself/herself deep drowned in the melody of audio-visual narrative arts. Cinema and its inception directly influence human life.

Films are not just a source of entertainment, but they have a substantial impact on society. The various genres of films have diverse motives to offer in the minds of human beings. Sometimes, films are just a way to escape the daily struggles of our life.

Cinema began its journey in 1888 when Louis Le Prince created the first-ever motion picture, Roundhay Garden Scene. However, the first-ever movie screened was Workers Coming Out of a Factory(1895) made by The Lumiere Brothers. The interesting thing about the early films is- they were shot in the land of Europe. 

Soon cinema became a popular medium of entertainment among the people and evolved to shape an expression of art. Following European cinema development, the American film industry emerged.

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European Cinema vs Hollywood

Two of the earliest parents of cinema, the European and American cinema industry are different from each other in many ways. European cinema primarily included France, Germany, and Italy whereas Hollywood was specific to the cinema in the USA. 

European cinema is primarily low budget and artistic in nature. The French, German, and Italian films are generally shot under natural light with a vivid depiction of European life. 

Notable film movements that emerged in the land of Europe such as French Impressionists, German Expressionism, Soviet Montage, and Italian Neorealism changed the course of cinema and the way it can be used to influence the masses.

Hollywood became the birthplace of lavish sets and different genres of films like comedy, drama, horror, thriller, gangster, etc., introducing big production companies with equipment to create an entirely fictitious ambiance for films. 

In the present day, Hollywood has become a transnational industry that is dubbed and consumed in several languages.

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Storytelling in European vs Hollywood Cinema

Cinematic storytelling depends on various factors including narration, cinematography, lightings, editing, etc., both Hollywood and European cinema have engulfed the manners of different elements of storytelling in their films. 

European cinema has a slow form of storytelling. European films tend to build up the story to leave space for viewers to imagine. The simple yet artistic formula of European cinema revolves around creating heroes and villains instinctively. The cinematic ambiance of European cinema mostly involves real-world scenes and artistic blend sets. 

While watching a European film, it is not distinctly clear who must emerge as a hero and who a villain. A European film of any budget involves veiled ironies and metaphors that struck the mind after the film has come to an end. 

Precisely, European cinema seldom fails to disperse the curtain of mystery and thrill. This formula tends to make the storytelling of a European film slow. 

Hollywood has produced classic masterpieces with brilliant storytelling through elements of filmmaking. The style of Hollywood is identified with a clear depiction of the hero and the villain. 

The storytelling is often vivid and aggressive. The classic Hollywood films include The Godfather(1972), Casablanca(1942), The Wizard of Oz(1939), The Shinning(1980), Taxi Driver(1976) and many more.

Hollywood filmmaking after the 80s went towards perfecting the action genre and masterpieces were created. It was a decade of filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, and Steven Spielberg, who changed the course of Hollywood filmmaking styles. These filmmakers improved a dedicated genre with enormous planning and execution. 

When the classic era of Hollywood or Old Hollywood was evolving, European film revolutions were taking place. Film movements in Europe were defining and changing European storytelling. In post-war Europe, independent filmmakers started digging the art of cinema and produced films like The Tenth Symphony (1918) and J’accuse(1919) that has realistic and psychological ambiance.

Films like Bicycle Theives(1948), Umberto D(1952), and Shoeshine(1946), were classic products of Neorealism where the storytelling involved the aftermath of world war II on French soil. These films were clearly presenting the situation of unemployment, poverty, starvation, crimes, and its consequences in France and Italy. These films were shot in the streets of Europe, capturing the truth of the ambiance.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligri (1920), From Morn to Midnight (1920), and Metropolis (1927) are some excellent examples of dark storytelling as a product of German Expressionism. 

These films were silent and were objectified as science-fiction. This film movement took shape after World War I and used darkness, horror, and shadow as an important element of storytelling.

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Impact of European films on Hollywood

Hollywood filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino are film buffs who were/are highly influenced by the European style of filmmaking and storytelling. The Godfather (1972), the immortal classic of Hollywood, is a film that borrows inspiration from Rocco and his brothers (1960) and The Conformist (1970).  

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo(1958) was a primary inspiration for David Lynch’s tale of dreams, Mulholand Drive(2001). Some other Hollywood films that borrow dreamy inspirations from Hitchcock are 12 Monkeys(1995), Basic Instinct(1992), and Obsession(2019). The recent Tarantino movie Once upon a time in Hollywood(2019) borrows instincts from great Italian filmmaker and screenwriter Sergio Leone. French New Wave filmmakers such as Jean Luc Godard has been an inspiration for many Tarantino films. 

The era of new Hollywood was open to many independent filmmakers who made bold films to attract audiences. It was at this time, Hollywood started borrowing inspirations from foreign art cinema. The new Hollywood gave way to talented filmmakers and screenwriters who were given the liberty to produce films that attracts the youth audience. Films like Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Easy Rider (1969), and Midnight Cowboy(1969) are some notable classics of new Hollywood.

The major difference between the European cinema and Hollywood is the capital spent and gained. Hollywood spends a huge sum of money to express the art and approximately releases 700 films a year

European cinema is known for its simple, artistic, ironic, and metaphorical storytelling that consumes fewer finances. 

Thus, the competition of screenwriters in Hollywood is much more as compared to the European film industry. Big budget films of Hollywood like to ensure the best and experienced writers whereas low budget art films of Europe do not restrain creativity making a good place for independent filmmakers.

Conclusion

Hollywood and European cinema both have figurable differences among them in terms of storytelling. We have witnessed Hollywood embracing change and evolving every day. 

European films have evolved for themselves, but they have never let the idea of simple and artistic storytelling leave the industry. We cannot deny the gift of cinema endured to us by these industries.

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About the Author

Sarang Padhye

Being an avid film buff and a content marketer, I started this blog to provide the best information on screenwriting and filmmaking. Screenplays is certainly where it all begins. However, I also provide writing and advertising tips regularly through my articles.

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