We all know that in cinema there are those directors who are strongly influenced by films they grew up on… strongly, Tarantino is one of the biggest ones. He’s not genre busting, he’s a melting pot of genres that are important to him as a person. And he deals with all of it well. I love his movies, probably because I also love the movies that influenced them. Images from Lady Snowblood and Kill Bill; the Villains looking over their victims.
Brian DePalma is another. It’s obvious that his work is strongly influenced by Hitchcock, even when his films are less than mediocre.
But then there are those Director’s who’s visions are unique … or are they? If one searches around enough one can find examples of where influences have been drawn from. Let’s look at Sam Raimi; director of the wonderful “Spider-Man” films and the brilliant “A Simple Plan”. “Evil Dead 2” was one of the first films that affected me as a youngster. It was viscerally so exciting and created a tangible world for me that existed outside of my own. That was the same night I saw “Bladerunner” for the first time ever. It was a good night in my childhood; and the world of cinema opened up to me. But I digress… Sam Raimi’s style has always felt so authentic to me, so entirely different from anything else out there. Until I saw something the other night – a movie.
The original “The Haunting” from 1963; Black and white film, directed by Robert Wise, rated G. And it felt at times like Raimi was directing it. The camera tilting back and forth as sounds from other sides of walls are heard, dutch angles on doorways and mounted heads of animals, cameras flying at the faces of potential victims. I was watching it thinking to myself, Raimi saw this when he was 10. He had to have! “The Haunting” is worth checking out for any of you die hard horror Raimi fans.
And look what a little hunting got me… the truth.
Another one to see is “The Innocents” which basically became “The Others”. It’s funny because within the movie “The Innocents” the spirits are referred to on several occasions as the Others. It’s quite an obvious update. Both films very creepy and a little melodramatic towards the end, but very different at the same time. There’s even something that draws on familiarity between the posters!
The more I watch, the more I learn that there hasn’t been anything original in cinema in a long time, just different angles of the same shot; fresh perhaps, but not truly original.
So where does that leave me as a filmmaker, or an artist? To go into something knowing whether unconsciously or not that I’m drawing from things that have influenced me. And not just life, but movies, and books, and television. There’s something disheartening when you give something to someone to read that you feel speaks from you and they immediately compare it to “The Matrix” or something like that; you feel all of your internal organs slide through your stomach and into your feet. It’s the worst feeling ever. The only thing to do is trust that your personality will make it unique. That was has inspired you will make the film unique. I look at “The Descent” even, and see all of the visual references to other movies. The shot from “Apocolypse Now” when he rises out of the water, only this time the character rises out of a pool of blood. There are many, many shots in this film. But the film itself is so unnerving that you don’t notice right away. Perhaps there’s something familiar about it, but that familiarity brings us a bit closer to what’s happening on screen. Maybe there’s something to be said about this, this highly influenced way of making films, this familiarity. Spielberg did it for Indiana Jones, influenced by the serial style of storytelling. And maybe as artists we are drawn to such things because we want to add our personal touch to those things we are drawn to. To make that splatter film, or write that romantic comedy, or that sci-fi western.
I would be interested to know what makes you guys tick. What films have influenced you and why? Or books or art… anything! Give us the details. What point in your life, what were you doing. how did it change you.
I’ve already mentioned “Blade Runner” and “Evil Dead 2”. I saw them when I was 12ish with my cousins. They were awake for “Evil Dead 2”, and we all were strongly affected by it. I had never seen anything so full of raucous energy. My grandparents were peaking in every few minutes wondering what the heck we were watching. Then they all slowly dozed off on their couches and open spaces on the floor, as I sat there a foot from the screen watching “Blade Runner”. My eyes didn’t leave that screen for a full two hours. Mind you this was the original version with the voice over. As I grew up I became more a fan of the Director’s Cut, and I’m curious to see his next cut of the film.
I was been highly influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky and his “Andrei Rublev”. At the end of the film I broke down in tears, something I rarely do watching film. I wept for a good couple minutes. To see character and a story affect me so deeply, and not even knowing why at first is a life altering thing. It has changed my perception of art and cinema and storytelling. So did Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman with their “Rashomon”, “Seven Samurai” (which left my gut aching at the end), and well pretty much anything Bergman has done left a strong emotional and psychological effect on me.
Also one night late at night as I was flipping through the channels I came across this strange film with Al Pacino. It must have been 2 in the morning. I was probably 15. It was a strange film to me. One with energy, and performances that lept off the small television screen at me. It was “Dog Day Afternoon”. What an amazing accident it was for me to see that film, that night. It inspired me to become a much deeper actor than I was. To continue striving for the intellectual and emotional depth that few people reach in their art form.
Let me know… what makes you weep, or spring out of your seat with joy, or want to work on your own things.