Frank Capra’s movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of the most remarkable movies which has ageless and timeless quality in its dramatic appeal to the audience as well has been classed as a masterpiece from the cinematic technique which was used to project the movie at the time.
It is master piece in aesthetic sense, to view the originality and the mastery of filming technique used at the time it was made in late forties. It truly reflects the American life and the values as well demonstrate the technological and original filming technique which surpasses the cinematic perfections of the time worldwide. It has turned out to be the most popular Christmas movie of the time.
The film editing technique used by the director Frank Capra at the time has been timeless and fluid, with brilliance in execution of the smallest details which are captured as an essence in the movie to bring out the storyline and the plot as well to develop the characters. It is this classic mastery of technique and cinematic precision which has made the movie appeal to masses for such a length of time.
The use of the moving camera in scenes especially in the scene where his aggression is shown in the darkest moments and the joy reflected in the lightest hours is remarkable. The ability of Capra to hold the chord of the narrative element and engage the audience is superb.
The range of emotions which are captured using the rapid editing approach which is appropriate and simple has contributed to the flexibility within the movie which has mass appeal to the audiences. The editing and cinematic approach matches the intent of the director as well goes along with the storyline. The technique and the cinematic essence are in harmony with the humanistic approach of the movie and aims to integrate theme with the technique in superb balance.
The cinematic and aesthetic style is largely the effect of the editing technique which Capra has used very effectively as a source which involves many cuts between shots done with precision and appropriateness, which takes cares of any choppiness within the movie. Some of the key elements have been very precisely addressed with regard to the interest of the audience, who the audience wishes to see and what the anticipated response would be to the scene sequence.
Capra uses effective and subtle techniques in film editing to introduce the characters and the scene sequence which is quite refreshment for the audience of the time in 1946. His aesthetic approach is timeless. Most of the shots are pictured as medium shots which includes several characters at one time in the same frame with very selective close ups which are integrated only hen absolutely needed. This calculated and effective precision in adds to the aesthetic dimension of the movie. It also strengthens the impact of the close up sequences and also meets the expectations of he audience.
The aesthesis approach in filming used by Capra in 1946 can be evaluated under various technological and cinematic areas like placement on the stage (mise-en-scene); the movement of camera; the point of view and the effective use of lighting in accordance with the storyline and the character development.
Mise-en mise is French term used for the expressive power of the film which can be evaluated based on the design elements used in the movie based on theatre and film production. This technique or aesthetic element is skillfully fulfilled in the movie in telling the story effectively and holding the narrative through skilful storyboarding as well as cinematographic technique.
The direction visually engages the audience from stage design and lyrical expression which enhances the direction of the movie. It enhances the cinematic effect and the use of camera as well the composition of the movie using the props, lighting, characters and other elements. The movement of the camera is another dimension which enhances the narrative by controlling the path of camera movement and the number of cameras used to project the particulars of the scene.
The movement of camera has been handled very smoothly with effective cut shots which are used in the film editing technique by Capra. The pauses are justified and the time is very well managed. The emphasis on the close up for effective dramatic purposes is enhanced through precise use of selective close up of the face, eyes and the scene.
The close ups are very effectively used with purpose and precision. Capra has been successful in achieving the smooth flow of the movie through editing and filming technique which is achieved through high quality camera movement. The scenes are put together very effectively and smoothly. The use of three cameras was quite a technical efficiency which requires mastery and technical knowledge of the cause and effect which matches the narrative element in the movie.
The lighting and the point of view is another dimension in which the aesthetic quality of the movie can be evaluated. The lighting and the use of well lit camera movement can aesthetically highlight the effect of direction by making the scene more practical and in harmony with the narrative of the plot. This would also improve the point of view and the vision of the direction depending upon the narrative mode and voice which has been a very effective tool in the delivery aspect of the movie at the time it was made.
The cinematic perspective has to match the plot and the storyline which adds to the perspective and the dimension of the movie from direction perspective. Capra has been very creative and adventurous in the use of lighting and the camera movement along with the narrative mode which connects the4 storyline very effectively until the end. In his own words “ You can light one camera; and if you light two cameras, the problem is doubled; and if you light three cameras, your problem goes up geometrically.
The problem with three cameras are eight times what they are with one”(Capra and Poague). He at the end affirms in his directional role of the movie editing and managing the aesthetic balance of the movie that this complexity in the use f lighting, camera movement and point of view and staging is worth the effort as it adds to the scene perspective from three different angles which an be manipulated technically at will.
The impact which this movie has had on the audiences over the past 60 years has been phenomenal. It has outstood any other classic movie made in centuries and has been admired for its cinematic, narrative and aesthetic techniques if editing and filming used.
It is comparative even from present standards and the effectiveness of this black and white movie is grand and rich with human values and technical and aesthetic qualities. The humanistic pitch of the movie has claimed it to be one of the most popular Christmas movies of the time, though that was not intended. It is a movie rich with tapestry of human values and morals which celebrate life.
Movie. “It’s a Wonderful Life”1946.
Capra, Frank and Poague, Leland A. Frank Capra: interviews; 2004.University Press of Mississippi.