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Categories: Features

Art house cinema is a term that encompasses films that aim for our minds and souls instead of our wallets, films that are made for artistic and experimental purposes rather than to be marketably entertaining. Sammy Ward tells us about some historically influential art films and why they could be a dying genre. 

There is a strong divide of opinions over art house films /art film. These movies are normally independently-produced, with artistic or experimental content and style as the main focus, rather than narrative and structure. Film is a visual format after all, and this genre allows us to see it as art, with its visual aesthetics and symbolism. Art house movies aren’t created to entertain, but to provoke thought, like a painting would. Thus art film has an extremely niche market. It was this genre of filmmaking, however, that allowed people to use the medium as a form for entertainment. It all started with art film. 


In the early nineteen hundreds, people used film to document real life events, then these shots would be cut together as a montage. With no sound at that time, they had to rely on the visuals and editing to incite emotion. Whether for educational purposes or entertainment, it was a format to show cultural idealism. There were some very famous films which began to have entertainment value, although still considered art films. The main ones I feel worth noting and am inspired by are from the Spanish avant-garde movement.

Un Chien Andalou (1929), famous for the special effects of slashing an eyeball, is a surrealist short film by Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It has no conventional narrative; it uses “dream logic”, with a series of related scenes all discombobulated. The concept is suppressed human emotions.


Buñuel and Dalí went on to create more films. L’Age d’or, a surrealist comedy and one of the first sound films in France, was one of the most notable. They had only one rule: “no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” They used unsuppressed imagination without justification. For any artist or filmmaker, It’s this kind of cinema that can inspire not just more art films but also mainstream features. These are the best of the genre; movies that are artistic and fantastical.

Sometimes art house films can be art for the sake of being art, sometimes they don’t have any form of identity, and sometimes they’re just incomprehensible. That’s why it is a dying genre. It can’t be appreciated if the audience aren’t feeling any emotions.

The term art film has had many different meanings. It has been used to describe B-movies from the 60’s and 70’s, something which I’m sure would have many fans of the genre scathing at the thought. Art film relies on the audience to think for themselves, so it comes down to how you perceive films and how you prefer to view them. There are, however, some great experimental films that have wonderful visuals to tell a structured story. In foreign films that take more of a risk, the two end up being mutually exclusive. It could be a way forward by converging this genre to make some amazing films with true originality and intellectual integrity. 


As a film fanatic, I love to write/talk about them as well as making short form films. I aspire to host my own screening events and one day make a feature film.

Posted on May 4, 2015

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