Although there are several similarities between the two traditions, there are distinct elements that characterize European films from American films. Primarily the distinct characteristic of European films incline on the influence of the continents history and various social changes in the continent. The European tradition tends to seek lessons from the past to give light to the present. Likewise, European films artistically communicate the present, or the current state of affairs as a portal by which the viewers come into an understanding of past events.
American cinema meanwhile as characterized by Hollywood establishes filmmaking as a form of merchandise, in which films are treated as commoditys produced and manufactured by a particular company. American films tend to appeal to the audience through the use of publicity such as the actors popularity and appeal to the public. But more importantly, American cinema has never actually tackled social issues until it was influenced by European filmmaking traditions.
Hence, an argument regarding the traditions of both regions emerges; cinema becomes an effective commodity such as the case of Hollywood, or as an art form, as usually practiced in Europe. The aforementioned developments in these two regions of the world therefore represent the framework as to how film connects with the society and how else film functions both as a commercial product and as a piece of art. Primarily, the styles and themes of European cinema following the Second World War have been characterized by several factors.
These factors include the directors creative vision, a particular nations perception of its cultural identity, the series of events that brought social awareness to the nations and the political as well as aesthetic departure from conventional techniques that have become cliches. As much as technology influences the quality, substance, and aesthetics of European films, filmmakers remained reflective of the dynamics of society that they represent.
The German Expressionist filmmakers for example bring the directors emotions to the viewers sphere through the unrealistic mise-en-scenes which laid the establishment of focus for the films artificial constructed look as well as the gestural acting styles of the characters (Forbes & Street 2000). However, the geography and varying social belief systems fragment European cinema largely because the locations of countries together with the colorful, yet, violent history suggests produces different social beliefs from cities and nations across Europe.
For instance, the height of World War II and the Nazi campaign in Europe saw the production and release of films that promote the regimes propaganda, anything that had anti-Nazi implications and underlying messages were banned. Given the strangling events during the time, the end of the war and the decline of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime proved to be the turning point for the European cinema as various techniques and visual styles have emerged as a result of the war and the diminished restrictions gave more liberal advantage for filmmakers.
One of the products of Europes war torn history is the Italian neo-realist movement which entailed the conditions of the working class and the impoverished people in a post war set up. Italian neo-realism is notable for reflecting such realities as filmmakers did not reflect the times through the elements of character, plot, or narrative but through filmmaking techniques like location shoots instead of sophisticated studio shoots and the use of dialogue dubbing instead of the use of high-end audio equipment (Forbes & Street 2000). The Polish Film School is another film movement that emerged out of the war.
Being influenced by Italys neo-realism, the Polish Film School savored the drastic liberal changes in Poland after the war by communicating the difficulties of Poland and her people during the Second World War (Forbes & Street 2000). While the Italian neo-realists reflected the socio-economic conditions of people through the techniques used in making and producing films, the Polish Film School used narratives and plot structures to depict important factors during and after the war such as the role of the resistance group Armia Krajowa after the war and the tragic incidents of the war such as the Nazi concentration camps.
The 60s also provided a new phase to European cinema as the French and Czechoslovak New Waves as well as the New German Cinema emerged to artistic prominence. These new artistic styles, while they provide evolutionary techniques for European cinema, provided signature styles of the respective countries. But as much as the styles maintained the cultural identity of the respective countries, the French, German, and Czechoslovakian films, like the Italian neo-realism and the Polish Film School, also utilized low production values such as small budgets but still managed to employ social reflections and representations (Forbes & Street 2000).