The Art Of Translating Iconic Stories Into Cinematic Brilliance: Cinema Classics – ) is a 1973 book by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. It is considered the most authoritative work on North Korean film production.
The book offers some unique theories that can be applied to the practice of filmmaking, art, and more. Among them, literary theories such as “Humanism” and “Seed Theory” are the most important. Humanity focuses on the problem of good and right living. In art, it promotes truly independent individuals who have the potential to change society. Seed theory has become essential to North Korean film theory. It seeks to direct all artistic creative activity through a single conceptual foundation or “seed”. In an individual work, the seed is the synthesis of themes and ideas and the basis of its promotional message. These ideas complemented the theme of the nationalist nature and socialist content of the films. Many of the ideas presented in the book support the creation of propaganda that supports the policies of the Korean Workers’ Party.
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Among the arts, cinema has great political significance for Kim Jong-il’s successor, Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong Il gained political and cultural influence in North Korean society and government by writing the book.
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The influence of On the Art of Cinema on North Korean filmmaking is disputed. Films before and after the book’s publication were similar in style, and many contemporary films violate the various rules outlined in the book.
A statue of Kim Il-sung at the Pyongyang Film Studio. On Cinematic Art, many of Kim Il-sung’s ideas about art dedicated to cinema were presented.
After graduating from Kim Il Sung University in 1964, Kim Jong Il devoted himself to cultural, ideological and propaganda work in the Organizing and Directing Department of the Party Executive Committee.
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He banned the discussion of foreign film concepts at the Conference on Cosmetics, an important annual film conference. After ordering the destruction of the archives of the tire conference, Kim urged the participants to pay attention only to Kim Il Sung and the party’s teachings in creative work.
Since then, Kim Jong Il’s influence has grown in the fields of film and literary management, while he has resisted the liberal artistic influence of the de-Stalinizing Soviet Union.
Kim personally directed the production of films such as Sea of Blood (parts one and two, 1969).
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After that, Kim Jong Il began producing revolutionary operas. By this point, Kim had worked in the government arts administration for about three years.
He wrote a series of essays based on speeches he gave to executives and screwdrivers over the past five years,
Cinema plays an important role in the general development of art and literature. Therefore, it is a powerful ideological weapon for revolution and construction. Therefore, concentrating efforts on cinema, achieving success and continuous success in all fields of literature and art are the basic principles that we should follow in the literary and artistic revolution.
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In the thesis, Kim Jong Il attempted to apply the principles of North Korean Juche ideology to cinema, literature, and art.
According to Kim, “revolutionary” cinema was a means of revolutionizing all arts and literature and bringing the “unified ideology” of the Workers’ Party and Juche to society.
Kim’s main purpose is to use heroic film novels to make people into socialist people: “Juche Man”.
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The book covers aspects of cinema including film theory and literature, acting, performance, score, script, etc.
The book’s ideas are illustrated with examples from North Korean films, the most notable of which is Sea of Blood.
With regard to cinematographic art, two main theories have been proposed: the “humanist” literary theory and the “seed theory”. Both are seen as justifications for the party’s control over artistic creativity.
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Other ideas developed by the thesis are the so-called “modeling theory” and the “speed campaign”. Adherence to these principles will give the artwork the title of “collective work”.
However, this “realism” includes pure worship of the leader and juche, making it incomparable to the more common types of realism in film, such as the neorealism of Italy.
Kim is based on the idea that contemporary North Korea has transcended class struggle and that no real struggle can be depicted in cinema except the historical and external.
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This can be seen as a confirmation of the Zhdanov theory of Stalinism. No “negative people” who disagree with party policies can exist.
In portraying historical themes, traditions should be depicted selectively to meet long-term ideological needs, eliminating the “feudal ideology” of traditional stories and legends.
The theory of literature as “humanistic” (MR: inganhak) developed by Kim Jong Il asserts that literature exists in the human realm. The main theme of humanism is the problem of the good and right life, which can lead to propaganda and moral art. The idea of chajusang [ko] (Korean for ‘independent spirit’) is also prominent in humanistic theory. Chajusong is the metaphysical essence of humanity fighting against oppression. Philosophically, it rests on an uncertain view of freedom in Juche. In particular, the hero of the story is the embodiment of Chajusang. According to Kim, “humanist literature” emphasized the development of truly independent individuals as demanded by the Juche era. This changes the entire society. In North Korean literature, chajusang is used to justify state control over literary production.
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“Seed theory” (Korean: 종자론; MR: chongjaron) forms the essence of On the Art of Cinema, and thus, North Korean film theory in general.
It has been called a “weird concept,” a method of forcing artists to toe the party line, and a means of destroying individual creativity;
Kim Jong Il equates the film to a living organism, noting that in this comparison, the seed is its nucleus. The idea is that if every artistic interpretation is made from a single ideological premise or “seed”, the resulting cinema will become a whole. This motivates all members of the creative team to work toward the same goal, regardless of individual members’ differences in personality or focus. It is the director’s job to keep anything “extraneous” out of the cinema. Thus, the seed is the basic consciousness that underlies artistic creativity.
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More precisely, the seed is the foundation of the film’s promotional message: “a strong, convincing idea of what needs to be said”.
The seed unites the theme and idea of the work, thus providing both form and content.
For example, the seed of the film The Fate of a Self-Defense Soldier revolves around the choice of the main character, Gap Ryong: to die under oppression or sacrifice himself for the revolution. Its seed can be summed up as “Whether Gap Ryong joins the revolutionary movement or not, he dies.”
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The seed theory has become extremely influential in Korean literary circles, and writers have sought to locate the seed in Kim’s earlier masterpieces.
Apart from matters of art, the seed theory is applicable to a wide range of economic and industrial activities.
According to the “exemplary theory”, the liberation struggle must be expressed in a way that combines national struggle and class struggle. This is achieved through sculptural portraits of the North Korean people
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) demanded speedy film production. According to Kim Jong Il, by producing films as soon as possible, the overall revolutionary process would be accelerated.
Speed Operation originated from filming The Fate of a Self-Defense Corps Man when it was expected to take a full year.
This practice was also done after the publication of the book On the Art of Cinema. For example, the eight-part series Unsung Heroes (1979–1981) was based on a fast-paced campaign. Each film takes only 45 days to make.
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It is considered equally important to Kim Il Sung’s Cholima movement and remains an influential concept associated with Kim Jong Il’s leadership.
A detail of the mural shows the filmmaker holding the book On the Art of Cinema. Although the book is considered the supreme authority on North Korean cinema, it is unclear whether it will change the way films are made.
The official biography of Kim Jong Il describes The Art of Cinema as comprehensive, unique and “backed by perfect logic”.
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However, David-West points out that the work shows “some understanding of the structural elements of literary texts”.
However, the extent of the impact is doubtful. According to Johannes Schönherr, the work brings something new to Korean cinema,
And many of the ideas presented were abstract and vague, especially for the commercial audience of professional filmmakers for whom Kim was writing. Films before and after the publication of the thesis were remarkably similar, suggesting that it has practically had little effect on the North Korean film industry.
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Many characteristics of contemporary North Korean cinema, such as repetition, slow editing style, and outdated stage acting, go against the teachings of On the Art of Cinema.
Rather than contributing anything new, this work reinterprets Kim Il Sung’s ideas about the importance of cinema as a tool for art and propaganda. than
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