A film genre [ fɪlmʒɑ̃ʀə ] is understood to be a group of films that have something in common from a specific point of view. These similarities can exist in particular in a certain narrative form ( film comedy , drama ) or basic mood ( romance film , thriller ), with regard to the subject of the plot ( crime film , fantasy film ) or in historical or spatial references ( historical film ). Films that can be assigned to the so-called core genres such as science fiction , fantasy , horror , action , thriller, dark drama, mystery are referred to as genre films . One speaks of genre film “when the concept of genre plays a more active role in production and consumption”. Genre films should therefore primarily have commercial success through the use of popular narrative forms, themes, etc.
Inventories have shown that in the course of time, at least a high three-digit number of different film groups have their own genre names. This result can largely be explained by the fact that film reviews and cinema advertising often refer to other films, and this need repeatedly generates new genre names. A tendency that is favored by the fact that films often have the characteristics of several genres (see genre syncretism ) and the respective combinations are often proclaimed as new genres. This approach is not supported by film genre theory . This defines individual genres in particular through close production contexts, a repertoire of conventionalized forms and a stable understanding that exists both on the part of the producers and the audience.
How controversial definitions can be is illustrated by the example of film noir , in which film scholars do not agree on whether to speak of a film genre or a style.
Development of the film genre concept
The development of the term film genre in the first decades of the 20th century went hand in hand with the increasing importance of film as an economic factor. Based on genre definitions that had been developed in the 19th century for individual branches of mass produced entertainment literature (see trivial literature ), the film industry increasingly began to schematize actions , subjects , moods , narrative forms and other influencing factors. Similar productions were labeled with genre names, the main function of which was to send marketing messages to the expectations of the audience. This is particularly the case if a previous film had proven to be commercially profitable and this success was to be built on with further productions based on the corresponding knitting pattern. On the one hand, film genres developed into more or less reliable calculation factors. In particular in the studio system of the then already leading film country USA, production units emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, each specialized in the production of films of a certain genre. Mainly westerns , comedies , gangster films and horror films represented the first demarcated film genres during this period. In this context, music films should also be mentioned , which formed a successful independent genre at the beginning of the sound film era , as well as productions whose subject was a love relationship and which had to end with a happy ending. The genre film established itself as a constant in the period from 1930 to 1950 at the latest. In the US studio system, it manifested itself in the form of B-films , each of which served a specific genre with which the audience connected clearly defined expectations.
Differentiation from other film genres and styles
Despite all the definition and demarcation difficulties, it is at least largely undisputed that the term genre is not applied to the “major genres” of the film. This includes in particular the genera feature film , documentary , experimental film , news film , documentary film , educational film , advertising film / propaganda film and Commercial Film .
Although the term independent film genre is sometimes used in connection with certain production conditions (e.g. independent film ) or with a certain length of films (e.g. short film ), these are not in the narrower sense such. This also applies in connection with target groups to whom films are primarily aimed (e.g. children's films and youth films ).
It is comparatively difficult to distinguish between certain styles and movements. Although currents such as the Nouvelle Vague or Italian Neorealism are of great importance in the history of film, the majority of them are not regarded as genres. This is because the individual productions u. a. too different in aesthetic terms.
Classification of major film genres
In their entirety, film genres have not yet been systematized, also because of the change in meaning that film genres have often undergone over time. But also because genre names can be understood differently in different cultural or linguistic contexts. For example, in the English-speaking world, a film drama is largely understood to be a film that is characterized by a pronounced representation of individual personalities, while the feature of this film genre, as understood in German-speaking countries, in a plot in the sense of the classic drama or in a particularly exciting or tragic course of the action.
Taking into account the grouping aspect mentioned at the beginning, the following film genres can be distinguished:
- Marcus Stiglegger (Hrsg.): Handbuch Filmgenre . Springer Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2018, ISBN 978-3-658-09631-1
- Thomas Koebner (Ed.): Reclams Sachlexikon des Films . Ditzingen, 2002, ISBN 3-15-010495-5
- Liz-Anne Bawden (Ed.): Bucher's Encyclopedia of Films . Munich, 1989, ISBN 3-7658-0422-3
- Rainer Rother (Ed.): Sachlexikon Film . Reinbek, 1997, ISBN 3-499-16515-5
- Rick Altman: Film / Genre . London, 2000, ISBN 0-85170-717-3
- Barry Keith Grant: Film Genre Reader . Austin, 2003, ISBN 0-292-70184-5 and ISBN 0-292-70185-3
- Katrin Bornemann: Carneval of Affects. A genre theory. Marburg, 2009, ISBN 978-3-89472-556-3
- School of the screenplay genre guide Norderstedt 2012 ISBN 978-3-8482-1557-7
- Text collection on genres and on genre problems - constantly growing database at drippink
- Jörg Schweinitz : "Genre" and lively genre awareness - in Montage / AV 3, 1994, issue 2 (PDF; 226 kB)
- Marcus Stiglegger: Film Genres. On the genre poetics of the film
- Genre cinema - mediamanual.at of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Art and Culture
- Altman, Rick: Film and Genre. In: History of International Film, p. 254