#NewsBytesExplainer: What is avant-garde cinema? Know everything about it
Avant-garde cinema, also known as offbeat or unconventional cinema, marks a departure from the mainstream style of filmmaking and is strikingly different in its tone, content, and overall approach. It not only aims to break the tradition and politicize the issues but also redefines subjectivity and representation. Avant-garde films have had a long history and have a niche both in Hollywood and Bollywood.
'These films explore issues of time, space, dreams, fantasy'
Avant-garde films let the audiences question or challenge what they think about what they see. While there's usually no conventional point for such movies, they explore topics like dreams, fantasy, perception, time, and space. They also tend to be eccentric, unique, innovative, or sometimes even frightening. The films are best identified by their strong cinematography and are typically a blend of different genres.
Where does the word 'avant-garde' come from?
Per Studio Binder, Avant-garde is a French term that translates to "advance guard"—the first people to "encounter/experience something new." "When applied to a piece of work, the descriptor refers to something that pushes or breaks boundaries, innovates on techniques or aesthetics, or challenges the norm with radical or bizarre ideas and presentation." Such films are usually, if not always, released on a small scale.
Avant-garde movies often overlap with surrealism style of cinema
Surrealism, which crisscrosses with avant-garde films, is an "art movement" established in 1924 by Andre Breton and also outlined in his book The Surrealist Manifesto," per Studio Binder. Besides being an art movement, it is also considered a technique. "Surrealism as a technique relies on the juxtaposition of symbols, images, or actions to create a world outside of reality, a super-reality," explains Studio Binder.
Films may have no sound track, rapid editing
These films pave the way for the viewers to read between the lines and look beyond the obvious, exploring elements like the surface, texture, light, hue, and reflections, too. Other common defining features are the lack of linear narrative, usage of asynchronous sounds, absence of a soundtrack, and employing abstracting techniques like out-of-focus shots, painting/scratching on film, and rapid editing.
Some examples of international experimental movies
The streaming platform MUBI has an expansive collection of avant-garde films that are difficult to find on others. Examples include Stalker, Dogtooth, Solaris, The Seventh Seal, Eraserhead, The Snails, The Box, Diary of a Country Priest, Time to Love, Manta Ray, Taste of Cherry, and The 400 Blows, among others. Not just America, avant-garde films have emanated from Russia, France, and other nations, too.
How many of these movies have you watched?
Shabana Azmi, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Kamal Haasan, Anurag Kashyap, Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, and Gulzar, among several others, are considered the frontrunners of experimental cinema in India. Some examples of such films include Sparsh, Mandi, AK vs AK, No Smoking, Love Sex Aur Dhokha, Satya, Udaan, Gangs of Wasseypur, Dhobi Ghat, My Brother...Nikhil, and Tumbbad, among others.