Moods and movies

Many scholars are interest in films and cities. Cities feature in films, people make films to explore city spaces, and tourists visit film locations. Artists create multimedia interactives about cities that also have a filmic aspect to them.

Take a look at Night Walk in Marseilles. It’s a slick art piece featuring the sounds, music, atmospheres and graffiti of Marseilles at night, with narration, routes and diversions, built on Google Streetview. Though it’s about a place rather than a story with characters, it carries much of the emotional force of a film.

FilmInfoCities are much like films in any case. In his book on “cine-scapes,” Richard Koeck outlines the ways that cities and films converge — structurally. In a film, shots inevitably are juxtaposed against one another, bringing about smooth transitions, or causing surprise: a shot of a smiling face followed by one of a playing child conjures up a different emotion than the same smile followed by a picture of a strangled body.

Architects, activists and graffiti artists are adept at creating such urban montages that provoke particular meanings and emotions. Koeck also refers to the use of the cut in architecture, and gradual transitions (dissolves). He then goes on to talk about the narrative qualities of spaces, those aspects that invite people to put themselves on show (spectator qualities), the way architects control views, creating prospect, translucency, and other optical qualities, and of course designers can alter sonic qualities by configuring spaces and activities.

I’m exploring mood and movement. So it’s helpful to think of people’s experience of space in filmic terms: movement and passage, framing, rhythm and sound tracks. This city-film discourse provides a further example of the complicity of media in our emotional landscapes. Those of us brought up with film can’t help but experience places coloured by the expectations provided by film techniques, and by films of particular places. Of course, the reverse can apply. The way places get depicted in film can bring to light just how different our everyday experience is. Like cities, films jar us into new realities by the differences they bring to light.



  • Koeck, Richard. 2013. Cine-scapes: Cinematic Spaces in Architecture and Cities. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge


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