The auteur theory and implications for adaptations
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The Auteur Theory and implications for adaptations . Signing the Screen . The Role of the Auteur. The theory of authorship in modern day culture is crucial. An author of a film has a great impact on the films we watch.

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The role of the auteur
The Role of the Auteur

  • The theory of authorship in modern day culture is crucial. An author of a film has a great impact on the films we watch.

  • The role of the author was born from classicism (a poetic movement which questioned meaning and engaged the meaning of texts – it was here the writer became more important than the text produced – 19th 20th Century), and has moved and developed with each stage of history, becoming increasingly more complex.

Authorship in film
Authorship in Film

  • The auteur theory applied itself more specifically to film in the 1950s with a group of young French critics – including Jean-Luc Goddard, and Truffaut) named Cahiers du Cinema who watched a backlog of American films (following the war)and noted similarities between differing works by the same director. This was later established by Francois Truffaut in La Politique de Auteurs 1954.

  • Andrew Sarris was a theorist who was influenced by the Cahiers de Cinema: “I will give the Cahiers full credit for the original formulation of the idea that reshaped my thinking on the cinema (Sarris 1962). From this reformation of thought Sarris provided readers with a whole criteria of the auteur and his article in Film Culture 1962 Sarris suggests that an auteur is born from a layered system of abilities:

Concentric circles
Concentric Circles

  • “The Three premise of the auteur theory may be visualised as three concentric circles, the outer circle as technique, the middle circle a personal style, and the inner circle interior meaning. The corresponding roles of the director may be designated as those of a technician, a stylist, and an auteur”.

  • Technician

  • Stylist

  • Auteur

Concentric circles1
Concentric Circles

Technician – Techniques

Stylist – Personal Style

Auteur – Interior Meaning

The first
The First

  • Jean Luc Goddard became one of the first French auteurs – first emulated the American Cinema and then turned against it, instead choosing to deconstruct the text and take apart the structure and expose it to the audience.

  • “Jean Luc Goddard – I pity the French Cinema because it has no money, I pity the American Cinema because it has no ideas”.

Made in the USA, Le Weekend, Bande a Part

Sofia coppola
Sofia Coppola

  • Technician: slow narrative, timed, paced, close ups, allows time to develop characters.

  • Stylist: nonchalant, wandering, serene narrative, dream like, female centred. Aesthetically beautiful, nature.

  • Auteur: captures the X/Y generation niche, focuses on the apathetic generation. Focuses on internal character development. The female as object of desire / child. Eternal youth.

Virgin Suicides, LIT, Marie Antoinette


  • Technician: blockbusters, slick editing, continuity, long drawn out narrative, linear.

  • Stylist: the epic, blockbuster, fantasy, science fiction, adventure, high budget, accessible, glossy.

  • Auteur : happy endings, white male victory, USA as centre of world, or world leader, realistic male/female relationships.

Jaws, ET, Minority Report, War of the Worlds

Baz luhrmann
Baz Luhrmann

  • Technician: quick cutting, large scale choreography, inclusion of song, dance or elaborate costume.

  • Stylist: bravado, large scale, camp, fast paced, artistic, visually stunning, kitsch.

  • Auteur: creating obscure barriers to make audience work at meaning. Song, Words, Dance. Females being idolised/adored. Creating more flippant angle to serious subject.

Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet, Strictly Ballroom, Australia


  • Technician: strict filming schedule and unusual camera angles. Total command over all elements.

  • Stylist: suspense, thriller genre, lovable rogue characters, gritty.

  • Auteur: the classic blonde, heroine, the powerful masculine male, the suspense genre, gimmicks.

Rear Window, The Birds, Psycho

Quentin tarantino
Quentin Tarantino

  • Technician: narrative subversions, rough cutting, quick cuts, quick paced, “cool” soundtrack.

  • Stylist: “cool” characters, slick dialogue, timeless character and costume.

  • Auteur: Drug taking, violence, strong independent women, pop culture genres, reinvention and emulation of other directors.

Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill

James cameron
James Cameron

  • Technician: slick camera cuts and linear narrative, eerie lighting.

  • Stylistic: science fiction, action, doomsday, distopic, epics, big budget. Genetic distortion. Craves critical praise.

  • Auteur: powerful, masculinised females, the limits of the human body.

Aliens, Terminator 2, Titanic

Martin scorsese
Martin Scorsese

  • Technician: rough cutting, distinct lighting, broad violent characters. Linear narrative, realism.

  • Stylist: USA gangster or mob stories. Inner city realism, epic films, visionary, trend setter?

  • Auteur: morality tales, religious undertones, inner city working class, heavily masculine, patriarchal society. The male having to prove themselves.

Goodfellas, The Aviator, Mean Streets

Jane campion
Jane Campion

  • Technician: morose lighting, camera tricks, moody atmosphere.

  • Stylist: high art, stylised, dark, female orientated, beautiful settings vs / contrasts with sharp, heady, sinister, interior.

  • Auteur: repressed sexuality, insightful characters, deep emotions.

In the Cut, The Piano,

Portrait of a Lady

To oppose
To Oppose

  • Some would protest to the idea of the auteur theory as a film is created via a numerous amount of production staff, producers editors etc.

  • Many people would suggest a film is only really created in its editing.

  • Many believe that the auteur theory is self-indulgent rubbish that allows directors to think themselves as critically viable.

  • What do you think?

To summarise
To Summarise

  • Auteur theory was happened on by mistake but has shaped our understanding of cinema.

  • There are many examples of potential auteurs, who decides when a director truly becomes an auteur?

  • There are three concentric circles called...?

  • Opposition suggest many arguments against the auteur theory.