Film brings things into familiarity. When we spend a few hours looking at a screen displaying images of people living their lives, we suspend our own existence and place ourselves into the existence of the characters on screen. Even after the film is over, the fact that we transported ourselves into an alternate universe leaves us with imprints of that world and more importantly with the messages contained within, behind, and in the film. With this familiarity, the audience softens up to ideas that come out of the film, assuming them to be real in the universe of the film. Even though viewers consciously believe that they are separating themselves by validating the ideas in only the universe of the film, the audience becomes unaware to the effects that come along with any suspension of beliefs at all.
Film affects us in more ways than we realize. It can numb us to death, injury, and gore. It can inspire us to great things; it can produce in us such grief that we feel as if we have lost a brother or mother. Film has capabilities to fashion our lives. We seek to imitate that which we see on others, and film contains people that will be seen by multitudes of people. Even those who resist the initial urge to copy the characters will eventually follow suit as the rest of society deems it necessary. However, forming styles and beliefs are not the only effects, as disseminating beliefs comes into play with many films. Film can be used to produce a strong hatred for something or to rise people to take action against something as well – as in the case of Leni Riefenstahl's propagandist films. But why is film so good at these things? Is it that we simply see films as a source of truth and authority that we must follow? Is it that we see film as something familiar that we identify with (even though the familiarity that we feel may be false)? Is it something else?
Ever since the inception of moving pictures, people have been captivated by the ability to simulate movement and in effect, life. From its very beginning film has had the ability to spread some message – whether it was one of change, hope, revolution, support, or expectations. It can bring about change in the world through social commentary, propaganda, and exaggeration. However, even with its potential for such impact film cannot exist without an audience to view them. It is the audience that allows cinema to be so effective in communicating its ideals and ideologies. Without first, engulfing the audience into its world, film has no hope of reaching its mass potential. Once the viewer is immersed in the universe created by the filmmakers, then only can the message be presented. As the audience become captivated, they also become susceptible and open to the ideas contained within each film, and in effect they take the content of the film and make it a part of themselves. It is no surprise then, that the introduction of sound films drastically changed the way films are watched. There was no longer the physical participation of reading and hearing the voices of other audience members. Those had been replaced with the voices of the characters and sensual participation that created a three dimensional world that could be imagined without ever being shown. No longer were audiences satisfied with what Gorky defined as a “shadow world.” They vied for a more realistic representation of life, which has continued to this day. Exaggerated acting and extreme close-ups took second place to witty dialogue and diegetic sound. In conclusion, film has been evolving from its very creation into a means of mass communication, and one of the biggest mutations in its genetic code occurred when sound-on-film was invented. Film has not been the same since, and it will continue to change as newer and grander methods of exhibition come into existence.