Chaos Cinema: How to Trade Visual Intelligibility?

Written by Jiawei Chen

Even though they were commercial cinema in a strict manner, action movies were produced meticulously by means of the language of cinematography and the narratives and the portrayal of their personae in the better part of the 20th century, but that has shifted for the past 20 years. We all call to mind the classical action films because of these films’ exceptional staging and camera work are well-nigh perfect. Additionally, such cinema attached enormous importance to dimensions of space to steer clear of disorientation of the audience and permitting it to deal with the story in emotional terms; that is one of the tasks most crucial for good cinema: the ‘suspension of disbelief’.


As Stork (2011) has commented, in the past 20 years’ action movies have turned out to become quicker, overloaded and bloated. They “trade visual intelligibility for sensory overload.” Actually, the movement in filmmaking towards commercial purposes in the past 20 years, wherein a sense of spatial unity has been disturbed by a deliberately less coherence (and sometimes incoherent) aestheticism. Coarse camerawork and quick-cut editing act as base markers of chaos cinema, but lighting, film speed, and zoom are also utilized in distorting the “clear” image.


David Bordwell (2002) has already noticed this tendency and conceptualized it with the name: intensified continuity. Bordwell (2002, p.17) has gathered that many of these techniques finally push a classical agenda but in modified manner. For classical techniques of cinematography and editing, the notion is that they are likely to fill in the blanks whenever a specific sequence clouds some of visual clarity. This technique is likely to fulfil a number of purposes. In the classic narrative sense, it is likely to reflect a character’s befuddled state or it may symbolize the chaotic environment of war or panic. But Stork (2011) considers this trend as usurping concepts of visual cohesiveness in tradition and turning out to be a brand-new base aesthetic of popular cinema (and action films in particular).

Transformers3 Explosion

For another thing, remarkable soundtracks characterize the inadequacies of Chaos Cinema as compensatory work for what a director is unable to convey by visual means. In actual fact, the sound is of vital importance but should serve as a complement to a cinematographic language which is capable of becoming self-evident. In addition, in this kind of cinema dialogs are overly brief but commonly informative, thereby signaling characters’ short of genius. In general, Chaos cinema through close structure, rapid cutting, double lengths and the movement of chaos to trade the visual indelibility and overload.


Bordwell, D. (2002). Intensified continuity visual style in contemporary American film. FILM QUART55(3), 16-28.

Stork, M. (2011) Video essay. ‘Chao Cinmea’. Available from cinema-the-decline-and-fall-of-action-filmmaking-132832/  [Accessed 13 March 2017]


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