The Authenticity Aesthetics of Film in the Context of Digital Technology

Written by Jiawei Chen

With a wide range of digital technology and virtual technology used into the film, Bazin’s theory about ‘authenticity’ has been questioned. The enormous effect of digitalization on film has driven some people to discuss the status of “authenticity” in the cinema again. In fact, when we interpret the ontology of the photographic image of Bazin (1960), we will find that he emphasises “view of reality”, which embodies the authenticity of photographic image has integrated the spurious with the real and satisfy the audience’s expectations and restore the authenticity via complicated meaning. When digital technology was used to the film, it creates a new style of cinematic language. It also strengthens the visionary reality caused the virtual space-time and produces some virtualizing characters so as to make the audience has a sense of immersion.


In the digital era, digital technology creates the “non-reality of authenticity”, which is means that the image of characters, scene, and story was produced by the computer instead of the camera (Frame, 2016). Despite it could make the virtual image have the real feature, but it also could not change the audience’s requirement of the authenticity aesthetics in the film.

However, authenticity could be restored when digital technology use in the film. The digital film creates the real world in the virtual image (Somdahl-Sands, & Finn, 2015), which affect the audiences engage in the story and believe it. For instance, in the Forrest Gump, through digital technique to capture the moment when Gump meets Kennedy. Producers use the digital technology to create a real status. In addition, the existence of the image conforms to the audience’s psychological reality. As we all know that there can be no Superman and Spiderman in the real world, but we still love to watch this kind of films. Because these films create an image that we want to know and imagine, it fulfils audience’s psychical expectation. Furthermore, compared with the authenticity and reality of the traditional film, the virtual era of the film has a better simulation, it can simulate a full range of realistic characteristics. The moving image created by the computer not only can simulate the real but also even can transcend the real world and present the visual effect which it is hard to imagine.


Bazin, A. (1960) “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” and “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema” in What is Cinema Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 9-39.

Frame, G. (2016). “The Real Thing”: Election Campaigns and The Question of Authenticity in American Film and Television. Journal of American Studies50(3), 755-777.

Somdahl-Sands, K., & Finn, J. C. (2015). Media, performance, and pastpresents: authenticity in the digital age. GeoJournal80(6), 811-819.

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