In the history corridor of film, there were a great number of classical disaster films. The sincerity, goodness and beauty of the human nature highlighted in films when the disasters took place always left us deep impression and meaningful afterthoughts. By empirical study, this paper tries to discuss how disaster film impact on psychology of audience. In this paper, we primarily discuss how disaster film shape audience conceptions and ideas, and further makes recommendations on the production and consumption of disaster films.
This paper discusses disaster films genres and the effects of disaster films on psychology of audiences.Although human’s ability to use and transform the nature strengthened with the advancement of science and technology, nature will not hide in a corner to be trampled upon. Once the disasters such as earthquakes, marine perils, floods, hurricanes, unexpected troubles, unknown virus, volcanic eruptions and weather mutation took place, the civilization that people are proud of immediately appeared fragile, and those fresh and alive lives also withered one after another. Environmental pollution, over-exploitation even exacerbated the violence of nature. The approaching of disasters always bring people with sadness and fear, and take away the most precious things of people, for example, life, property, healthy body even dream and hope. No matter how the nature developed, a suitable living environment is indispensible. While we seemed to overcome the nature day by day, we have to acknowledge that our life and happiness are bestowed by nature. As long as disaster happens, we would become helpless. In reality, audiences’ perceptions and ideas of disaster films are different. Some audiences take disaster film as a purely entertainment; some will rethink the human behaviors and re-examine the relationship between human and nature; and some other people may get into a panic, or spread rumors, in the extreme situation, people’s real life might be affected by disaster film as well. These different reactions make the research of disaster films with great significance, which can further guide the production and consumption of disaster films.
Rational for the project:
Understand the genres and psychological impact of disaster films to audiences can better guide the production and consumption of disaster films. Everyone refuses disasters, but it doesn’t mean that we should avoid thinking of the disaster. Only with deep reflections and thinking about disasters can we prevent the occurrence of the disaster, can we be alert on the disaster and find the inner strength in face of relentless scourge. Disaster film is a product of thinking and reflection. The flourishing ofdisaster film embodies the burgeoning of people’s attitudes to self-reflection in the process of rapid development of global science and technology, which is an upgrading of people’s self-understanding capacity. Disaster film not only pursued the life-like construction of disaster effects but also attached much importance to the pursuit and grasp of the life strength when people faced with disaster fate as well as the rational thinking of the development direction of society for people themselves.
Some previous researches suggest that audiences’ perceptions and behaviors of disaster films reflect mythological notions and misinformation; later some focuses on the popularity of disaster works. (Geduld, 1975; Kaplan, 1975) In the theme of disasters, most essays reflects “a negative public reaction to the advanced technology of modern societies”. (Quarantelli, 1980) However, some other studies suggest that disaster films have little impact on erroneous beliefs (Wenger, James and Faupel, 1980) Therefore it is worthy asking the following questions: does disaster films shape audiences’ perceptions and ideas of disaster? how disaster films influence on the psychology of audience? how to handle with misinformation and rumors from disaster films?
Expected impact of the work
As stated above, disaster films bring psychological impact on audiences. To answer these research questions, this study first investigates the psychological influences of disaster films to audiences, explains why the attitudes of audiences differ, and further discusses the social impact of disaster films; recommendations will also be addressed accordingly.
The definition of a disaster film is explained in the Dictionary of Film terms (2006) where the disaster film is a kind of feature film on the basis of natural or man-made disaster. It is a kind of film that takes the large-scale disaster that nature, human being and imaginary alien bring to human society as the theme, and the film takes the plot with panic, terror and miserable circumstance as well as the catastrophic scene to be the viewing effect. It is easy to find that the numerous definitions of disaster films induced the general features as the embodiment of catastrophic scene, people’s panic mentality in face of disaster as well as visual stimulation and horror effect that film technology produced. (Annan, David, 1975)
Disaster film developed in popularity during the first half of 1970s. In 1972, Poseidon directed by Irwin Allen and The Towering Inferno in 1974 embarked on the new chapter of the disaster film development. (Xavier Mendik, 2002: 50) Subsequently, Earthquake directed by Robin Mark debuted and won himsef great popularity. In 1976, the film The Great Train Disaster, also called Cassandra’s Crossing, jointly produced by west Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, showed the virus disaster in front of people for the first time. “he Running Train towards Death, The Virus Massively Devouring Life as well as the The Cassandra Crossing, all these Hollywood-style “last minute rescue” classic section were again used by the directors and made the film into a screen classic.
In the disaster films of 70s, a variety of disaster elements including air crash, marine perils, biological variation and lethal virus have been showed in the screen. From1975, a series ofJaws directed by Spielberg were continuously screened.Until the release of Dark Waters in 2007, the movie set a surprised scene for the appearance of purely evil shark disaster: the result that the American Navy secretly research on the variable sharks. The evil shark stories shocked audiences, which make them cannot stop thinking: Does some disasters result from human behaviors? Are there any secret experiments conducted in the real life? If so, what the future might be? Thus, it can easily conclude that the purely visual stimulation has gradually changed, and people started to realize the necessity to self-reflect on the behaviors of human themselves. (Stephen Keane, 2006)
Trauma brought by wars was also reflected in disaster films. In Japan, the disaster film at the moment embodied the third mentality of the audience except for vent and adventures. During 1970s, despite the period of frozen postwar economy has ended, the shadow of nuclear explosion in the World War II was clearly retained in the minds of Japanese. Hence, the movie produced by Japan vaguely displayed the Japanese panic mentality caused by nuclear war. (Broderick, Mick, 1992). From 1954 to 2004, Japan successively shot 17 Godzilla-themed films, including 13 films produced during 1960s and 1970s. The intensive shooting speed has glimpsed the gray lingering memories that the two nuclear bombs in the World War II left to Japanese. Then, the shock and concern even the fear to the nuclear war as well as the postwar in the minds of Japanese can be easily found, however, there was a far cry from the remade movie Godzilla by US in the 21st , which was elaborated with “educational meaning”. In these films, although Godzilla was a monster that was imagined in the minds of Japanese, it, in a certain sense, was a kind of shift of the disaster shadows in the heart of Japanese. Also in 1974, the film Nihon Chinbotsu adapted from the novel with the same name depicted that the Japanese island would gradually sink to the bottom within a year. The movie expanded people’s eschatological panic and presented it in front of the people. Although the film merely confined the vision to the Japanese island, and distinguished the global destruction caused by ecological disaster, the presentation of the “doomsday complex” tolled the alarm bell of living dilemma of human being. (Wheeler John, 2010)