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The Cinematic Power of Robert Zemeckis

by Antonios Papantoniou

  Robert Zemeckis has always been a misunderstood case. The main tendency is that the mass appeal and broad commercial success of his films has misled the majority of film critics and viewers alike to conclusions which are not usually supportive of Zemeckis' directorial vision as a whole. The truth is that his skill possesses an enormous cinematic quality as a filmmaker.

     I will quote two small phrases from Time Out's critic and analyst Geoff Andrew's excellent entry on the director as it appears in The Film Handook published in 1989 : "Zemeckis rarely opts for the obvious, almost every gag he stages is visual and thus fundamentally cinematic". Elsewhere he states "indeed motion is the crux of all Zemeckis' tall tales". It is this cinematic quality that sets early on Zemeckis apart from the broad group of Hollywood commercial directors. His expert use of the visual language in every shot that he stages is precise and detailed in a manner where motion and inner rhythm intertwine in a dynamic way. Zemeckis uses the mechanism of the narration by creating vibrant filmic entities. This strong fact combined with the director's tendency for constructing indelible images in a highly kinetic fashion, manage to elevate his films into a rich level of cinematic experience for the viewer. An experience that succeds to engage the audience in conscious and  subconscious ways.

  The other main point which strongly characterizes every Zemeckis film is the genuine humanity with which the director opts to imbue the story and his characters, thus providing his film canvases with a rich and warm texture. This approach works almost as a safety net for the viewer through the film's trajectory and turbulent moments. It is in this area where Zemeckis unabashedly steps on the tradition of genuine sentiment led decades before with Frank Capra especially in classic Hollywood tales like It's A Wonderful Life.

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