Toward a Mormon Cinematic Aesthetic : Film Styles in Legacy
Hollywood films usually follow a particular style. Viewers have come to expect these films will focus on a few main characters and follow their progression through a "crisis" to an eventual resolution. "Hollywood style insists upon protagonists who are psychologically well-rounded characters that sustain our attention and whose actions bring about the necessary narrative resolution." All the elements of the film, the music, the setting, the editing, and staging, all propel the film toward this resolution. The film "Legacy" which was commissioned by the Church, and shown for many years at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, has many elements of the Hollywood film style, especially in the music and "visual style." It also has elements of a documentary and what screenwriter and directory Paul Schrader named the "transcendental style." The transcendental style is the opposite of the Hollywood film. This type of film is trying to create a transcendental religious experience "through denial of the rich world of images and sounds that movies so amply provide." The episodic narrative of Legacy, the two-dimensional characters in the film, and the resistance to "edit for continuity" may be considered more transcendental than Hollywood. However, the film also departs from both styles, primarily as it "subordinates" the story of the main character, Eliza, and focuses instead on the "centrality of the group and its striving toward the social and religious ideal of Zion." It is not the individual that is important, but the entire group. Early church members and their later descendents are all part of the Body of Christ, and it is this imagery that is "the basis of a distinctive Mormon aesthetic."