The Art of Storytelling

What is art? What is its purpose? What is its meaning and why are we always talking about it or participating in it?
Some say that art is a form of expression. A language of the soul that can be philosophically understood by the mind but is perceived with the help of our tangible senses. Some say that it is something beyond our senses – a culmination of them all to create an experience that stays with you for a long time. It has also been defined by some as a unique way of appreciating beauty. There are others who also say that art is defined by the way in which a person lives life. All of this puts us in deep thought. But when we come down to the crux of the matter, art is a way of trying to say something and that makes it a form of storytelling. The story of an incident, an event, a feeling, a place, a thought, an idea or a story of another story. Art and storytelling thus seem to have a synonymous relationship.
Artists have always had a way of expressing their work and defining it in their own words. Let’s take the example for a few famous names that we’ve come across:
One of the greatest artists to have walked our planet was Leonardo Da Vinci. “Learn how to see. Realise that everything leads to everything else”; and he was right in saying so because he was not only an artist but also a scientist, inventor, sculptor and storyteller.
Arguably one of the ‘big-4’ influencers of classical music, Ludwig Van Beethoven was legendary for his emotion-filled compositions. His own story of losing his hearing senses in his late 20’s and then composing symphonies is an extraordinary tale in its own right.
As the epitome of martial arts, Bruce Lee (Lee-Jun-fan) had philosophy flowing through his veins. He believed that “Art calls from complete mastery of techniques, developed by reflection within the soul.” He also used his love of philosophy and martial arts as film-star.
Known as The Polish Vatel (a man of bold and distinct status), Stanislaw Czerniecki created his fable by publishing the first ever cook book in the world – a Latin & Polish Bilingual known simply as ‘A collection of Dishes’. He rose to aristocracy and worked in many of the royal houses and served as a soldier. He created the first ever story of tastes.
When Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel) made it look like as if she dropped a bottle of perfume, she created her own saga that is known today as Chanel No.5. She enticed every customer that walked into the store with a lingering fragrance and made the shop owner stock her product without question.
In a way, storytelling is the culmination of arts. Whether told in the form of a song, music, words or in action, storytelling is meant to either educate you with knowledge or connect with you by empathising with the subject matter. The method is also an important tool that has deep impact, if done in a way that resonates with us. Writer Robert McKee is quoted to have said that "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today". As a master storyteller, he understands that every science needs explanation and every explanation happens through a story. Poets, writers, artists, filmmakers - all look at storytelling to share their art. And in the film business, this means big bucks!
It isn’t just an audio-visual medium; it transcends the senses of sight and sound to create experiences, with the help of its storytelling. Whether an ad film (advertisement), a documentary (a study / documentation of the topic) or a feature film (commercial cinema – entertainment); what is evident in filmmaking is a storytelling format that is used to capture the interest of the audience. What we say is as important and significant as how we say it.
Filmmakers from across the world that have gained a place for themselves in their domains will always vouch for compelling storytelling to share their art. Whether it is Akira Korusawa from the Far East, Shyam Benegal from India, Massimo Troisi from Italy or Steven Spielberg in the USA, their primary focus deals with 2 major components – the subject and the means. While E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Jurassic Park (1993) made us reimagine the world of aliens and science fiction that led us back to prehistoric earth, they were still very human. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial showed us friendship, humour and the value of life regardless of where it is from; Jurassic Park showed us how as a species, we (humans) are the ones who are the most dangerous of all.
In the initial years of Walt Disney’s animation films, audiences thronged to see the wonders of talking animals and the idea of personifying them. Later however, animation became tagged as “children’s stories”. But with powerful storytelling, this has changed, over the years films such as Bambi (1942) and Lion King (1994) showed us how to deal with loss and overcome it to hold our own, Kung Fu Panda (2008) showed us courage and persistence. Delicate matters and ideas have been handled with ease and entertainingly so; and that shows the prowess of a true-blue storyteller. Even topics such as awareness and action for climate change have been dealt with through impressive animation and binding storytelling in films.
Books, music, art, food and films take us to different worlds and show us experiences that are out of the ordinary; what makes them relatable and valuable to us is the art of storytelling. And as the Father of Animation once said, “We have created characters and animated them in the dimension of depth, revealing through them to our perturbed world that the things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us”.

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