Let's have a debate. A couple months ago I wrote a piece on Don't You Forget About Me, a documentary in which a bunch of young Canadian filmmakers travel to Chicago in hopes of getting an interview with John Hughes not long before his death. The piece ultimately ended up a reflection on what constitutes realism in film. Check it out here. Essentially, to repeat myself, film realism is not the same as reality because, since the camera is a recorder of literal events, realism in film comes down to what can be considered believable. In that sense The Dark Knight, despite taking place in a fictitious city with superheros and villains, is a more realistic film than say, a satire like Kick-Ass, which takes place in the real world. The Dark Knight creates a world that is both fully believable as itself and that takes itself seriously as a real place. We don't quite know any place on Earth like Gotham City or anyone quite like Batman or The Joker, but they mimic qualities that we associate with real people. They mirror our beliefs and what they stand for makes sense in a logical human world. That's film realism. To repeat once again, John Hughes' movies aren't so much realistic in that they present a portrait of what being a teenager is really like but that they create an idealized portrait of how teenagers would like to see themselves. They deal with emotions that aren't outside of human grasp even if they are simplified flights of fancy when juxtaposed against the messy, complicated realism of everyday life. As I've said before to the age old question of whether life imitates art or art imitates life: it's a two-way street, we'd like to think we talk like they do in the movies and the movies would like to think they talk like we do in real life. Even a film that appears to be dealing in realism like Gus Van Sant's Elephant with it's unprofessional teen actors, it's basis on real events, it's reliance on anti-climax, etc, is not so much a realistic portrait because of it's deliberate artistry. Elephant is a film that translates the banal into poetic-tragedy. It understand what it is like to exist in a moment when something is occurring that you can't quite grasp, but I suspect it is more a 20/20 hindsight reflection of the inherent meaning of Columbine than a realistic portrayal of what it felt like to be there, in that moment, as these events were occurring. In reality, realism isn't much desired in films. As much as we critics pine for it and accuse filmmakers for not giving it to us, what we really want is believability, even in the face of insurmountable perposterousness. A movie, anyway, doesn't need to be believable to be successful, but it needs to at least believe in itself, which, when you think about it, is kind of the same thing. So what do you think? Is there a successful (or any) film out there that is an honest representation of day-to-day reality? Let's throw some titles around and debate this. I believe I know one film that successfully depicts realism (which is what inspired this) but I'll wait to weigh in in the comments after seeing what people come up with.