Auteur or Not Auteur?

Peter Jackson has the recognition of being one of the greatest and most commercially successful directors of the modern era. His career really got international attention with his repertoire of “slapstick” horror comedies that began in 1987 when his first feature film Bad Taste came out. This film he did was shot during the weekends that Jackson had off because he had a full time job, with his friends as producers and actors. Also, the masks and weapons used in this film were made by Peter Jackson himself. So, we can see from here that Peter Jackson takes a special interest in all the movies he does. However, one movie he did really outshined Bad Taste in a big way was the movie that got him extra close attention from Hollywood and that was the movie Heavenly Creatures. This movie is based off of the true story of the Parker/Hulme murder of 1954 where Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme were convicted of killing Pauline’s mother Honora Rieper. The movie skyrocketed Jackson’s career into heights that would lead him into dominating statuses.

            Throughout his career, Jackson has shown finesse in him moviemaking and real artistry in what he makes. One word that can describe this man is auteur, which is the term used for any director who is recognized as the primary creative force behind any movie he does. The term was first introduced by François Truffaut when he said that there were only two ways to study in depth in film, by either the genre or the director. By looking at the director of a film, according to Truffaut, you can look at how a certain director makes his/her movies and why they do the things that they do. To me, Peter Jackson is one of the auteurs of the late 20th and early 21st century because he has made movies that can give big hints on his style of filmmaking, the way he talks about film, and how commercially and critically successful his movies have been.

            One of the big and most stand out reasons why Peter Jackson is a great auteur is because he has his own patented signature style to whatever movie he directs. All auteur have their own style, but Peter Jackson is an auteur that is in a league all by himself, at a height and uniqueness all to himself. One cimatic style he uses was that he usually filmed scenes at many different angles. We see this in all movies he has done, especially Lord of the Rings. For example, during the battle sequence at Amon Hen, there were many different angles in this well choreographed sequence, ranging from low angle, high angle, pans and tracks, close ups, sometimes skewed angles, and much more. Another example is one from Heavenly Creatures, specifically the murder scene then the angles went from close-ups to low angle shots to high angles. It went all over the place during that scene. He shoots his scenes, sometimes days at a time for one scene, at many different angles because, according to him, it gives him more options and free data for editing time. This is why it took so long to make the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was known for being especially picky on what he wanted the movie to look. He was a total perfectionist during the entire process of filming Lord of the Rings. Also, Peter Jackson was known for having a good sense of humor and for some of his other movies, a pretty vulgar sense of humor, but a sense of humor nonetheless. A pretty blunt example of this is Merry and Pippin of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They were always the ones to make a joke when it is needed to keep everyone sane, and they never seemed to take things seriously, which both helped them and hindered them in the long run. Another relationship that gets a lot of laughs was the relationship between Gimli and Legolas. For some unknown reason, these two have had a tense, but somewhat friendly relationship because of how their races have feuded in the past, but it wasn’t a bloody violent feud, but maybe a personality clash.

            Another reason why Peter Jackson is a great auteur is because of his love for film and the way he talks about it. When people asked him about himself being an auteur, he replied by saying “I don’t quite know what an auteur is. I never quite understand that term because filmmaking is such a huge team effort. I regard myself as being the final filter, so that anything that ends up in the movie is there because it’s something that I would think was cool in a movie somebody else had made. I very much tried to make a film that I’d enjoy, but I’m open to ideas. I need a huge team of people to help me and I try to encourage everyone to contribute as much as possible. I think that’s the job of a director, really, to sort of funnel all the creativity into one centralized point of being.” To me, this is a good response to that because the man is, by definition, an auteur, but he is too modest to say that he is, and that shows he is humble and cares for other people’s contributions to a film. I also agree with the statement that making a movie is such a big team effort, because if we didn’t have one of those things needed to make a movie, it couldn’t be made. He also talked about his inspiration to become a film director, which was when he watched the ’33 King Kong, to which he said “It did inspire me to become a filmmaker, absolutely. To such a profound effect that I saw the original "Kong" on TV when I was 9 on a Friday night and that weekend I grabbed some plasticine and made a brontosaurus. I got my parent’s Super-8 movie camera and tried to animate the plasticine dinosaur. Really it was a moment in time when I just wanted to do special effects and do monsters and creatures and ultimately led to becoming a filmmaker. I didn’t really know what directing was when I was 9; it was more about monsters at that stage. The original Kong, to me, is a wonderful piece of escapist entertainment. It has everything that’s really cool about movies like a lost, remote island, a giant ape, dinosaurs, and it also has this wonderful heart and soul. It has this empathetic creature who, when I was 9 I cried at the end of the movie, when he was killed on the Empire State Building. That moment of shedding tears for him has stayed with me. That level of emotional engagement and pure escapism is what I personally like about the movies. Everybody goes to the movies for different reasons, has different tastes, but for me that’s a great piece of escapist entertainment”. Now, anyone who looks at these answers to some very good questions, you can definitely see that this man is an auteur.

            Finally, Peter Jackson is an auteur because he can not only make his movies art, but he can also turn them into dollar signs. Jackson has directed three of the best, most commercially successful movies ever made. First of all, when he directed and finished up with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, it was deemed after a few years as one of the best movies ever mad of all time, and also counted as #2 on the greatest fantasy movies lists. This movie also made the dollar signs when it became the 19th highest grossing film of all time, winning itself 4 Academy Awards and 5 BAFTA Awards. Also, the movie that really hit pay dirt for Jackson was Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King. This film won 17 Academy Awards and, although not considered in the AFI list, but it was the 3rd highest grossing film of all time, next to Titanic and Avatar, which were both directed by James Cameron. What makes this even sweeter is that Peter Jackson is the 7th highest grossing director of all time, while making on an average of 253.6 million, the second highest average profit per film, next to George Lucas. To me, the box office success of a director has a noticeable part in how auteurish a director can be, such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

Peter Jackson is one of the big dogs in the movie industry right now, and has been for the past fifteen years with the release and skyrocketing success of Heavenly Creatures. He has already had huge success commercially and artistically, but I believe that his success has only just begun. I believe that this man will create a movie that will be more successful than Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or even Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I believe this man, this auteur will bring something to the table that hasn’t been done before, something that will make people completely speechless when they see it. Peter Jackson is already great now, wait until he makes the movie that everyone will look at like how people look at Orson Welles from Citizen Kane.