Mumblecore is a subgenre of independent film characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue (sometimes improvised), low-budget film production, an emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of people in their 20s and 30s. Filmmakers associated with the genre include Andrew Bujalski, Lynn Shelton, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Greta Gerwig, Aaron Katz, Joe Swanberg, and Ry Russo-Young; in many cases, though, these directors reject the term.
The term mumblegore has been used for films mixing the mumblecore and horror genres.
Naturalism – both in performance and dialogue – is a key feature of almost all mumblecore films. Early mumblecore films tended to feature non-professional actors, although later films have had more professional actors, including major stars such as Anna Kendrick (Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas) and Orlando Bloom (Digging for Fire). Some mumblecore films feature a prominent use of improvisation, with the cast sharing script credits, though some, like Bujalski's films, are mostly scripted.
Mumblecore films are generally produced with a low budget, which has ranged from several thousand to several million dollars as well as low production values. Filming is done in real places, as opposed to studio sets or soundstages. Many of these films are shot digitally, although Bujalski's films have all been shot on film. Soundtracks tend to be limited, or nonexistent.
Mumblecore films tend to revolve around characters in their twenties and early thirties who are usually single, white, and fairly aimless in both their professional and personal lives. Plots are often concerned with difficulties in romantic relationships, exacerbated by the characters' inability to articulate their own desires.
Influences on mumblecore
The genre can trace its roots back to the French New Wave of the 1960s—especially the films of Eric Rohmer—whose films focused on the romantic intrigues of characters, and depicted lengthy conversations.
Other films that have been described as influencing, or at least anticipating, the conventions of mumblecore include Girlfriends (1978), Manhattan (1979), Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Slacker (1991), Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), Clerks (1994), Go Fish (1994) and Before Sunrise (1995).
Another often-cited influence on mumblecore is the profusion of cheaper filmmaking technology starting in the early 2000s, such as the Panasonic AG-DVX100 video camera, and desktop video editing software such as Final Cut Pro.
The 2005 South by Southwest Film Festival screened a number of other films that came to be considered part of the mumblecore movement, including Bujalski's second film, Mutual Appreciation; The Puffy Chair, by Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass; and Kissing on the Mouth, by Joe Swanberg. That festival was also the origin of the term "mumblecore": Eric Masunaga, a sound editor who has worked with Bujalski, coined the term one night at a bar during the festival, when asked to describe the similarities between those three films. The term was first used publicly by Bujalski in an interview with indieWIRE. Bujalski has downplayed the existence of an organized "movement", however, and stated that he does not intentionally make "mumblecore" films.
Film journalists have also referred to the genre collectively with the terms "bedhead cinema" and "Slackavetes" (a portmanteau derived from the title of Richard Linklater's dialogue-heavy, lo-fi 1990s film Slacker, and the name of independent film director John Cassavetes).
In 2007, the IFC Center in New York City exhibited a ten-film series of mumblecore films, titled "The New Talkies: Generation D.I.Y."
Some critics have stated that mumblecore ended around 2010, as the original crop of directors began making films with larger budgets, more diverse storylines, and a more conventional cinematic approach. For this reason, films made since 2010 or so that retain an emphasis on naturalistic dialogue and plot are sometimes referred to as "post-mumblecore". Filmmakers who have been labelled as "post-mumblecore" include Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Sean Price Williams, Alex Karpovsky, Alex Ross Perry and Kate Lyn Sheil.
Influences on other genres
The big-budget films Magic Mike (2012) and its sequel Magic Mike XXL (2015) have been described as having mumblecore elements due to their use of naturalistic dialogue. Some TV series, including the HBO series Girls (2012), Looking (2014) and Togetherness (2015), and the Netflix series Easy (2017) have been called mumblecore-inspired, or, in the words of one critic, "mumbleshows".
Horror films using mumblecore techniques have resulted in the term "mumblegore." Films that have been described as "mumblegore" include Baghead (2008), The House of the Devil (2009), Entrance (2011), You're Next (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Sacrament (2013), and Creep (2014).
Outside the United States
Indian cinema has been producing independent films of the genre for decades. Directors like Sai Paranjpye have made films like Chashme Buddoor (1981) and Katha (1982). One of the more recent ones to come out from the Hindi scene is Sulemani Keeda.
Alvaro Robles (Chile) made the films "El Sueño del Caracol" (2000) and "Huevo Negro" (2001), both of which suggest similar principles as mumblecore. In that same time, in 2001, he wrote an essay on "post-cinema" (2001), in which he openly describes the essential characteristics of mumblecore, being a precedent of the movement outside the United States.
Mumblecore has not been a strictly American phenomenon. Since about 2009, the Berlin Mumblecore movement has had its own manifesto, Sehr gutes Manifest. Berlin Mumblecore is not a reaction to the American hype so much as it is a reaction to the lack of reform in the German public financial support system for the film industry (Filmfoerderung). Crowdfunding is a new possibility to finance movie productions with small and very small budgets independently from restrictions of the German Filmfoerderung.
In 2009, Jette Miller's Austern ohne Schale was screened in Berlin. In 2011, the movies Frontalwatte by Jakob Lass and Papa Gold by Tom Lass were released. The latter won several German film awards. 2012 saw the release of Klappe Cowboy by Timo Jacobs and Ulf Behrens, as well as the award-winning Dicke Mädchen by Axel Ranisch. In 2015, Malte Wirtz Voll Paula! had its theatrical release, having also been produced without film funding. Since then he produced three more Mumblecore Films (Hard & Ugly, Only one day in Berlin, About Rita!) and the media called him one of the most active german directors.
List of mumblecore films and television series
- Funny Ha Ha (2002)
- The Utopian Society (2003)
- Kissing on the Mouth (2005)
- The Puffy Chair (2005)
- Mutual Appreciation (2005)
- Dance Party USA (2006)
- LOL (2006)
- Young American Bodies (2006–2009)
- Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)
- Quiet City (2007)
- Hohokam (2007)
- Orphans (2007)
- Team Picture (2007)
- Pop Skull (2007)
- Baghead (2008)
- In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2008)
- The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008)
- Nights and Weekends (2008)
- My Effortless Brilliance (2008)
- Yeast (2008)
- Momma's Man (2008)
- Luke and Brie Are on a First Date (2008)
- Alexander the Last (2009)
- Medicine for Melancholy (2009)
- Humpday (2009)
- Beeswax (2009)
- Daddy Longlegs (2009)
- Sorry, Thanks (2009)
- The Exploding Girl (2009)
- Breaking Upwards (2009)
- Cyrus (2010)
- Gabi on the Roof in July (2010)
- Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2010)
- New Low (2010)
- Tiny Furniture (2010)
- You Wont Miss Me (2010)
- Overlook (2010)
- Cold Weather (2011)
- Art History (2011)
- Autoerotic (2011)
- Uncle Kent (2011)
- Entrance (2011)
- Silver Bullets (2011)
- Caitlin Plays Herself (2011)
- Your Sister's Sister (2011)
- Bellflower (2011)
- The Zone (2011)
- Memory Lane (2012)
- The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012)
- The Color Wheel (2012)
- Frances Ha (2012)
- Nobody Walks (2012)
- Sun Don't Shine (2012)
- I Want Your Love (2012)
- Ivy League Exorcist: The Bobby Jindal Story (2012)
- Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012)
- Save the Date (2012)
- Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012)
- Drinking Buddies (2013)
- All the Light in the Sky (2013)
- Touchy Feely (2013)
- I Love You, Apple, I Love You, Orange (2013)
- About Alex (2014)
- Adult Beginners (2014)
- Happy Christmas (2014)
- Sulemani Keeda (2014)
- The Overnight (2015)
- Midnight Delight (2016)
- Blue Jay (2016)
- Joshy (2016)
- Teenage Cocktail (2016)
- Easy (2016–2019)
- Waiting for Violette (2017)
- Support the Girls (2018)
- Importance (of Us) (2018)
- Only one day in Berlin (2018)
List of mumblegore films
- The Roost (2005)
- Murder Party (2007)
- The Signal (2007)
- Trigger Man (2007)
- Home Sick (2007)
- Pop Skull (2007)
- I Can See You (2008)
- Baghead (2008)
- The House of the Devil (2009)
- Red, White & Blue (2010)
- A Horrible Way to Die (2010)
- Frozen (2010)
- Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
- Silver Bullets (2011)
- Kill List (2011)
- The Innkeepers (2011)
- Entrance (2011)
- What Fun We Were Having (2011)
- You're Next (2011)
- V/H/S (2012)
- Sun Don't Shine (2012)
- Resolution (2012)
- Sightseers (2012)
- The Battery (2011)
- V/H/S/2 (2013)
- Cheap Thrills (2013)
- Coherence (2013)
- Blue Ruin (2013)
- 24 Exposures (2013)
- The Sacrament (2013)
- Proxy (2013)
- The Guest (2014)
- Honeymoon (2014)
- Creep (2014)
- Starry Eyes (2014)
- Bag Boy Lover Boy (2014)
- Goodnight Mommy (2014)
- Late Phases (2014)
- They Look Like People (2015)
- The Invitation (2015)
- Lace Crater (2015)
- Darling (2015)
- We Go On (2016)
- The Alchemist Cookbook (2016)
- Another Evil (2016)
- Creep 2 (2017)
- The Endless
- The Ritual (2017)
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- indieWIRE Interview: The Mumblecore Movement? Andrew Bujalski On His "Funny Ha Ha"
- indieWIRE: Mumblecore Movie? Swanberg, Bujalski, Duplass and Others Unveil "Hannah Takes The Stairs"
- The Austin Chronicle: Mumblecore And Murder
- Free Times: Features – Don't Call it "Mumblecore"
- "Digital Socialism: How Mumblecore Filmmaking is Defying Capitalism by Stephen Lee Naish
- "Mumblecore in Obama's America by Stephen Lee Naish"