What Makes An Auteur?

The term ‘film auteur’ can be described as the way in which a director portrays their own personal perspective through their film making techniques.  For example, these unique qualities may be their use of reoccurring themes in the movies they make, mise-en-scene, lighting, or choosing to cast the same actors in a number of their films. The term originated in France where the ‘Auteur Theory’ was used to explain wherein ‘the director is seen as the central creative force in a motion picture’.

An example of a successful film maker who can be described as a film auteur, is the modern-day film director Jason Reitman.

This Canadian film director, who is in the category of the independent film industry and son of the highly acclaimed director of ‘Ghost Busters’ (1984), Ivan Reitman, has created an array of very successful films which all hold elements that portray his own personal film making style. These can be identified by the directors use of similar themes and camera angles, as well as his famous use of interestingly designed opening credits. To analyse these auteur features, four films will be discussed to demonstrate the directors independent style and use of controversial themes, as well as other particular features in his films.

It is evident that when comparing Baitman’s successful films that they all look at modern-day issues as well as possessing highly controversial themes. Two which hold very similar themes are the films ‘Juno’ (2007) and ‘Young Adult’ (2011) which tackle issues including teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption and adultery. The two comedies share the same quirky and witty humour which is very recognisable when compared.

Juno is about a 16 year girl who lives with her parents and is very socially disconnected. The story unfolds as she unexpectedly becomes pregnant and has to tackle through deciding whether to have an abortion, or to have the baby and consider going for adoption. This witty and humorous movie builds characterization very successfully,  making the viewer become greatly involved in the life of the leading character ‘Juno’, but it is also very moving as it tackles such deep themes including abortion and adoption; and how the young protagonist deals with these issues.

‘Young Adult’ is the story of a woman in her thirties who is mentally trapped in her teenage mind. She realises that her life is going no where and attempts to steal back her married childhood sweetheart. The film greatly focuses on adultery as well as the state of being in mental confusion.

Another distinctive feature in Reitman’s films is the directors use of similar quirky and creative camera angles which he puts in place in order to give a greater amount of detail and more information of the setting for the viewer. There are examples of this in ‘Up in the Air’ (2010) when the main character Ryan Bingham is seen arriving at his destination, and in various scenes in ‘Juno’, especially in scenes where she is at home. It is also notable that in these two films, Reitman makes use of the same famous actor to play a leading role: Jason Bateman.

‘Up In the Air’  (2010)

‘Juno’ (2007)

Another interesting aspect of Reitman’s films is the special attention which he pays to his movies’ opening credits. Reitman creates long running stylistic opening credits which intrigues the viewer as well as keeps them captivated throughout the whole of the credits. Here are two examples from ‘Juno’ and ‘Thank You for Smoking’ (2005):

In ‘Juno’, the main character played by Ellen Page was required to walk on a treadmill to create the effect of the animation. This opening sequence was highly regarded in 2007, and was considered to be the most recognisable of that year.

The opening credits for ‘Thank You for Smoking’ very much captures the capitalist theme of the movie as it replaces members of the films titles with cigarette box labels.

Other Reitman films have also featured very creative opening credits which symbolise the meaning of the film and give it a quirky eye-catching beginning. These include ‘Up in the Air’ where postcards are used to show the titles of the people involved in the film; as well as birds-eye view shots of parts of America as if viewing it from a plane. Evidence of this is also shown in ‘Young Adult’,  as the opening credits make the use of a cassette tape which fits with the story line; along with a song which the main characters childhood sweetheart wrote for her  is played over the opening sequence.

Overall, after an analysis of a number of director Jason Reitman’s films, many aspects of these pieces including theme, humour, camera angles and introductory sequences are very alike, and portray the personal style of the director. These elements define Reitman as very much a modern-day auteur.


  1. French, P. 2012. Young Adult -review. The Guardian. [online] [Accessed 6 March 2013]
  2. Morten, D. 2005. Film Theory 101. A Critical Analysis of Auteur Theory. [online] [Accessed 5 March 2013]
  3. Rich, K. 2012. Jason Reitman Talks Young Adult, Autobiographical Films, And His Evolving Directing Style. Cinema Blend. [online] [accessed 6 March 2012]
  4. Ryan, S. 2008. Auteur Theory. [online] [Accessed 5 March 2013] 
  5. Scott, A.O. 2007. Seeking Mr. and Mrs. Right For a Baby on the Way. The New York Times [online] [accessed 5 March 
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