I don't usually quote people in here but I just had to post this one by one of my favourite directors. He says he doesn't like to engage in telling stories. Obviously as a filmmaker this is inevitable. No matter how bare the plot is or how very little happens in a film - if anything at all - it will still produce some remnant of a story. I think what he means is he doesn't try to tell a story first. It's not his primary objective when making a film.
You hear it all the time: story comes first. In some films, yes, but in the best ones, no. For me, film as a medium has a transformative power that goes beyond merely telling a story or portraying a character. Other mediums do this well, if not better. I've walked out a number of times from a cinema thinking that that film would have worked better as a novel. Or I would love to see that character on a stage production.
What film does best is this: its makers capture life and the world through the lens. The audience sits down and watches it, bringing their own experiences, frustrations and pleasures of their life and their world. Then as the film passes through our eyes and ears it changes a little part of ourselves and our perceptions.
Through the combination of image and sound, we walk out with our moods changed. Whether for better or for worse, it doesn't matter. My favourite films have always been the ones that are more concerned about setting a particular atmosphere, either through the 'look' of the film, the editing and even to something small like how the film is paced. The tone of the film must always come first. Story and character can follow after but if the tone is off, the entire film falls apart. All the good films have a certain tone or mood that can leave us feeling angry, sad, jovial, confused, etc.
The bad ones leave us feeling indifferent.