essay of feature-length, live-action narrative film


Film Analysis Final Project

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The aim of this project is for you to demonstrate your comprehension of the technical vocabulary of film and to make an argument about the relation between form and meaning.

Option One (Essay) requires the most direct application of skills and concepts learned in class. The other options require you combine these skills and concepts with others (e.g., photography skills, video games playing skills). All are valid approaches, so just make sure that you reflect carefully and in advance on which will be the best fit for you, your schedule, your interests, and your background preparation.

Intended Audience:

Your hypothetical audience is an undergraduate student with an advanced vocabulary in film (so you do not need to explain technical terms). If applicable (i.e., options one and two), s/he has not seen the film to which your project refers. Therefore, your written work must include a summary of the film that orients the reader in terms of plot and the audiovisual style, themes, etc. relevant to your argument. You must also state explicitly and fully what you understand the film to mean, and how you arrive at these meanings.


Because there are very different options for this assignment, assessment is not broken down in a highly detailed manner. However, you will be assessed on how you respond to the aims of the assignment. For options two, three, and four, the accompanying essay is central to the assessment because it explains your understanding of the film language concepts and your intentions. This does not mean that the creative component will not be assessed, but .

40% Demonstrated comprehension of technical concepts in film language

precision with which you use terms

breadth and relevance of concepts addressed

40% Explanations of how technical aspects translate into the meanings of the piece

direct explanations of all technical aspects discussed

plausibility and sophistication of meanings

20% Demonstrated effort

quality of writing (structure, style, spelling, grammar)

care taken with other audiovisual components if applicable

Option One: Essay

You will write an essay of 2250 – 3000 words in which you interpret a feature-length, live-action narrative film (i.e., not documentary, radically experimental, or animated film) of your choice. You will develop an original, sophisticated argument about it that draws substantially on textual analysis. In many ways, you can think of this as a longer and more in-depth version of the Sound and Mise-en-scène exercise, except that your argument should be more complex and you will need to draw on multiple aspects of the audiovisuals (i.e., not just sound and mise-en-scène). You should, however, try to achieve a similar level of technical precision and balance between technical description and interpretation. The film you analyze may be from any period, country, genre or narrative tradition. You cannot, however, write on a film that we have watched in full in class or one that you wrote on for your Sound and Mise-en-Scène Essay.

Your interpretation of the film must centre around a specific argument, rather than simply enumerating different aspects of the film. Your argument must not be purely qualitative (i.e., “this is a good film because …”); it must analyze the film in relation to representation, identification, ideology, realism/anti-realism, or some other topic in aesthetics or the politics of representation. There is a file in the Option One: Essay folder on the Blackboard System called “Developing an Argument” that might help you determine how you can push your argument to be more sophisticated and original. Here are some sample thesis statements:

The Film offers an egalitarian representation of gender because the camera and editing show the points of view of male and female characters equally, and also presents male and female characters through the same techniques of angle, distance, height, lighting, and costume.

The anti-realism of The Film demands that the audience reflect carefully on the political situation it represents, and question the validity not only of the diegetic characters’ motivations, but also of the way the film presents these motivations.

The Film appears to be focalized equally through two characters, because equal screen time is given to each; however, upon closer analysis, it is clear that the cinematography distances the viewer from one character more than the other. This subtly disempowers the views of one character and covertly encourages the audience to identify with the other.

Throughout your paper, your argument should draw on the tools and issues discussed in this course: how design and composition, cinematography, sound, editing and narrative structure produce the meanings of the film. However, you do not need to address every aspect of film language; you should address only those aspects that best support your argument about the film. In order to ensure that you address the technical aspects of the film in detail, you are advised to analyze between one and three scenes/sequences (the ones that best reflect your thesis) in depth. This is not required, but it can be hard to remember to be specific enough if you only discuss the film holistically.

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