How to analyse film | Critical Studies

How to analyse film | Critical Studies

  • Get your own copy of the film and watch it in your own time

    For analyse film, Schools often show you movies in 20 minute bursts which fit into your lesson schedule, but with everyone else around and the teacher pausing every 5 minutes to tell you what THEY think, it’s often quite hard to get much of a feel for the film at all. You should borrow or buy your own copy and watch it in your own time.

  • Orient Yourself

    The first time you watch the film, just watch it! Don’t try and take notes or look for techniques. Sit back and relax like you normally would during a film and just try to understand the plot.

  • Note-taking

    Get yourself a note-pad so you can scribble down notes, and a remote control so you can pause whenever you like. You might find if you’re writing down establishing shots, symbolism, sound effects and whatnot you are pausing every 30 seconds. That’s completely fine, take a note of techniques and quotes you might use later. Of course, doing the film like this is exhausting so you should only analyse it in 20 minute sessions so you don’t get lazy and stop paying attention to details.

  • Give scenes names

    It sounds really unprofessional when you write “that bit near the end when Jim leaves”. The scenes of your film may already have associated names – you can find out by looking at critics discussing the film online – but if not, name the scene you’re talking about yourself. Name it after the setting, the event, or the most distinctive aspect of the scene. So you might talk about “the subway scene” in The Matrix or “the gun lesson scene” in Witness. Tell us the scene and then describe the technique and what theme it achieves.

  • Discuss visuals specifically AND pair them with quotes

    Because cinematography is highly visual, markers like it when you are very specific. Don’t just call it a close-up if it is in fact an extreme close-up. Use a few keywords to describe what the camera shot or angle is showing. Don’t just quote the visuals without providing an accompanying quote – in English, we like to see words that provide evidence of your answer. So make sure you have some fitting dialogue to associate with the visuals you are describing.

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