Structure of a Film | Critical Studies

Structure of a Film | Language Techniques

  • Structure of a Film

    Films have a basic three-act structure like a modern dramatic play, but it is not as noticeable because there is no break or pause between the acts. However, in film it is often the signposts between the acts that are more important.

    Film is based much more closely on time than a play is – the acts of a play can be as long or as short as they like, but films have standard times for the usual 90-120 minute film.

  • Act One: Exposition: (About 30 minutes)

    The part of a story that introduces the characters, shows some of their inter-relationships, and places them within a time and place. This part of the story introduces the main character.

  • Turning Point One (At 30 minutes)

    Some event makes the protagonist’s life go in a new direction and keeps the interest of the audience.

  • Act Two: Development: (about 30-60 mins)

    The action builds up.

  • Midpoint of the Second Act (also known as the Reversal)

    This is when, half-way things reverse. The protagonist might seem very far from achieving their goal, for example the lovers in a romance might have a fight.

    For the remainder of Act Two things heat up until the climax of the film is reached.

  • Turning Point Two (At either 60 or 90 minutes)

    This is the climactic point of the film. The big gunfight or confrontation.

  • Act Three: (about 30 minutes)

    This is the dénouement where everything is explained, and wrapped up nicely. There will be a satisfaction of the protagonist’s goal, regardless of whether it is a happy or sad ending. Any loose ends or subplots will be resolved here too.

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