English 225: Introduction to Film
August 30, 2010
There is so much more to analyzing films than watching a movie. Film analysis is a very complex procedure. “Analysis generally, means breaking up the whole to discover the nature, function, and interrelationships of the parts” (Boggs, J. & Petrie, D., 2008, p. 7). In analyzing a film, you must not only analyze the film as a whole, but you must also analyze each element that makes up the film. Because a film is constantly moving, it is difficult to analyze all of its elements in a single viewing. Therefore, to analyze a film properly, it is usually necessary to view the film at least twice and preferably multiple times. There are several elements that make up a film, such as the fictional and dramatic elements, visual design, cinematography and special visual effects, editing, color, sound effects and dialogue, musical score and acting. Each of these elements work together to convey the theme of the film to the viewer.
The first step in film analysis is identifying the films theme. When discussing film analysis, the theme refers to the unifying, central concern of the film, the special focus that unifies the work (txt, 2008, p. 20). There may be several different things going on in a single film, but one will stand out amongst the rest as the theme. After viewing a film, you should be able to analyze all of its elements and how they contribute to the films theme.
Five categories make up the theme of every film: the plot, the emotional mood, the character, style or texture, and ideas. In every film each of these elements are present, but one is more prevalent as the focus and theme. In order to analyze the theme, it is helpful to first figure out the element that the film is focused. In a movie where the theme is focused on the plot, the film is usually action packed and fast paced. The events and characters in such films are only important in the context of the story being told in the said film. An example of a movie where the theme was based on a summary of the plot would be Spiderman. In the film Spiderman, the film is focused on the action happening in the film. It is a fasted paced, action filled film where the events and the outcome have no real significance except for in the context of the movie.
The theme of a film can also be focused on an emotional mood. There are a wide variety of moods that can serve as the thematic concern in modern films (Boggs, J. & Petrie, D., 2008, p.22). Films such as Friday the 13th and House on Haunted Hill are designed to scare us. Films such as The Notebook and Just Like Heaven evoke feelings of romance and love. The films The Bridge to Terabithia and Marley and Me are designed to bring the viewer to tears. In these types of movies the theme can usually “be best stated by identifying the prevailing mood or emotional effect the filmmaker has created” (Boggs, J. & Petrie, D., 2008, p.21). In films that focus on the emotional effect or mood, the plot and events are important, but their most important role is evoking emotion.
Although all films have characters, some films actually focus on one single, unique character. In these types of films, what happens in the film is important as it helps the viewer to understand the character. A movie focused on character is Forrest Gump. Forrest; the main character is not an overly intelligent man who finds himself accidently present at many important events. The film is about the events of Forrest’s life, but these events are merely used to help the viewer understand the character that the film writer is trying to development. In this type of film, the focus of the theme is on one unique character.
The focus of the theme of a film can also be on style, texture, or structure. In these types of films, the director presents the story in such a different way that the style or texture is the most memorable aspect of the film. This...