Essay 3 – Film Analysis Essay should be 4-5 pages.
a critical analysis of a movie of your choice. The analysis should be based on your
interpretation of the film as a whole, the plot, and the characters in a
way that is critical in nature and thought provoking. It can be about a movie
you enjoyed or a movie you disliked. Here you should examine different aspects
of the movie`s elements such as lightning, editing, mise-en-scene, sound etc. You should also pay
attention to the film`s consumption, reception and production history.
Remember, that you shouldn`t retell the plot of the film here. Writing your
critical analysis you should focus on the formal elements of the film, its
historical background and genre.
Film analysis is the
process in which film is analyzed in terms of semiotics, narrative structure,
cultural context, and mise-en-scene, among other approaches. If these terms are
new to you, don’t worry—they’ll be explained in the next section.
literature (fiction texts, etc.), is a form of rhetorical analysis—critically analyzing and
evaluating discourse, including words, phrases, and images. Having a clear
argument and supporting evidence is every bit as critical to film analysis as
to other forms of academic writing.
Unlike literature, film
incorporates audiovisual elements and therefore introduces a new dimension to
analysis. Ultimately, however, analysis of film is not too different. Think of
all the things that make up a scene in a film: the actors, the lighting, the
angles, the colors. All of these things may be absent in literature, but they
are deliberate choices on the part of the director, producer, or
screenwriter—as are the words chosen by the author of a work of literature.
Furthermore, literature and film incorporate similar elements. They both have
plots, characters, dialogue, settings, symbolism, and, just as the elements of
literature can be analyzed for their intent and effect, these elements can be
analyzed the same way in film.
Different types of film analysis
Listed here are common
approaches to film analysis, but this is by no means an exhaustive list, and
you may have discussed other approaches in class. As with any other assignment,
make sure you understand your professor’s expectations. This guide is best used
to understand prompts or, in the case of more open-ended assignments, consider
the different ways to analyze film.
Keep in mind that any of
the elements of film can be analyzed, oftentimes in tandem. A single film
analysis essay may simultaneously include all of the following approaches and
more. As Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie propose in Analysis of Film, there is
no correct, universal way to write film analysis.
Semiotic analysis is the
analysis of meaning behind signs and symbols, typically involving metaphors,
analogies, and symbolism.
This doesn’t necessarily
need to be something dramatic; think about how you extrapolate information from
the smallest signs in your day to day life. For instance, what characteristics
can tell you about someone’s personality? Something as simple as someone’s
appearance can reveal information about them. Mismatched shoes and bedhead
might be a sign of carelessness (or something crazy happened that morning!),
while an immaculate dress shirt and tie would suggest that the person is prim
and proper. Continuing in that vein:
might you be able to infer about characters from small hints?
are these hints (signs) used to construct characters? How do they relate to the
relative role of those characters, or the relationships between multiple
Symbols denote concepts
(liberty, peace, etc.) and feelings (hate, love, etc.) that they often have
nothing to do with. They are used liberally in both literature and film, and
finding them uses a similar process. Ask yourself:
objects or images are repeated in multiple instances?
oIn Frozen Elsa’s gloves appear
in multiple scenes.
what context do they appear?
oHer gloves are first given to
her by her father to restrain her magic. She continues to wear them throughout
the coronation scene, before finally, in the Let It Go sequence, she throws
Again, the method of
semiotic analysis in film is similar to that of literature. Think about the
deeper meaning behind objects or actions.
might Elsa’s gloves represent?
oElsa’s gloves represent fear of
her magic and, by extension, herself. Though she attempts to contain her magic
by hiding her hands within gloves and denying part of her identity, she
eventually abandons the gloves in a quest for self-acceptance.
Narrative structure analysis
analysis is the analysis of the story elements, including plot structure,
character motivations, and theme. Like the dramatic structure of literature
(exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), film has what
is known as the Three-Act Structure: “Act One: Setup, Act Two: Confrontation,
and Act Three: Resolution.” Narrative structure analysis breaks the story of
the film into these three elements and might consider questions like:
does the story follow or deviate from typical structures?
is the effect of following or deviating from this structure?
is the theme of the film, and how is that theme constructed?
Consider again the
example of Frozen. You can use symbolism and narrative structure in conjunction
by placing the symbolic objects/events in the context of the narrative
structure. For instance, the first appearance of the gloves is in Act One,
while their abandoning takes place in Act Two; thus, the story progresses in such
a way that demonstrates Elsa’s personal growth. By the time of Act Three, the
Resolution, her aversion to touch (a product of fearing her own magic) is gone,
reflecting a theme of self-acceptance.
Contextual analysis is
analysis of the film as part of a broader context. Think about the culture,
time, and place of the film’s creation. What might the film say about the
culture that created it? What were/are the social and political concerns of the
time period? Or, like researching the author of a novel, you might consider the
director, producer, and other people vital to the making of the film. What is
the place of this film in the director’s career? Does it align with his usual
style of directing, or does it move in a new direction? Other examples of
contextual approaches might be analyzing the film in terms of a civil rights or
For example, Frozen is
often linked to the LGBTQ social movement. You might agree or disagree with
this interpretation, and, using evidence from the film, support your argument.
Some other questions to
does the meaning of the film change when seen outside of its culture?
characteristics distinguishes the film as being of its particular culture?