2008-2009 :


* Film * Analysis @ Theatre w/Anatoly *
"If a person can tell me the idea [of a film] in twenty-five words or less, it's going to make a pretty good movie. I like ideas, especially movie ideas, that you can hold in your hand." -- Steven Spielberg NEW:
Film-North Pages



Amazon Books

Book-Page @ Film-North
Film Bks

I do not have time to show films in THEATRE classes -- acting, directing, drama, but I should have "Recommended Films" lists. Collect the titles on List and Appendix pages (different in each directory).

Title page --> Intro.

Without the syllabus, it's difficult to understand what is next. "Contents" page?

[ see "service pages" (bottom) -- list, links, and etc. ]

* film analysis Yale * NB. I need to reorganize this directory "thematically" as I did with script.vtheatre.net * updates * new *


There are two directories I plan to use for this class (end of the semester): themes in script analysis and new Film600, Wrong Theories + Bad Subjects!


2003 * 2004 * 2005 * 2006 * 2007 -- I use "year" pages for overviews...

Tarkovsky Links CZ ***

* AUTEUR -- French for "author". Used by critics writing for Cahiers du cinema and other journals to indicate the figure, usually the director, who stamped a film with his/her own "personality". Opposed to "metteurs en scene" who merely transcribed a work achieved in another medium into film. The concept allowed critics to evaluate highly works of American genre cinema that were otherwise dismissed in favor of the developing European art cinema. (Film v. Movie)

[ image -- editing ] Picture: Yelizaveta Svilova at the editing table of Man with the Movie Camera (Chelovek s kinoapparatom, Dziga Vertov USSR, 1929)

DIEGESIS -- The diegesis includes objects, events, spaces and the characters that inhabit them, including things, actions, and attitudes not explicitly presented in the film but inferred by the audience. That audience constructs a diegetic world from the material presented in a narrative film.


Section 1 - Quality -- As the critics at Cahiers du cinéma maintained, the "how" is as important as the "what" in the cinema. The look of an image, its balance of dark and light, the depth of the space in focus, the relation of background and foreground, etc. all affect the reception of the image.











Section 2 - Framing

** Yale Film Study ** go there!

Textbook: How to read a Film, Jim Monaco
1. Film as Art
2. Technology
3. Film Language
4. History
5. Theory
6. Media
7. MultiMedia

[ books ]

POV (nonfiction)

cinetext is a bilingual internet forum for film and philosophy located at the University of Vienna (Austria) addressing students, researchers, scholars, and anyone with an interest in the thoughtful exploration of cinema, film, and television.

film online journals

[ to move some notes to subject pages! ]


Notes for Film Classes

What is FILM ANALYSIS? ... examples of shot breakdown and close analysis of sequences from films and movies.
In Film Directing class we have no time to watch films. Too bad, this is a good way to learn! Filmmaking begins with appreciation for great films and admiration for great directors. If you write poetry, you memorize great poems. Do the same with films! * Anatoly Y2K

[ if you are my cyber-student, get the textbook, subscribe to Film Analysis Forum, watch movies on our list! ]

Recommended Films from Europe/World:

Kurosawa (any)

After the Rain

Burnt by the Sun (Russian Cinema)

Michelangelo Antonioni (Italian) (any)

Werner Herzog (Germany)

[Check the UAF library list of videos]

Films: Bergman (Wild Strawberries) Tarkovsky (Andrey Rublev) Eisenstein (October)

Films (Notes) Page * Film Reference Page * Books * Grad Film Class (Fall 1999)
Use this page for Film Classes and 200X Aesthetics course as a background info on directors. The best is to use the outside links with extensive bibliography and information on directors and national film industries.

Our focus is on film theory, not history, but you have to know some basic dates and facts.

Also, Film-North main site.

As you can see I have several filmmakers in focus -- Felinni, Bergman, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky. Some American film directors and some classics (Eisenstein, Vertov, Chaplin). Please, bring your favorite films/movies to class, post your notes on our Forum, store your links in Vault -- your partners will have a better idea about you and your taste (it helps, when you work as a team).

Class time is only a small portion of your learning time!

[ I'll have three new "notes" pages in subdirectories: 1. Movies * 2. Film * 3. Theory. Please, use filmplus.org pages, while film.vtheatre.net is updated. Read screenplays, if you want to study the screened movies -- list. Next wave of undates will be in filmplus.org/film : Film Directing 101
Get the DVD with the textbook! Use readfilm.com and post your 200 words on Forum after each required viewing!
Appendix, Part One: A Basic Library -- recommended reading
Part Two: Information
Check the ONLINE listing!

Textbook: How to use it!

See other "notes" pages (in every directory) to know what IO am working on.

Read Glossary before your tests and exams. Or even print it out. I try to hyperlink as many definitions as possible.

Clink on "htmlgears" to see full lists!

Use links pages, if you can't find the term.

The rest of the class instructions will be on Forums, FAQ, students and new pages. ]

[ subscribe to my mailing list to stay updated! ]

Next: Film Directing
[ read the textbook before the class ]
Film Analysis and Film Criticism -- what's the difference?

-- 2005: Three (3) new subdirectories in film.vtheatre.net (see top left) -- all new pages are there! At the bottom -- long text about methods of viewing and thinking about movies. Bridging Film as Art and Movies as (Pop) Culture is the most difficult task. Is "God-Father" a movie? Why not a film? What about "La Strada"? I struggle with this issue each time I teach this class...

It's important; we need to understand HOW film language was developed (films) and it is used (movies).

Is it over, the period of developing of film grammar? [ see Seven Ages of Film ] My old list:


1. To 1895: Pre-history (Photography)

2. 1896 - 1915: The Birth of Film

3. 1916 - 1930: The Silent Film, Radio and Sound Film

4. 1931 - 1945: The Hollywood Era

5. 1946 - 1960: The Age of Television

6. 1961 - 1980: The Media World

7. 1981 - present: The Digital World

[ compare with the textbook, JM + film-history & history of film ]

@1999-2003 film-north *

* 07 updates

*** www.sensesofcinema.com ***


Fall 2005: "How to Read a Film" is a good textbook, but it's 670pp. -- Media and Multimedia (important, but not enough time in class to cover). Reading assignments and tests must be very strict!

Balance between films and movies -- rework the lists!

Film as Text

In the beginning was not the word but the image from the subconscious.

Why teach film as text?

Let's face it our students have seen, continue to see and will see many more movies than they will read books during their lifetime. Actually they are just like most of us in that regard. So let's help them to read their culture of choice with more knowledge and more skill and then, hopefully, more enjoyment.

Teaching film as text is easy, but as teachers we need to be careful. Teenagers are very skilled at understanding the codes of cinema and television, unfortunately they are not often encouraged to value this knowledge. The trick is to bring their well developed knowledge and interests into the educational setting to enhance these into something powerful and wonderful in their lives. There is not a lot of point in playing the high culture/low culture game. Nor is there any value in teaching students a particular interpretation of a text. Students need us to help them put their viewing into a framework of understanding, to set a context and to challenge them and allow them to challenge us so that we may all come together to get a handle on this wonderful medium that is so pervasive and persuasive in our lives. As I say to my students, you thought that you were spending a lot of the last 17 years 'veging' in front of the box, actually you were preparing for your VCE.

Close your eyes and think of Gallipoli. I meant the historical event, but I bet you were all thinking of the movie. Now think of an image of your childhood. How many of you 'remembered' a photographic image? And the future? What are your fantasies? How many of us have our fantasies shaped for us by visions from the big or small screen? If I were to ask what films influence your vision of the future I bet I could tell a lot about your background, politics and even your mental state from your answer. The medium is that powerful. And if we think it is powerful now . . .

Consider the pervasiveness of the screen in Blade Runner.

. . . And we thought TV was everywhere today!


What is the difference between a book and a film?

Novels are beautiful things, they are beautiful to hold, to smell and to read. They can weave worlds for us about which we can only dream, or which we are only likely to see in nightmare. They teach us about ourselves, about others and about the human condition. They do this through story, metaphor, allegory, image. Primarily they do it with words. It is the particular combination of words which allows a novel to do to us what it does. The words act upon our existing understandings and experiences to weave new or deeper understandings. We have to use our imagination for them to work their magic.

And so do films. Films seem, because of the nature of the medium, more ephemeral, we can't hold them like a book. Yet film is a very powerful medium, perhaps more powerful than written texts because, as we all know, seeing is believing. Films weave images, stories, metaphors and allegory, they show us things using the words with which we are so familiar combining these with visual and auditory cues which can enhance our lives yet these things would mean nothing if it wasn't for the understanding, experience and imagination we bring to the viewing experience. This brings us to a primary need for audiences to experience a film at its best:

The suspension of disbelief

This is a tricky one for a teacher because if we do our job well our students will hate us for it. But only for a while. They will be unable to suspend disbelief for a short time. To be able to suspend disbelief is one of the great joys of watching a film, we should never shatter this joy if we cannot offer something better. If we do our job very well our students will be able to continue to suspend disbelief at will. If we do an exceptional job our students will be able to carry skills of analysis, scepticism as well as the ability to suspend disbelief into the viewing experience. They will be able to conduct a critical dialogue with themselves before, during and after a viewing episode. They will be empowered and they will thank us for it. It is one of the measures of self evaluation that I apply to my teaching to note how soon my students both begin and end their abuse of me for wrecking their fun. It is when they begin to tell me about how a film works both technically and emotionally that I know my job has been done.

How should we teach film?

There are lots of ways of approaching the teaching of film, most of you will have experienced some of the worst ways at university. You know what I mean. The 'lets do it to death and then kick over the corpse for a bit' method of film study. The perpetrator of such a film study crime usually 'knows' a great deal (always more than us) and lets this knowledge either drip out water torture style or engulfs us in a tidal wave of Freudian, Marxist, feminist semiotic mumbo jumbo. At the end of such 'learning' we know a lot about a particular film but usually do not feel empowered to apply this knowledge to our Sunday night viewing of The Fearless Vampire Killers. We remain pretty much clueless.

Which brings us to the point of teaching film as text. Most young people are not going to choose from the arthouse or classic section of the video shop, even if we teach sensationally. It is the same with print texts, sure there is a place for studying the classics (the VCE) but most teenagers will not choose Charles Dickens over Johnny Depp. Film as text is the place to make the link between art and life, to show that it is possible to deal with the deep and meaningfuls and have fun at the same time. I guess what I am pleading is that we, in our efforts to build legitimacy into the study of film as text, don't kill the joy of the medium for our students. That is not to say that that is what we do with books but the reality is that most students will not choose books for entertainment, they will choose a movie. Let us value this enthusiasm for the task and use it in our teaching. Let's do something different.

What do our students need to know?

Students need to know that films are more than a story with pictures. Yes we have to do character analysis, we must look at the philosophic and cultural basis upon which the text is based. Themes are important as is the message of the text but what is vital and so often sadly missing in the study of film is an understanding of the particular way in which a story is told in film. Every year examiner's reports lament the lack of skills in this area, we must address our own knowledge base if we are to truly help our students.

So, what is it that makes a film narrative different from a print narrative? In short it is this:

Story elements + production elements = narrative

Students are often very good at analysing story elements and can be trained to identify production elements often writing long lists detailing how they combine in a particular text. Understanding film narrative, however, is quite a different matter. Let's use an example to explain this.

A key scene in Blade Runner is the one where Rachael undertakes the test to see if she is a replicant. An enormous amount of information is conveyed in words, so much that we might miss the even greater body conveyed visually. Watch the scene and list the information conveyed under these two headings.

Students will typically describe this scene in terms of the script only.

It is easier to make a point about the combination of story and production elements using an excerpt with no dialogue. There are several excellent examples in Proof, either at the vet or in the park.

Narrative on its own however is nothing without the whole reason films are made in the first place, the audience. Film making is a very expensive collaborative business, no one makes a film without an audience in mind. In the beginning there was the audience, and in the end there is one too. So when we say

Story elements + production elements = narrative

we have to add a little more to the equation. Students must not only be able to identify story elements and production elements, they must also be able to identify why the director made the choices she/he did to shoot/edit/record it in the particular way she did. Students must also to bring their knowledge of genre, history, politics, relationships, art, psychology and communication theory to bear on how and why the elements of film individually and collectively work on them and others around them. Film is a form of mass communication which is usually consumed in groups and the group can influence our understanding and interpretation.

So, let's get down to the practicalities of how to teach film and the first question to be dealt with is-

How should the film be viewed?

The general rule of thumb is that if a film is made for the big screen, then that is where it should be seen. Blade Runner is a very good example of this where on TV we sometimes wait for a character to move to the centre of the shot necessarily altering, albeit subtly, our interpretation of the mise en scene. Such viewings are not always possible but if you get the chance, go for it.

Now to the tricky matter of length. Blade Runner is 112 minutes long, What's Eating Gilbert Grape is 113 minutes and Schindler's List is 3 hours. Proof is around 90 minutes, perfect for a double lesson. Length should not be a primary criterion for choosing a film to study. Films should be chosen because they are accessible, contain material which can be interpreted in interesting and challenging ways and to balance the remainder of the curriculum.

How to break up a film.

It is better to divide a film into 2 or 3 viewings which will allow for substantial discussion at the end of the third session. It is not my preference to conduct discussion in the middle of the first viewing of any film, even if the whole class have seen it before. If you would like students to reflect on their viewing, and this really only has validity as a memory jogger to get students back into the frame of mind where they left off at the end of the previous session, a few notes in their journal is the best way to go. These notes might include reflections on character, theme, plot etc., and perhaps go on to make some predictions about where they think the film might go from there. The aim is to simulate a real film viewing as much as possible.

Teaching films- pre screening.

There is enormous debate about the value of pre viewing activities. Whether you choose to do so will be dependant upon a number of factors including

If you are teaching a film text for a specific purpose and do not intend to deal with the text primarily as a visual text then it may be OK to undertake a lot of pre viewing activities. I would argue, however, that by taking this tack you are doing a grave disservice to the medium and the possibilities of teaching in an empowering manner.

Sometimes we want to use a film which deals with places, times or issues with which students are completely unfamiliar or about which it is likely that their knowledge is incomplete, incorrect or biased. Cry Freedom and Shindler's List would be two such films. In these cases some background material which will add to the students' knowledge base is called for. The rule of thumb is that if such information will contribute to students' reading of the film without biasing their interpretation in a particular direction then it is generally OK to do so.

Very rarely there will be things you want students to see in the first viewing of a film. Be very wary about this. It is not our job to lead students to a preferred understanding by skewing their viewing. The only time that I would guide students' first viewing is when time is very short.

The Best Way to Screen a Film

In the dark on the screen and with the sound system the director intended. The film should be screened in its entirety without prior comment. Students should have an opportunity to reflect, respond verbally and listen to the views of others before any written work is undertaken.

What Then?

A second guided viewing. It takes many hours to read a novel and only a couple to view a film, they are equally weighted in the English exam so it stands to reason that of course you have the time to view it a second and third time. When reading we can and often do go back and re read sections, words, chapters and paragraphs, it destroys the narrative structure to do this with a film, hence the need for several viewings.

My preferred way of teaching a film is to view the film once, to brainstorm student opinion to see what they have picked up (so that you know where to begin), to introduce a few key concepts- cinematic, thematic and in terms of character analysis and then to look at a few key scenes before proceeding to a second viewing. Students are guided about what to look for and how to watch second time around. After this second viewing comes the time for intensive discussion and workbook tasks leading up to a third viewing and then the completion of the major piece of work on the text. Naturally this is very time consuming, it is possible to skip the third screening and to suggest strongly that students complete this at home in their own time or in the library viewing room at lunchtime. At Swinburne we make a tape of key scenes for any text to help us in our teaching and for students to use in their study of the film.

Technical Aspects of Film Study

Let us now turn to those aspects of film which differentiate it from print texts and which you need to teach in order for students to be able to fully understand a film.

Key Scenes

I have mentioned these several times and for most film narratives these are predicable.

It is generally best to begin with the titles sequence and opening scene. Have a look at the opening sequences of Blade Runner and Proof, both wonderfully different films yet with many similarities in terms of theme. See what you can identify about each.

Some questions you might like to ask your class to provoke a response to the opening scenes-

Students should note their answers in a viewing diary.

Some additional points you might like to raise at this point include-

Now is also the time to introduce some basic film concepts. These might include-

Some technical concepts to introduce at this point may include-

Some story elements to introduce-

Students must become familiar with the equation-

Story elements + production elements = narrative

It is very important to help them to understand that it is not only how teach of these elements combine, but how we as viewers read them that makes up the narrative and that each person's understanding of the narrative may be different and equally valid. If a film is screened in the forest and no one is watching a story has not been told. Ask students questions like-

Time spent on questions like these will repay you a thousand fold in not having to read endless lifeless lists of production and story elements which display very little of the student's understanding of the narrative and how it is conveyed.

Clearly you can't and shouldn't deal with all of these at once, remember, our primary aim is to empower and enhance, not to drown students. So what can you do to make a start?

The next stage in teaching film as text is treading a fine line between your professional judgement, the requirements of the course and where students want to go. I like to ask students to set some tasks to be undertaken during a second viewing. Perhaps they might like to divide these tasks amongst the class and pool the information gathered later. You can always seed the things you want them to identify as part of the discussion.

Students should view the film a second time, viewing conditions are not so critical at this time. Discussion after the second viewing should be much deeper, it is great to see the lights go on during this discussion. Again, a viewing diary is a good idea.

Now it is time to set some work requirements. These should always include opportunities for students to respond to the cinematic aspects of the film. Students will need to be led carefully down this track as they, like us, are tempted to stay with the familiar notions of story, character and theme. What we want them to do is to bring their new film analysis skills to this task and to deal with these notions in a new way.

One aspect of film as text that is very easy and enjoyable for students is research. There are plenty of resources on film- books, magazines, and especially the new multimedia. Microsoft Cinemania can be a good starting point in that it keeps the spirit of film as a visual medium alive. The Internet is a sensational resource, students can access the Internet Movie Data Base, the Australian Film Institute and a myriad of sites devoted to specific films. Blade Runner has some wonderful material just waiting to be trawled. Australian Teachers of Media, ATOM, is also a good place to start.

When setting text response work requirements I like to give students the chance to contribute topics of their own. Asking small groups to come up with creative and analytical questions based specifically on the text as a film text is a good way for them to clarify just what it is that they are supposed to be able to do.

There is an excellent question for Proof on the 1996 VCE English exam where students could really strut their film stuff.

For both Proof and Blade Runner the key questions for me lie in the nature of trust, truth, what it is to be human, and the use of media in our society. The use of still photographs as proof of existence in both is a striking convergence of the important questions in life. Perhaps this could best be summed up in quotes from both films,

"Your whole life is the truth (Martin) . . . have pity on the rest of us." (Proof)

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe." (Blade Runner)

You might like to consider these as you view the closing scenes from Blade Runner.

Jo Flack Copyright ©1997

* Resources for Teaching Film * Use http://filmplus.org to link to Film-North pages!