Film analysis

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Film analysis is the process in which a film is analyzed in terms of mise-en-scène, cinematography, sound, and editing. One way of analyzing films is by the shot-by-shot analysis, though that is typically used only for small clips or scenes. Film analysis is closely connected to film theory.

Different authors suggest various approaches to film analysis. Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie in their publication Analysis of Film[1] propose several key points regarding film analysis. (1) There is general method of film analysis, (2) film analysis can never be concluded as there will always be something more to explore and (3) it is necessary for one to have knowledge about film history in order to perform a film analysis. They recognize various types of approaches: (1) Text-based film analysis (structural approach), (2) topic based analysis (narrative approach), (3) picture and sound approach (iconic analysis), (4) psychoanalytical approach and (5) historical approach.

Another methodology is suggested by Thomas and Vivian Sobchack in their publication Introduction to film.[2] They suggest viewer can observe following elements: (1) analysis of film space, (2) analysis of film time and (3) film sound. As they focus mainly on iconic aspects of film they further propose additional elements: the image, tone, composition and movement.

Iconic analysis[edit]

Iconic analysis basically deals with image or picture (and sometimes also film sound). In iconic analysis we try to understand how different pictorial elements convey the meaning of film. There are several examples in film history where image was even more than just key element of film (i.e. pre WWII avant-garde films, Italian neorealism, film noir, etc.). However today in most narrative films (Fictional film) we try to hide pictorial elements from audience and mask them behind the story.[3] In such films it is usually difficult (if not event pointless) to analyze image as such. We therefore more often tend to observe various other elements like light, camera movement (see Cinematography), composition etc. and try to understand how these elements influence or cross-reference other elements of film, like story, mood etc. As iconic analysis derives from single image and it is closely related to techniques of film production thus demanding at least brief understanding of these technical elements of film it is mostly useful method of research for film schools and other educational institutions. Film critics tend not use this method as a “stand alone” approach, but they rather use it as a part of other analysis method.

Semiotic analysis[edit]

Semiotics (also called semiotic studies and in the Saussurean tradition called semiology) is the study of meaning-making, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols. This includes the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics also studies non-linguistic sign systems. Semiotics often is divided into three branches: Semantics is the relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata, or meaning. Syntactics is relations among signs in formal structures. Pragmatics is the relation between signs and sign-using agents.

Psychoanalytical approach[edit]

Ancient Greek philosophy's "overturning of mythology"[4] as a definition to understanding of the heightened aesthetic.[5] For Plato, Eros takes an almost transcendent manifestation when the subject seeks to go beyond itself and form a communion with the objectival other: "the true order of the things of love, is to use the beauties of earth as all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty".[6]

Shot by shot analysis[edit]

This is a written description of a given sequence in a film in order of the shots. According to Michael Ryan and Melissa Lenos, when doing shot-by-shot analysis, we start with describing the techniques used in the shots or images we are analyzing. After that, we also need to elaborate what effects these techniques can produce when viewing the movie; for example, camera leads what we see in the film so the changes in camera angles have impact on audience's interpretations of the meanings the movie tries to convey. Some of the techniques used in film producing could be composition (foreground/background, frame/raming, etc.), cinematography (close-up, medium shot and long shot, pan shot, tilt shot, etc.), editing (montage, eyeline match, etc.), and so on.[7]

Recent developments from internet-based film analysts[edit]

A number of varied film analysis approaches have emerged and gained popularity on the internet such as those by Red Letter Media and Rob Ager.[8][9] In 2012 Room 237, a documentary showcasing a variety of such interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's horror film The Shining, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and generated wide media coverage followed by a distribution deal.[10][11] The film has since generated considerable comment and debate from film critics and film communities.[12][13][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aumont Jacques; Michele Marie (1988). L’Analyse des films/Analysis of Film. Nathan. 
  2. ^ Thomas Sobchack; Vivian Sobchack (1997). An Introduction to Film. Longman. ISBN 067339302X. 
  3. ^ Thomas Sobchack; Vivian Sobchack (1997). An Introduction to Film. Longman. ISBN 067339302X. 
  4. ^ Love, Page 53, By Wikipedians
  5. ^ Hunt, "Introduction", in Hunt ed., Eroticism p. 13
  6. ^ "The Symposium", in Benjamin Jowett trans, The Essential Plato (1999) p. 746
  7. ^ Ryan, Michael, and Melissa Lenos. An Introduction to Film Analysis: Technique and Meaning in Narrative Film. London: Continuum, 2012. Print. ISBN 9780826430021
  8. ^ Quercia, Jacopo Della. "Six pop culture mysteries that were solved by fans"
  9. ^ Wook, Kim. Time Entertainment. "29 movie head-scratchers explained"
  10. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (24 April 2012). "Cannes 2012: Michel Gondry’s 'The We & The I' to Open Director's Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  11. ^ "2012 Selection". Directors' Fortnight. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  12. ^ Vanairsdale, S.T. "Room 237 and the microviewing revolution" Tribeca Film
  13. ^ Jaggernauth, Kevin. "'Room 237' An Outstanding, Fascinating & Funny Exploration & Celebration Of 'The Shining'" Indiewire, The Playlist
  14. ^ Emerson, Jim. "The Keycard to Room 237"
  15. ^ Ito, Robert. "Cracking the code in 'Heeere's Johnny!'"

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