Conducting Film Analysis Film analysis, as opposed to summarizing the


Conducting Film Analysis

Film analysis, as opposed to summarizing the plot, is concerned beyond what happens in the story and is concerned with how the story is told.  The elements of film cited below can help you to begin to analyze these structural elements.  The questions are provided to help you think about what you see, hear, and experience as you watch the film. 

You are to watch the film and complete the following:

Generate notes from watching the film.  The questions provided in the accordion will help you to critically think about the film, and compile a list of your observations.  These notes do not need to be in complete sentences, as they are a record of the details you have noticed.

  • When generating your list, try to describe the important details of what you see, hear, and experience.  
  • Draw your attention to 3-4 significant scenes in the film.  Do not try to analyze the use of film techniques for the entire film.
  • You are to hand in a typed copy of your notes to the assignment “Brainstorming: Conducting Film Analysis.”

Analyzing Film Techniques

Perspective/ P.O.V.

Though whose “eyes” am I seeing?

Is it objective (not linked to a character) or subjective (limited by a character’s perspective)?

With whom am I asked to identify? With whom am I asked to not identify? How do we know?

Where would I imagine the camera to be in these shots?

Is it ever above or below the subject of the shot? Tilted?

Is the motion of the camera steady, or is it unstable?

Do we see a significant number of either close-ups or long-distance shots?


How would I describe the setting of the scene? What elements give this setting a “feel,” or a sense of “place”?

What props or set pieces are present in this sequence? Are they significant?

How would I describe the costuming in this sequence?

What can I see in the frame of the picture?

Is my interest drawn to any visual element?

Can I see elements in the background, or are they blurry?

How far back can I see in the frame (depth of field)?

Are any colors/ textures repeated visually?


What is the role of music in this film? How does it make me “feel”? What associations does it create in my mind?

Is there a melodic line in the music, or does it feel more disjointed?

Are there any sequences that emphasize silence, or absence of sound or music?

Does the music “match up” with what I see on the screen?

How are sound effects utilized in this film? Are any sounds repeated?

Is the dialogue steady? Overlapping?

Is all of the dialogue taking place on the screen? Does any take place off screen?


How long in duration are most of the shots?

At what points are the shots, or “takes” longer than others? How does this make a difference?

Is the editing rhythmic, or in tune with music?

Does the editing make me comfortable or confused?

Does the editing follow a logical progression, or does it feel like some spaces in time are “left out”?

Are the transitions between scenes or takes a simple “cut,” or are there dissolves, or black outs?

Film Analysis: Short Written Assignment

Write a short essay of about 2-3 paragraphs that describes your analysis of the film.  Choose 2-3 key scenes, and develop an analysis that provides insight into how the filmmakers tell the story.

Focus your analysis

This short essay of film analysis will attend to how the filmmakers have arranged the compositional elements of the film specifically within your choice of key scenes.  The essay should provide insight into how the filmmakers develop characters, narrate significant moments in the plot structure, or develop a theme on a cultural or societal issue.  Your analysis should explore how the specific film techniques are used to produce meaning.  For example, a film analysis might look at mis-en-scene and perspective to discuss how these elements work together to develop a change in a character’s behavior or beliefs.  To conduct this type of analysis you can ask:

What effects are created in the scene(s) and what is their purpose?

How does this scene represent a cultural or societal issue?

How does the film represent a character?

Compose a thesis

Your essay should have a thesis statement of 1-2 sentences that tells your reader the specific focus of your analysis.  

Write the short essay

Write a 2-3 paragraph analysis for the film and the specific scenes of your analysis.  Your short essay should have a thesis statement, supporting evidence, and provide a new understanding of the film. The detailed notes from your analysis of the formal elements will help you to provide concrete evidence to support your thesis and insights.

Be sure to:

  • The focus is on analysis not narration. 
  • Write your essay using MLA format for the heading, title, and format of the paper.
  • Hand in your assignment to the proper dropbox in this module as a .docx or PDF file.

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