In this reflective paper, I intend to describe how a film is analyzed as a whole. Analyzing films is considered an art form that attempts to “break up the whole to discover the nature proportion, function, and interrelationships of the parts” (Boggs and Petrie, 2008, p. 7). The art of watching films is similar to creating those films because it is a form of artistic expression. During the event of analyzing any film there are many steps from start to finish that would have to be taken into consideration. Within this paper it will show the step-by-step analysis of any film, it will include a demonstration how we find and interpret meaning in movies and lastly it will show my personal criteria for evaluating movies. A true critic must know how to analyze a film by going through some major steps to determine his or her opinion. The art of analyzing films is just as difficult as making the film realistic to the viewer’s eye. One must be able to respond to the film that is continuously moving without stopping the film.
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In film analysis, the theme refers to the special part of film that focuses on the “unifying central concern of the film” (Boggs and Petrie, 2008, p. 20). The most challenging part of film analysis is being able to become “fully immersed in the experience of a film and maintain a high degree of objectivity” (Boggs and Petrie, p. 6). When a film is analyzed, the best time for this work is done when the film is over. This is the key objective of truly watching films.
As a film analyzer, one must be able to identify the film’s theme. “Identifying the theme can be considered both the beginning and the end of film analysis” (Boggs and Petrie, 2008, p. 32). In order to identify the theme in a film one must clarify the vision for the film. One must be able to clarify the vision for the film with all the elements that function as a whole. However, if the film turns out to be different from prior results, then one must reevaluate their opinions. Films must make the viewer ask several questions of how this film works with what information the viewer is given.
The analyzer establishes questions that may give reasons of why the film was created. Why does this film seem so effective in the first place? What is the story behind the making of the film? Where is the film taking place in respect to current period? When a film is viewed for the first time, certain things occur. The first viewing is similar to a rough draft where the viewer is just attempting to obtain some of the film’s concepts. The viewer is trying to understand the plot or what is happening in the film. By incorporating the theme based on opinion, one will be able to redirect the analysis.
Unlike a story, a film cannot be frozen in time in order for the viewer to truly take the time to analyze it. Films contain so many possible elements that studying all of them will take time, and this process should be embraced. Being able to evaluate the theme really turns into a subjective process than an objective one. One must be able to take a step more in the direction of objectivity even though there is some aspect of subjectivity.
The film must have a plot that is considered interesting and allows the viewer to become caught in the reality, the fantasy, and what should or should not be in the truth of the film. For example, one can enjoy films that are filled with action packed scenes. Either a film that shows the car racing as more than just a sport, or shows some type of physical activity that one would not perform on a daily basis. “Even though a movie may hint at a certain outcome the suspense should lead the viewer down more than one possible reasons for a different outcome of the film.
One must be actively searching for universal themes that may make up the film. A good story is brought together through the “plot, characters, and structure” (Boggs and Petrie, 2008, p. 42). A good story that is interesting can capture an audience through suspense, and action. The characters are shown in a particular perspective that helps the audience relate.
Another method of analyzing films is through the varieties of characters that may be presented in the film. For example, The Matrix shows three main developing characters that are solely affected by the story. These characters undergo some type of change for instance, Neo goes from a man of the world as he knows to a person that will save us all from the matrix. His goal for his “reality” changed all throughout the film. As his character learned his understanding of his purpose for his life developed. For example, flat versus round characters are two-dimensional, whereas round characters are three-dimensional characters that show a degree of complexity. Another aspect is making choices for the names of characters. Every character must have a name that establishes some type of meaning in the film.
With many films, symbolism is used to help trigger “previously associated thoughts or ideas in the mind of the person perceiving the symbol” (Boggs and Petrie, p. 71). There are four ways of creating symbolic meanings in films. The most obvious is drawing attention to that symbol by repetition (Boggs and Petrie, p. 73). Another way is making an object valuable to the main character. For example, characters talk about the symbol constantly. The symbol is placed strategically in the film to make sure that the viewer pays attention to the symbol.
Another area of analyzing films is one of understanding the film’s point of view. Becoming aware of what viewpoint is most likely to be given in the film to effectively communicate the point of view. One viewpoint that really interests me is that of the subjective point of view. The visual sequence of the film identifies the character’s emotions within the surrounding action. Many film maker’s tools in “creating a kind of subjective involvement” (Boggs and Petrie, p. 128). For instance when a character is looking off screen and you wonder what they are looking for.
As the viewer, one must be able to make an objective evaluation. “We should be prepared to defend each decision with a logical statement based on or supportable by [one’s] analysis as a whole” (Boggs and Petrie, p. 407). Each part of the evaluation and analysis should be as logical as possible, and not done just for arguments. One’s reactions to films are going to be similar to one’s reactions to life. A person will have several different emotions revealing oneself in the analysis of the film. Films can be evaluated in certain approaches that explain why or why not something has happened.
Objective evaluation of a film should bring one to decisions that can be fully explained and supported by the analysis. This style is more rational and less subjective. However, one must leave that stage to move on to understanding what one like or dislike about the film for a personal perspective. There are several approaches of to film analysis; however, only one will be described in the following paragraph.
One approach that has recently become most interested is the humanistic approach. One tends to “focus attention on films that are teaching something” (Boggs and Petrie, p. 411). A person must determine rather or not the characters have more significance than what one sees in the film. The moral significance could be just understanding human nature, or an aspect of life in the film. One must be able to understand the significance of the theme and the message in the film.
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Another aspect that brings the film to a vivid reality is the use of color. Color has not always been the way people have seen movies, before movies were viewed mainly in black and white. However, directors have taken the time to invest in colors that help shape the mood of the films that are watched. Color can attract the attention of the viewer. The viewer’s eyes can be drawn to bright colors that are saturated on an object of great interest. Advancing colors such as reds and yellows can make objects appear much closer in a scene. These colors can create the impression of “feeling a temperature. The use of blues can establish the understanding that the character is cold when used with red. Color can be use as a transitional device that leads the viewer into the future from the past, or move the film into the time travel to another world
There are some other elements to consider while doing a movie analysis that has not been mentioned above. Some of those elements include special effects, dialogue, the director’s style, and the musical score. All of these elements are equally as important as others, but a couple of them may have a greater impact on the audience than others. The effect on the audience largely depends on who is in the audience. A theater full of men may not care about the dialogue or musical score, but they will be paying very close attention to the special effects. On the other hand, a theater full of women may not pay very close attention to special effects, but they may be affected by the music or the dialogue.
The dialogue in a film can be very important because it has to match with the time period of the movie. A movie set in 1701 should have a certain dialogue in respect to that time period. The audience shouldn’t hear any 21st century slang while watching that film. The movie dialogue in a film for children should be age appropriate and should not contain any type of vulgar language. Too much dialogue in a film can also be a mistake. Some movies that are more dramatic may require the actors to have long periods of silence to make the scene seem more real. If there is too much talking, key scenes in the movie could potentially be ruined.
The score of a movie is one of the most important things to consider during the making of the film. An action scene usually requires some type of music with a good base line. A lot of actions scenes have either rap music or rock and roll in the background to add to the atmosphere in the scene. A love scene would need a more sensual, laid-back type of song that is slightly relaxing. Putting the wrong music in an important scene of a movie could completely confuse and disorient the audience. They could probably have the feeling of watching television and listening to the radio at the same time. Being unable to connect a scene to its background music is an important element to look for when doing a movie analysis.
The textbook “The Art of Watching Films” provides us with a list of questions to ask ourselves as an analyst on evaluating the theme:
- “Is the film’s basic appeal to the intellect, to the funny bone, to the moral sense, or to the aesthetic sense? Is it aimed primarily at the groin (the erotic sense), the viscera (blood and guts), the heart, the yellow streak down the back, or simply the eyes? Support your choice with specific examples from the film.
- How well does your statement of the film’s theme and focus stand up after you have thoroughly analyzed all elements of the film?
- To what degree is the film’s theme universal? Is the theme relevant to your own experience? How?
- If you think the film makes a significant statement, why is it significant?
- Decide whether the film’s theme is intellectually or philosophically interesting, or self-evident and boring, and defend your decision.
- Does the film have the potential to become a classic? Will people still be watching it twenty years from today? Why?” (Boggs, 2008 page 37). Many viewers find and interpret meaning in film by looking at certain characters that are similar to themselves and understanding the lives of those characters. Sometimes one may determine meaning based on emotions that stir up a past experience in one’s own life. Meaning in films can be both subjective and objective; however, meaning is something different for everyone. I tend to take meaning based on what I think the situation of the movie should really be like.
The benefits of properly analyzing a movie are endless. If a person has a very high interest in a certain movie, it would be a great idea to sit down and do a thorough analysis of that movie. Paying attention to one important element at a time will give a person more insight into the things they like the most about the film. If the movie evoked a certain emotion, the movie analysis could have made that reaction even stronger.
Evaluating and analyzing a movie can give a person a better understanding of the elements in a movie. The person could pay more attention to the background colors and really get a better understanding of what the director was trying to get across in the scene. The individual could even see mistakes that were made, and understand how the mistakes could have been corrected during the filming process. Analyzing a film could give a person a greater appreciation for the film itself, the director, the producer, the writer and the actors. Analyzing one film could even give a person more appreciation for all films in general. A movie analysis could be an eye-opening experience for any typical movie-goer, and for people that call themselves “movie buffs.
My own personal criteria for evaluating movies are determined in several different ways. I place together several different questions that reflect what I may see in the film or would like to see in the film. For example, what about this film makes it more than a film, but a superior film, I think if I remain open to the idea that films are a type of art form, then I will be able to respond accordingly. Using an approach that analyzes the film will maintain my sense of awareness and new levels of responses. I will be able to view critically a movie in such a way that will be helpful and not harmful. In addition, I will enjoy the perspective the director takes in moving the film in a certain direction.
All elements used to promote understanding of the film are very important. Analyzing films is process that one can continue to perfect and come away with an understanding of the art in films. Critically watching films is a process in which a viewer can really see the film. The film is seen in the way the filmmaker would like the viewer to see the film. Critically watching films enables the viewer to see how each part of the film “contributes” to the dynamic pulse of the film. Becoming aware of how the director sees the film and the characters. In addition, providing a true perspective of the point of view that the director is trying to convey.
In conclusion, there are many things to consider during the process of doing a movie analysis. Watching a movie more than one time and paying attention to all of the important elements is an essential part of the process. Analyzing a movie can be an amazing experience for any type of movie watcher, and is highly recommended. Learning to develop my own process to evaluate movies has greatly enhanced my movie watching experiences. The art of watching films is a skill that I believe can be mastered. I think that watching films for more than entertainment can move the viewer into a profound understanding of what a movie is supposed be seen as. The art of analyzing films is a process that can bring about a true understanding of filmmaking as whole. The art of watching films is a process that helps us reach the value and meaning of the film. Newfound understanding brings an appreciation of film watching to the viewer through emotional experiences and deepening of the levels in which the film is viewed. Overall, films are designed to be understood and be interpreted for meanings that can be placed together by the viewer with help of the artist (director) ideas. Therefore, the art of watching films is definitely an art that can be examined.
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