How to analyse a film


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How to analyse a film

  1. 1. How to analyse a filmWhen it comes to analysing a film there are different methods and stages that you must gothrough in order to produce a successful analysis. Each stage of analysis breaks the filmdown into different areas and helps you to understand the director’s ideas for the filmduring production stages.The first thing to do in a film analysis is to do a genre analysis on the film; this involveslooking into each different aspect of the film, for example: Codes and conventions, Mise enscene, Narrative, iconography and similar areas. These aspects of the film are analysed indetail and compared with other films of the same genre to understand if the director wasgoing for an original angle. Most films will conform to the codes and conventions of thegenre mainly because it is what the audience wants. An example of this is a film such asJames Bond where all the aspects of the film are exactly how the codes and conventions ofthe genre suggest. This means that considering James Bond is an action film it includes lotsof explosions, guns, money, suits and good looking women.However sometimes directorswill go against the usual way of doing things. This is quite a brave concept because choosingto purposely make a film the way experience has proven wrong can often lead the film inthe wrong direction. If the director was trying to break the conformity of a genre in apowerful way, they are referred to as an auteur director.An auteur is basically a skilled director who creates films for the artistic and impressivevalue rather than just to make money and be the next biggest thing. An example of anauteur director is Quentin Tarantino who created Pulp Fiction, a film that was considered tohighly break the genre conventions of a typical crime film. The film did this in a clever wayby giving the film an obvious theme and complying with a lot of the conventions such as thecharacters wearing black suits, carrying big guns, dealing with drugs and going afterdangerous women. All this makes the film sound like a regular gangster film until the film iswatched. One of the most noticeable things about the film is how it is played out; in a veryunique order to make the action run its course in a way that makes the film much moreinteresting for the audience. This is referred to as a non-linear structure. In terms of the plothowever it differs greatly from the typical gangster films in that it doesn’t simply involve thepolice trying to take down crime or gangsters combat the police. The film also contains a lotof subtle differences in terms of props and style making the film look a lot more laid backand less flashy to contrast the gangster theme.When analysing film genres, it is important to remember the 7 main areas that genres canbe broken down into. One of these important factors is codes and conventions. Codes andconventions are essentially the all-round things that make a film fit into a specific genre. Anexample of codes and conventions is with a genre such as teen comedy, the codes andconventions would be everything about the film that targets that particular audience. Thisincludes everything from the typical high school setting to the wild partying plot andeverything in-between. Another aspect of a genre is the setting, the setting defines the
  2. 2. entire look of the film to the audience before they even watch the film, so it is importantthat the film producers choose a setting that works well with the genre and complimentsthe look of the film. An example of this could be in gangster films where the typical locationsusually consist of places like diners, large houses, crowded cities, nice cars, dark nightclubsand many more locations of the same theme. Pulp fiction does this very well by showingmany scenes in these precise locations. This instantly shows the audience the precise genreand plot of the film. Similar to the setting, the characters included in a genre are again, adefining factor of the style of the film. For each genre there is always a specific cast ofcharacters who are essential to the plot of the film for example in the horror genre There isusually a very specific set of characters, consisting of an over confident character whodoesn’t believe what the others think is happening, a character who is always nervous and isusually the first one to suspect something and always dies, The hero who is usually a malecharacter and completes a brave act usually to save his friends, a female victim who isusually portrayed as young, dumb, attractive and always suffers an unfortunate death, aloved up couple, usually too preoccupied with each other to notice that something bad isgoing on, and finally the obvious character, the bad guy, the bad guy can take on any formas long as it is terrifying, often being portrayed as either zombies, werewolves or a man in amask and can often withstand an inhuman amount of pain. Themes are another importantaspect of films in terms of the meaning portrayed whilst watching the film, each differentgenre has a completely different theme but each film of the same genre tends to have asmall bunch of themes that reoccur often. In romantic films the theme of love is alwayspresent similar to how it can be present in other genres or a similar theme such asfriendship with sidekicks in action films however it is always portrayed in a different waydepending on the genre. In action films the main theme would always be conflict due to thepurpose of the film and love with romance films purely down to the nature of the genre. Inthe film ‘Quantum of solace’ the film makes use of the good looking women to add to thetheme and conventions of the film, the women are represented in a derogatory manner andare objectified throughout the film. This is the case with many different action films and isstill used today despite many sexist concerns because of the conventions of the actiongenre.Similar to this concept each genre has a typical set of narratives. This is mainlybecause there have been many tried and the popular narratives are the only ones that getgood ratings. For example in comedy narratives usually involve a road trip, a holiday, a highschool parties and similar experiences. These narratives are specific to each genre becausethe narrative makes it easy to fit the correct jokes/action into the film. Iconography is yetanother example of a trait of each genre; iconography is not displayed in each film but isactive in films of each genre. An example of iconography is from the film ‘Back to the future’with the well-known car, the delorean is now a worldwide reminder of the film and instantlymakes people think of back to the future. Iconography is heavily linked to genre because it iswhat people look for in each genre, things like sheriffs and horses in westerns, explosions inaction films and everything relevant to each genre to give the audience a clear indication ofthe nature of the film.
  3. 3. Considering what genre analysis is made up of, there are still auteur films that contradictthe usual codes and conventions of typical genre qualities. One film that is considered non-conforming to the usual genre codes and conventions is the film ‘Leon’. The film is part ofthe action genre and is directed by Luc Besson, who is considered an auteur director. Thefilm does contain a good amount of action to make the film interesting and keep theaudience on edge; howeverthe action is shot in a completely different way to other actionfilms such as Quantum of solace. Being a stereotypical action film, Quantum of solace is fullof fast cars, beautiful women, expensive suits, huge explosions and just generally shows thecharacter living the life of his dreams. However Leon is a film with an incredibly similar plotexcept it doesn’t contain any fast cars or beautiful women; the character wears scruffyclothes and moves from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. The film is an arguably morerealistic approach on the life of a contract killer than the seemingly unbelievable approachof James Bond. A perfect example of this is in the opening scenes of each film, the openingscene to Quantum of solace can be found here: Instantly from the very beginning of thefilm it is obvious to the audience that the film is incredibly high budget, with immaculateshots of foreign landscapes and flash cars, the very first five minutes consists of uncountablenumbers of shots of the main character and many different cars being destroyed in a highspeed car chase with multiple explosions and non-stop gunfire. This is a complete contrastto Leon’s opening which can be found here: this opening the film begins slow withminimal volume and lots of obvious enemies with guns searching for someone that is hardlyever seen by the audience. The action is a lot more violent and graphic than in the Quantumof solace opening and the main character is made out to be a lot more mysterious andflashy than the typical hero. Throughout the entire film the character is made out to have abad life and he simply does his job because it is all he knows.Luc Besson, the director of Leon, is widely considered an auteur director mainly because ofthis particular movie. This is because of the individuality and skill he showed in the directingof the film. He did a lot of the work himself rather than allowing the film to be created withhim simply supervising the production and took a lot of care to make sure the film was inthe exact individual style he wished. For most directors it would be a simple task to get ahigh budget film to be successful such as James Bond by simply sticking to the stereotypicalcodes and conventions of the genre. However Luc Besson was determined to break theconventions and make a film that showed great artistic merit despite how successful itwould be and how much money it would make. This is one of the most important factors ofan auteur director along with showing individuality in film creation.Quentin Tarantino is another director considered as an auteur. He makes extremely popularfilms such as: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Django Unchained and IngloriousBasterds. Each one of these films is a completely different concept; however each onemanages to break the conformities of its chosen genre. With each film he clearly put a lot
  4. 4. more effort into the artistic merit than making money off commercial success. In my opinionQuentin Tarantino is an incredibly skilled director with a lotof brilliant ideas and individuality. Reservoir dogs and pulpfiction were two of Quentin Tarantino’s earliest films andconsequently were both gangster films. Due to the fact thatthese movies were the ones that would establish him aname in the film industry they were extremely significant tohis directing style and broke many different codes andconventions whilst managing to play the gangster genreperfectly to his advantage. His later films including Djangoand Inglorious Basterds were of a much different style withgenres including American, western and War. These laterfilms continued to break conformity and stick with hissignature style however in a very different way. The fact thathis films all follow the same style furthers the impression of him being an auteur director.Quentin Tarantino also writes a lot of his films such as PulpFiction and Django. This proves that he does a lot of the workhimself rather than allowing somebody else’s creation to endup in whatever way the actors make it. With him being boththe director and writer he chooses the cast for his films,carefully choosing similar actors for each film often using thesame actors at least twice. This is even more of an indicationthat he has high intentions for his films to be artistic andconvention breaking as he knows who he wants playing whichrole before he has even finished writing the film.Rian Johnson is a fairly new director who recently created a blockbuster called Looper.Looper is a sci-fi/action-thriller with a heavy plotline about time travel and the pursuit ofones future self. Rian Johnson is highly debated as an auteur director with a lot of fansclaiming that he puts the effort into his films for artistic merit and a lot of people claimingthat the films he makes are compliant to the genre codes and conventions.Judging whether or not he is an auteur director is fairly hard considering his filmographyconsists of three, very recent films;however based on the evidence that hasbeen portrayed recently with the filmLooper I would argue that he issomewhat an auteur director. I arrived atthis opinion by firstly checking how mucheffort he puts into the production of hisfilms and with each film he has bothwritten and directed the entire thing.
  5. 5. With only Looper to go off in terms of content, considering he was by far the main creator ofthe film it has to be said that all his effort was rewarded. With Looper being one of his firstfilms he almost certainly demonstrated marvellous technical abilities in being able to directa film so big and obtain a great cast including Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Thefilm has a very individual style and uses the concept of merging action and sci-fi to make afilm concept very rare in the entire film industry. The ability for a director to combine actiongenre characters and the action setting with a sci-fi plot makes the film very unique andimpressive to look at, especially in the exciting scenes. The only aspect of the argumentwhich is debatable is how auteur directors usually disregard commercial success for artisticmerit and this film was created in an almost certain to be popular way. However in myopinion if the film is managing to be individual and unique to the rest of the genre then I seeno issue with the director trying to make the film a blockbuster.