LMC 2500: Intro to Film
Sequence Analysis Assignment
Your assignment is to write a 1,000 word essay analyzing a very short selected sequence from a film of your choice. Do not choose a scene that we have discussed in class or on the blog. How do the mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing and sound design work together in the sequence to underscore its themes and those of the film as a whole?
Part 1: Shot List
Due in class on Tuesday, February 6th.
Prior to writing your paper, prepare a detailed shot list that includes all shots in the selected sequence. Please model your shot list on the template provided below. Additional help can be found in the section of The Film Experience on “Preparing to Write about a Film.” Students who do not submit a complete shot list on these dates will not be permitted to hand-in a paper and will fail the assignment.
|Shot||Image Captured||Movie Time||Length of Shot||Description of Shot
Part 2: Analytical Essay
Due in class on Tuesday, February 13.
Once you have compiled your shot list, begin thinking about how the techniques you have documented function together in the sequence. Develop an argument about how these techniques reinforce the scene’s themes, then select detailed, individual examples from the sequence. You do not need to describe the entire sequence, nor do you need to write about every shot. You don’t even need to write about every technique you’ve catalogued on your shot list. Rather, use selective examples to analyze how particular techniques create specific effects in the overall design of the sequence.
Questions to Ask:
Mise-en-scène: How do props and costumes help convey characters and themes? Are particular colors dominant (or absent)? Is the setting significant? If so, how is it presented? How does the lighting help convey the setting and the action? How is character blocking and placement used?
Cinematography: Where is the camera placed in relation to the action? Distance? Angle? How do particular compositions draw attention to elements of the settings, characters or themes? How does camera movement function in the sequence? Are different focal lengths or depths of field used? How does cinematography reinforce the mise-en-scène?
Editing: What kinds of transitions are there between shots? Are these always the same? Do they change? Does the editing have a particular rhythm, and is it consistent? Does it conform to rules of continuity, or does it seem disjunctive or discontinuous? What spatial and temporal relations are articulated through cutting? Graphic relations? Rhythmic relations? Associational connections?
Sound: What sounds are present? When does volume or pitch change? Is silence used? Are specific sounds linked to cuts or camera movement? When and how are onscreen and off-screen sound used? Are sounds diegetic or non-diegetic?
These questions are just to get you started. You do not need to answer every question in your essay. Use the questions as a way to help select the techniques that will be the focus of your argument. This is only the beginning. There are many other questions you can ask as well. Look back through your lecture notes and your readings.
Avoid plot summary and extended visual description. Aim instead to analyze how specific cinematic techniques function to underscore the film’s themes and ideas. Organize your essay around key points in your argument, rather than a chronological examination of the sequence.
Avoid evaluative language. (“The costumes are beautiful.”) Aim instead to analyze the effects of the techniques used. (“Ada’s restrictive, layered clothing impedes her movement through the natural surroundings and symbolizes her oppression.”)
Use precise film terminology. (Is the camera movement a track, tilt, pan or zoom? Is it a high-angle shot or a low-angle shot?, etc.) When in doubt, consult Corrigan and White.
Avoid vague language. (“The use of lighting in this scene is very effective” or “Parallel editing helps to create suspense,” etc.) Aim instead to analyze the specific effect of individual techniques. (“Closed frame compositions emphasize Susan’s entrapment.”)
Make a strong argument about the sequence.
Ineffective thesis statement: In this essay I will analyze the use of sound in Blackmail’s “knife” sequence, connecting it to larger thematic and visual patterns in the film as a whole.
Effective thesis statement: In Blackmail off-screen sound illustrates Alice’s powerlessness, while also encouraging viewers to identify with this position of victimization.
You are not required to do any additional research for this paper. Rely on the analytical skills you have been learning in class.
- Papers must have page numbers, be double-spaced, printed in Times 12-point font, with standard margins. No exceptions.
- Italicize film titles and indicate the director and date: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968).
- Give your paper a title that reflects your argument about the sequence.
- Put your name, and your professor’s name on the top of the first page.
- Do not use a cover page.
- Spell check and proof read your paper.
- Should you submit the assignment after the due date, your grade for the assignment will decrease by a full letter grade for each day that it is late. Should you fail to submit an assignment entirely, you will receive an F on that assignment and, consequently, you will receive a lower grade for the course.