Anyone can write about what they see on a TV or movie screen. The media studies student who is after good grades in their essays will, however, be using the correct terminology to pinpoint EXACTLY what the film-makers are trying to do, and addressing the big issues of film theory such as how this medium engage with the representation of reality. Film is a language all its own, a way of communicating using images which is understood around the globe, perhaps even around the galaxy - how else would we try to communicate with aliens, except by using pictures? However, like any other language it has rules and conventions which can be deconstructed, and, through deconstruction, understood. But in order to deconstruct, you have to be able to give all the pieces a name.
What we see on the screen is the diegesis (the narrative world of the film) and it can be divided up into two areas:
|Mise-en-scène||The things in the scene - these are literally the things put in the picture for you to look at. All or some may be significant, but nothing is accidental - remember, this is not reality, it is a re-presentation of it. This will include actors (think about the use of stars), set (think about the input of the designer, especially the use of colour), costume, lighting. You should consider how the mise-en-scène reflect the production values of the movie. Location is an important aspect of mise-en-scène: why was that particular location chosen, and what advantages/restrictions would you associate with filming there?|
process of translating mise-en-scène into
moving pictures, into shots, and the relationship between the
two. The main parameters are
When describing movement, we consider primary action, ie the movement of characters/objects within the frame and secondary action, ie the movement of the camera in relation to those objects.
There is an old adage that films are edited, not made. Much important work is done in the edit suite. While a good editor may not always be able to salvage a bad film, a bad editor can certainly ruin what might otherwise
Hollywood movies tend to go for continuity editing, a style also known as transparency (ie you don't notice it). Actions flow smoothly from one frame to another, and the audience simply follow the dialogue. Oppositional to this, and the style employed by many art-house films is framed editing, where the audience are continually reminded that they are viewing an artificially created text. Jump cuts, sudden stoppages of sound,
When shots are placed next to each other in a sequence the link between them is known as a transition. The simplest of these is a cut, ie a straight splice from one section of film to another. There are many others - fades, dissolves, wipes, plus those offered by sophisticated digital software.
When analysing film you also need to consider SOUND. It is a vital part of the information used for decoding film - whether it comes in the form of a lush string soundtrack or footsteps echoing O/S down a corridor.
Read an excellent Introduction to Film Sound here.
This is just a very basic introduction. For more on film theory, try: