This short list of tips for mindful movie viewing is for all moviegoers. It will help the viewer become cinematographically literate, because every film enthusiast should strive to be a “critic” (in the best and most general sense of the word).
The list includes helpful tips on the art of reading, analyzing, watching, critically viewing and deconstructing a film (to disassemble the components of a film and understand why and why it was filmed); understanding of the complex and dense “language” of cinema, its conventions, codes, symbols, cinematic attributes, etc. Go.
Choose a suitable movie to watch
For a better understanding of the methodology, give preference to classics or films from independent studios. This comprehensive list of tips is not intended for recreational movie rides that make little or no sense. However, make sure you choose a movie with a wide variety of genres.
For example, “Titanic”, which combines historical drama, thriller, melodrama and disaster film.
Pay attention to general information
Pay attention to the following facts:
- the title of the film (as well as an alternative title or title during production, if any);
For example: The original title of 2001 A Space Odyssey was Journey Beyond the Stars. The change to the current original was due to the fact that the number “2001” denoted the first year of the new millennium and the next century.
- year of issue;
- main and secondary actors;
- genre classification (determine the main genre of the film. For example, action, adventure, musical or comedy. If the film does not fit into a particular genre, then it is a hybrid – a movie in which two or more genres are combined);
- summary (pay attention to the description of the movie and try to write your own: a short one-line summary, – synopsis);
Watch the movie a second time
Important note: not all films deserve a second screening. If you liked the movie, watch it again, but together with someone, so that later you can discuss this experience.
During the first viewing:
- get acquainted with the plot, main characters, etc .;
- in other words, observe the development of the plot, including the time and place of the action, the characters and their interactions, without making any important notes or far-reaching conclusions;
- Maintain the objectivity of what is presented without first judging the film based on what you have heard about it (from critics, friends, etc.);
- define for yourself the context of the film: social, political and / or historical;
- Consider the entire movie, realizing that it consists of the sum of all its parts. Some parts may be “great,” some may not be so, but the film has to stick together, be holistic and meaningful in its entirety.
During the second viewing:
- pay more attention to small things and dialogues;
- identify the most important or meaningful dialogues / monologues in the film. Pay attention to how and at what pace the dialogue is going on: quickly, slowly, loudly / quietly, etc .;
- take notes and spot inaccuracies;
- concentrate on the technical side of the film. Pay attention to editing, direction, shooting features, interesting camera angles, etc .;
- Listen carefully to how and why the music / score complements the film: to emphasize the action, advance the plot, give an emotional tone or mood? Is the film’s soundtrack appropriate, subtle and effective, or inappropriate, overwhelming and overbearing? Notice if silence is used instead of sound;
- Look for the director’s cut of the movie (an extended cut with many deleted scenes not meant to be shown in theaters).
The extended version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King lasts over four hours.
Go into the details
Look for information about the screenwriter and his other work. If a script is available, compare it to the finished film.
- Is it adapted from some other work or is it based on an original idea?
- if adapted, how well does it match the original?
- if original, how fresh and innovative is it?
- whether it is based on real events;
- if the film is based on some historical event or tells about some historical person, how believable is this film?
- Does the film script effectively convey the story through action and dialogue?
It is believed that the idea of ”Terminator” dreamed of James Cameron, when he was in a fever. In a dream, he saw how an ominous man with a glowing red eye was chasing a defenseless girl. The script that Cameron wrote a year later, in 1982, nobody wanted to buy. In the end, for a symbolic one dollar, it was sold to Gail Ann Heard, a little-known aspiring producer and Cameron’s future wife.
Plot and structure
How is the plot told?
- through normal exposure;
- through memories;
- with the help of a narrator (voice-over);
- linear or non-linear;
- objectively or subjectively.
How does the film work?
- is there a plot, climax or denouement?
- closed or open finals?
The famous ending of The Shawshank Redemption, in which Andy and Red meet against the backdrop of a blue ocean, was not featured by King or in the original script by director Frank Darabont. She was added at the request of Liz Glozer, the executive producer of the film. And of course, this is one of the best endings in the movie, not only because it is almost a classic “happy end”, but also because of how sharply it contrasts with the rest of the plot.
Find the main theme of the film, motive, idea or dominant message, as well as subtext (hidden meaning), and then answer the following questions:
- Are there any outstanding symbols and metaphors in the film? determine their purpose and the overall effect of their use;
- does the film have a hidden meaning?
If you like to notice explicit (or implicit) puns, then you know that the main character of The Shawshank Redemption is not Andy, but the prisoner Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, – the best friend of Dufrein. Well, the word “Red” in the title “Shawshank Red emption” tells us that the film is about the redemption of Red himself, on whose behalf the main story is being told. He, unlike his friend, committed a crime and suffered a fair punishment for him, having been released from prison on early release.
Style and pace
Determine the overall style and pace of the movie: noisy, sophisticated, tense, rude, etc.
Nearly all of Wes Anderson’s films, including The Grand Budapest Hotel, have perhaps the most recognizable storytelling styles. It is based on symmetry, the author’s cutting, centering, the use of combined pastel and bright colors, a high degree of detail.
Character and actor
Answer the following questions:
- who are the main characters of the film (do you remember their names?)
- are minor characters important?
- briefly describe each hero you remember (tell us about his main motives or life values, describe the character);
- is there a hero and / or antihero?
- are the characters believable?
- did the actors play well?
Initially, the role of Officer Ripley in the movie “Alien” was supposed to be played by a man. But we are glad that the creators decided to change the usual order of things, taking the main role of a woman. Simply put, the character of Ellen Ripley, an officer of “Nostromo”, is the embodiment of a brave and quick-witted girl who is responsible for the safety of her team and makes rather difficult life decisions.
As a result, along with the foundations of the genre, “Alien” laid the idea that a strong main character is not always a man.
Pay attention to stylistic and visual characteristics, the use of lighting and color to create mood; using a static or moving camera; number of large and general plans.
Pay attention to various visual cues, such as:
- starting frame;
- lighting (diffuse, light, dim, backlighting, spot lighting, use of light and dark areas);
- focusing (zoom, stand focus, blur, deep focus);
- distance to the camera and framing (close-ups, general shots, distant shots);
- compositions (arrangement of elements, symmetrical or asymmetrical, the use of shadows, closed or open space, low ceilings, windows, mirrors, etc.);
- camera angle of view (tilt, wide, low / high, etc.);
- the colors used (or color filtering);
- shooting speed (reverse or fast / slow motion).
- if the film is old, ask yourself – is it relevant today?
- Find out what major reviewers, press or critics have written about the film;
- Determine the level of its influence on other films and on the film industry in general. Is it (influence) at all?
The release of Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino is considered an important milestone in the history of cinema, not only because of the peculiarities of the film itself (non-linear storytelling or long entertaining dialogues), but also through its success, which subsequently gave a powerful impetus to the development of independent cinema in the United States.