Assignment: Preliminary Analysis 1.4k words

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The purpose of this assignment is twofold. First, you will identify a major theme of a 214 film and write a thesis related to that theme. Second, you will conduct a close formal/aesthetic analysis of one shot from the film. The goal is to connect film style to film narrative and to analyze how film style communicates information that relates to film narrative. Close formal analysis is a crucial building block of any sophisticated film analysis. These planning stages are important early steps in the writing process.

1) Skills/Knowledge: As a result of completing this assignment, students will be able to:

  • Synthesize, condense, and express an original argument of film analysis through writing a thesis statement.
  • Identify specific elements of film style in a single shot of a film using the vocabulary of film studies.
  • Critically analyze how film style relates to film narrative. d. Interpret how film style communicates in relation to film narrative.

Assignment Requirements

1) Part One: Thesis

  • Develop a thesis about the film researched for the Annotated Bibliography assignment. This thesis should take the form of a one or two sentence statement, and it should clearly express a central theme of the film. The scope of the thesis should be appropriate for a 1200-word essay, and it should avoid evaluative language.
    • Example: “Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941) recounts the life story of Charles Foster Kane through multiple—and often contradictory and unreliable— character testimonies. Through its narrative structure, the film comments on the fundamental inability to understand the complexity of a human life, and in refusing to present the point of view of Kane himself, Citizen Kane never answers the central question of who Kane really was.”

2) Part Two: Shot Analysis

  • Choose one shot—yes, a single shot—from the film you’ve chosen, and compose a thesis statement and short analysis (150 words) that connects style to narrative. Consider how that shot connects to the broader theme(s) that you identified in Part One. Think of this stylistic analysis as providing a specific example to support your main thesis.
  • Include a screencap in your submission.
    • If you don’t know how to make screencaps, use VLC — it is a free video player with simple screen shot controls:
    • Alternately, you can do a Google Image search to try to find your shot.


“The blocking in this shot from Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941) establishes the unequal power relations among the characters, and it reinforces the film’s refusal to provide access to Kane’s interior character and point of view. Kane’s mother and Thatcher occupy the foreground of the shot, where they are signing the documents turning over legal guardianship of Charles to Thatcher. Their position in the frame indicates their power over Charles’s future. Kane’s father occupies the mid-ground, indicating his relative impotence in the decision-making process. In the background, seen in deep focus through a window, is Charles himself. While Charles’s position in the background indicates his lack of control over his future, the composition of the frame draws attention to him. The lines of the image converge on Charles, and his position in the center of the frame indicates his centrality to the narrative. Even though the narrative is focused on Charles, he lacks power over his future.”

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Assignment: Preliminary Analysis 1.4k words

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