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Nerves in Patterns on a Screen: An Introduction to Film Studies

Length: 342 pages5 hours


Movies offer us images (and usually sounds) that “throw our nerves in patterns on a screen” (Eliot). In other words, they express the neurological hyperactivity of modern subjects. Films are affect machines, in this respect. Each has its own heartbeat (narrative highs and lows), dramatic expansions and contractions (montage), and changing patterns and light (cinematography). The following chapters looks at films that have made impacts both in the history of film and, more broadly, in historical events of the Twentieth Century. Each chapter explores the ways in which modernity (the socio-historical, economic, and cultural context of the films) intersects with film content (character, plot, and various mise-en-scène elements that are part of the film’s narrative) and with cinematic form (camera angles, shot types, editing, lighting, sound, and other cinematic elements that are not part of the story itself) in web-like relationships. At the same time, each chapter will consider the diachronic (across linear time) dynamic whereby films influenced their time and vice-versa. By looking at the way audience’s own understanding of characters or events were (and continue to be) influenced by, for instance, German Expressionistic settings or Russian Formalist montage, we can learn a lot about how subjects were (and continue to be) “directed” to see the world and to view themselves in it. By honing this ability to view films critically and consciously through a study of over 20 important films produced from 1895-2013, we can begin to identify the elements that have made film among the most powerful art forms of the 20th century.

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