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Film Language

Critical Analysis of Literature and Cinema



HSS C313 & GS F322 Geetha. B I Sem 2012-13
Reading a Film
Films are experienced first
Reading a film implies an active
process of making sense of what one is
experiencing
It is an emotional and intellectual
engagement

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What all constitute a film?
the conflict and dialogue of
drama
the narrative description of
fiction
the interplay between light and
shade of painting
the movement and rhythm of music
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And above all, its own distinct
language of image and of sound


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Film form
film form- overall structure of the film;
how it is constructed at both the micro
and macro levels:
from composition of individual shots
(audio-visual fragments) to their
arrangement into scenes, sequences
and finally the entire film


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Macrostructure: composition in
scripting
Microstructure: composition of
images, sounds
the concept of editing and its
relationship to the concept of
structure
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content
Content: what is in the film
Meaning: how meaning is created?
Film as a self-contained text: implicit,
explicit and referential( internal
evidence)
Historical/ social context, about the
filmmaker/ place (external evidence)


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Continued..
film as film vs film in its social context
what is seen in the picture- what is
put into the scene :the mise-en-scene
Everything going on within the frame
outside of editing (and sound ?)




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Mise-en-scene
production design: sets, props and costumes
colour (present in both production design
and lighting)
lighting
actors performance (including casting and
make-up) and movement

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diegetic sound (that is, sound that
emanates from the scene and is not
extraneous to it, such as the music
that is not being played within the
scene or a voice-over)
framing including position; depth of
field; aspect ratio; height and angle
(but not movement)
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Setting: Is the scene shot in a
studio, sound stage or on
location?
How is the setting integrated into
the action?
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The drama on the screen can exist
without actors. A banging door, a leaf
in the wind, waves beating on the
shore can heighten the dramatic
effect. Some film masterpieces use
man as an accessory, like an extra, or
in counterpoint to nature, which is the
true leading character
- Andre Bazin
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prop
Prop: an object in the setting that
operates actively in the ongoing action to
further the plot or story line ( a term
from theatre); used to dress the set
props often define the genre
Art directors design/select sets and dcor
in a film


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costume
A variant of the prop
Tightly connected to the characters identity
In period films, costume of that period is designed
to create the era
Costumes can be iconographic (eg.: cowboy outfit
with a Western, combat uniform with a War film)
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colour
Colour is used as an expressive device
Present in the setting, props, costume
of a film, in the type of lighting used
In black and white film, the shades of
grey convey moods or set the tone
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cheerful and happy times
nostalgic- sepia tone
dull colours- lack of life or sadness
cold or bluish lighting to suggest
alienation, technology
yellowish tinge to convey comfort

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actors performance
acting, appearance, gestures, facial
expressions, voice- tone/accent/ type
of dialect, body posture/ movement
melodramatic or realistic
Classical style, Method acting, Natural
style


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Classical acting: obviously mannered
e.g. Cleopatra, Gladiator, or Mughal E
Azam
Method acting: intense and
psychologically driven; actors create in
themselves the thoughts and emotions of
their characters, so as to develop lifelike
performances
e.g. Bergmans films


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Natural: natural style of acting, there is
less affectation and it is more natural
e.g. Satyajit Rays Pather Panchali
Vittorio De Sicas Bicycle Thieves

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lighting
intensity, direction, and quality of
lighting have profound impact on the
image
brightly illuminated part of a shot may
draw attention to certain objects/
gestures
a shadow may conceal a detail or build
up suspense

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Quality/ intensity: hard or soft lighting
Direction: frontal lighting, side-
lighting, backlighting, under-lighting or
top lighting
Source: natural light, light coming from
the objects within the frame (visible
sources of light) or extra light sources
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Colour: white of sunlight and the soft
yellow of interior lamps are commonly
used
different colour filters placed in front
of the light source can also be used to
colour the onscreen illumination

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(courtesy:
http://www.tcf.ua.edu/TVCrit/)
Key: the main light
usually the strongest
placed to one side of the
camera/subject so that this side is well
lit and the other side has some
shadow



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Fill: secondary light
softer and less bright
is placed on the opposite side of the
key light
is used to fill the shadows created
by the key
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back light:
is placed behind the subject and lights
it from the rear
it provides definition and subtle
highlights around the subject's
outlines
helps separate the subject from the
background and provide a three-
dimensional feel
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Diegetic sound: heard from within the films
diegesis
on-screen (emanated from on-screen
sound source)
off-screen (that which extends to off-
screen space, extra-diegetic)
Non-diegetic sound: heard outside of the
film's diegesis (such as film scores and
voice-overs


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framing
The size and position of objects
relative to the edges of the screen; the
arrangement of objects so that they fit
within the boundaries of the film
Position, depth of field, aspect ratio,
height and angle


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position
Position of the camera in relation to the
frames content
Extreme close-up (part of a face)
Close-up (face)
Medium close-up (head and shoulders)
Medium (head, shoulders, waist)
Medium long ( till the ankle)
Long shot (entire human figure)
Extreme long shot
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Depth of field
DOF is the distance through which
elements in an image are in sharp focus
Deep focus involves staging an event on
film such that significant elements
occupy widely separated planes
elements at very different depths of the
image are in focus
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Shallow focus: restricted depth of field
keeps only one frame in sharp focus
is used to direct the viewers attention
to one particular object/element
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Height and angle
Height of the camera placement
eye-level: camera at the same height as
its subject
low angle: the camera is below the
subject; subject gains stature; often
suggests power
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high angle: camera is placed above
the subject
the character appears diminished
and subdued
suggests vulnerability

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Height and angle can be used to
indicate the relation between a
character and the camera's point of
view
Or simply to create striking visual
compositions


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Aspect ratio
the ratio of the width and height of
the frame
for the conventional format- the
academy frame it is 1.33: 1.
wide-screen formats, aspect ratio
varies from 1.85:1 to 2.55:1.
Cinemascope frame has wider screen
(upto 2.66:1)
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Coined by Prof. Umberto Barbaro 1943.
According to him Neorealism aimed at

Getting rid off naive and mannered forms from Italian cinema.

Abandoning the fantastic and grotesque fabrications excluding


human problems and poverty.

Dispensing with historical set-pieces and fictional adaptation.



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Born in the days of shortages
It introduced a grittier, less polished style of filmmaking
Characteristics:

an avoidance of neatly plotted stories in favour of loose, episodic structures

a documentary style of using visuals

use of conversational speech, rough, raw shots and editing

the use of actual locations than the studio sets,



nonprofessional actors

avoidance of artifice in editing, camerawork, and lighting



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Organizing Edits
i. Eye line match: for point of view shots.
the first shot shows a character looking - in the second shot we
see what the character is looking at
Ii. Point-of view cutting: a variant of the eye line match
A character looks off screen-cut- the object the character is
looking at(from the characters vantage point; eg. Charulata)

Stand by Me by Rob Reiner




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Frame cutting- A character moves
out of frame right-cut to- enters
frame left

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Shot/reverse shot- to show two people in a


conversation

First shot shows one of them speaking and the next


shot shows the second one in conversation

Bicycle Thieves

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Post mid-sem
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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
On Editing
Reluctant Fundamentalist: Novel and Film
Works for Term Paper: list to be posted