Analyzing cinematic techniques


How can I write my analysis of techniques in a film. How would I cite a film? I obviously cannot refer to pages, as if it were  a book. I don’t want to miss points on my paper because of this! Thanks!


Hi again!

It is possible to analyze film in a similar manner as you analyze prose or poetry. However, you will be looking for different techniques since there is a visual element to film that is lacking when reading a novel. Here are some effective ways to view a film in preparation for writing an analysis:

1. Use a graphic organizer to write notes while you view the film. You may select 3 or 4 cinematic techniques to watch for. Note your observations and your interpretations/inferences about the intended effects of your observations.

2. Watch the film at least 2 times through, 3 if you are struggling.

3. If you are watching for visual cinematic techniques, like camera angles, framing, or lighting, you might try watching the film with the sound muted. This action will take your attention away from the dialogue and sounds and focus it on what observations can be made with the eye.

4. Chunk the film into different scenes in your notes, so that you have a clear reference to go back to when you’re writing your essay. You might break the scenes up by titles (like the scene selections on a DVD) or in chunks of time (as in every 15 or 20 minutes).

5. When referring to the film in your essay, you could include it in your sentence. For example, “In the opening credits of Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, ….) You would need to refer to the director, the title, and the scene you’re analyzing.

6. Finally, if you need to include a Works Cited page, you can site a film in MLA format using the example below. Organize films by their titles. Include the name of the director (dir.), the distributor, and the release year. If the actors are relevant, include a list of the performer names (perf.) after the director’s name to begin the list. End the entry with the appropriate medium of publication (DVD, VHS, Blu-Ray, 3D Version)

Ed Wood. Dir. Tim Burton. Perf. Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette. Touchstone, 1994. DVD.