Analyzing Essay Questions

This handout provides a brief definition of film analysis compared to literary analysis, provides an introduction to common types of film analysis, and offers strategies and resources for approaching assignments.

Film analysis is the process in which film is analyzed in terms of semiotics, narrative structure, cultural context, and mise-en-scene, among other approaches.

Having a clear argument and supporting evidence is every bit as critical to film analysis as to other forms of academic writing.

Unlike literature, film incorporates audiovisual elements and therefore introduces a new dimension to analysis.

What were/are the social and political concerns of the time period?

For example, Frozen is often linked to the LGBTQ social movement.

You might agree or disagree with this interpretation, and, using evidence from the film, support your argument.

Like the dramatic structure of literature (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), film has what is known as the Three-Act Structure: “Act One: Setup, Act Two: Confrontation, and Act Three: Resolution.” Narrative structure analysis breaks the story of the film into these three elements and might consider questions like: Consider again the example of Frozen.

You can use symbolism and narrative structure in conjunction by placing the symbolic objects/events in the context of the narrative structure.

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  1. Although an abstinence pledge had been introduced by churches as early as 1800, the earliest temperance organizations seem to have been those founded at Saratoga, New York, in 1808 and in Massachusetts in 1813. The precedent for seeking temperance through law was set by a Massachusetts law, passed in 1838 and repealed two years later, which prohibited sales of spirits in less than 15-gallon (55-litre) quantities.

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  3. The early 19th century, in particular, saw a proliferation of great essayists in English – William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. Virginia Woolf, Edmund Wilson, and Charles du Bos wrote literary criticism essays.