Question by An Agent of Chaos: What are the best ways to analyze documentaries?
I am new to film but am taking a film class. I am somewhat out-of-place because I am taking a class filled with film majors, and I never taken a film class before. What are good ways to analyze film? That is, what should I be looking for when watching a movie?
It’s hard for me to formulate a solid response to films and I wish to improve on this.
Can you please help me, especially in documentary films?
Answer by Jim T
It is a bit hard to give you a definitive answer. There is a language of film, where images are used both to describe an action and allude to other things. I remember an old text book from my movie studies days in the 80s called How to Read a Film which was helpful.
There is no right way to analyze the motivation behind a directors choices of how he makes a film, although it will help if you can recognise various techniques like the difference between a zoom and a track in.
Interpretations are up to you. Look around for some books that are easy to read and which can help you explain what you mean. There used to be a book called How To Bluff Your Way in The Cinema, and there is probably an Idiots Guide and they will help.
Above all remember that most of your fellow students are posers who are making it up and with a bit of confidence you can do the same. For a start, learn what is meant by ‘trope’, ‘mise-en-scene’ and ‘chiaroscuro’ and feel free to use them. (Sorry I am cynical).
Give your answer to this question below!