Tools of Perception
The way in which one perceives a piece of art is almost an entirely subjective phenomenon. How a person relates with and understands a film comes from their personal experience and history with film. Before taking this course, I myself believed I had firmly grasped what it takes to truly understand a film. I had participated in many discussions on the underlying meaning of certain films, such as Fight Club and Groundhog Day. Although I previously possessed the ability to dig deeper into the meaning of certain films, my analysis was almost entirely limited to that of thematic elements. I had the ability to recognize subtleties and apply them to the theme of the film, but my experience with recognizing other cinematic elements was limited.
Throughout this class the tools of which I possessed to further understand film grew dramatically. Firstly, I became aware of the many different ways and perspectives to analyze film. I now understand there are six different ways to approach analyzing a film. A writer could approach a film through a historical method, known as film history. In this approach a writer would investigate the historical context in which a film fits and the historical developments surrounding its creation. Relating to, but not entirely similar to the historical approach is the method of analysis known as national cinema Writing through this method requires the author to pay close attention to the cultural and national circumstances under which the film was created. An author could also approach film analysis from a perspective that focuses on genre or type of film. The author uses films within the same genre as a reference point for analyzing the film, allowing them to draw conclusions from similarities and differences among them. Writers can also investigate films by analyzing different films from the same director; this is known as auteur criticism. Formalism is another type of film analysis. This method focuses on the style and structure of a film according to specific cinematic elements, such as editing or sound. Finally, an author can choose to analyze a film based upon its ideological principles. The writer using this method analyzes the political meaning or messages within a film. The discovery of these six different methods of approaching film analysis has helped me to better understand the films I watch. It does this by offering me a different perspective in which to view and analyze a film. No longer am I limited to simply picking and choosing random elements of a film to analyze. I am now able to choose a specific method of analysis which enables me to more thoroughly investigate subtleties within a film. These different methods have revealed to me a much more in depth way to enjoy film. I do not merely watch a film anymore, I try to understand the deeper meaning behind the film and how specific elements relate to that meaning.
Through taking this course I not only gained a better appreciation and understanding of the films I enjoyed, but also developed a respect for all film. Prior to this class I was unaware of the immense task performed by a director in creating a film. I did not realize how meticulous many directors were about the placement of seemingly unimportant props. I had no idea of how precise each camera angle had to be to create the desired effect by the director. By analyzing and critiquing specific elements of film, the grandiose feat of directing and creating a film became apparent. I am very particular about the films I enjoy. And I now after taking this class have a greater respect for all films; including those I do not necessarily consider a favorite.
Although I have gained respect for many directors and the work they do, this class has also influenced me to hold films to a much higher standard than before. After learning multiple techniques for analyzing film I have developed a refined taste for what I personally consider a “good” movie. The bar has been raised to the least. I find myself turning my nose to blockbuster hits, and instead opting for films that I can dissect and learn something from. While I still enjoy the multi-million dollar special effects driven films, I am constantly picking them apart. I find that when films are not carefully constructed they become annoying to me. I dwell on the details and try to derive meaning from them, but when meaning is not present I am frankly disappointed. I have also found that I become irritated with people who hype up worthless, cookie-cutter type films, which are solely created to captivate a lazy audience. I do not think I am so much as irritated with them, as I am disappointed with their judgment. This disappointment in turn leads to irritation when I end up taking someone’s advice and waste two hours of my life witnessing some horrible film where nothing happens. Then I am disappointed in myself for actually thinking M. Night Shyamalan had made a decent film since The Sixth Sense. It is one thing to enjoy a film, it is a whole other story claiming that said film is “awesome.” Honestly, I feel like I’m being lied to when this happens, and I take it personally.
Prior to taking this course I believed I knew everything I needed to know about how to decide whether or not a film was of quality. I thought I had relatively good taste in film and I believed I understood those films better than most. To my surprise, I learned that my skills of analysis were in all reality quite weak. I used obvious elements of film to decide whether or not a film was good, but I was lacking an in depth understanding more subtle cinematic elements. This course allowed me to discover the subtle elements of film and in doing so I grasped the ability to critically analyze. I am now able to analyze specific elements of film from a specific perspective and draw in depth conclusions to the quality of the film.