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Characteristics of film | Film genres | Features of the film genre | The Films

Film Studies - Leaving Cert

Since the films selected must be studied in a comparative manner with literary texts, they are studied under such headings as The General Vision and Viewpoint, Theme or Issue, Relationships and Social Setting.

It is, however, necessary for students to grasp what the Department calls "the specific discourse of film." This includes an appreciation of such things as use of light, sound, voice-over, camera angles, etc.

Characteristics of film

A film deals with people, places, and situations. The manner and the reason they are shown vary greatly. A film tells a story and can be described as a narrative. By identifying the plot of the film, its subject and meaning, the themes and issues of the film become clear.

It is crucial to grasp the morals, values and life-views being represented in a film. A film's director takes a particular viewpoint and presents the film's issues and themes from that viewpoint.

The viewer examines the values emphasised or criticised by the film. By asking the following questions, the viewer can clarify these points:

  • What is the message or moral in the film?
  • If one cannot be identified, why is that?
  • What emotional impression does the film leave? Do you feel happy/sad/depressed after seeing it? Why is that?

Film genres

The filmmaker shapes the narrative of a film in his or her chosen way. The filmmaker's particular viewpoint of the subject matter defines the genre. Film genres include thriller, western, romance, biography and social realism.

Features of the film genre

The images we see on the screen are contained within a rectangle, referred to as a frame, which corresponds to the frame of the camera used to film the images. Camerawork controls exactly what is seen and how it is seen. Depending on how the filmmaker wishes to present the action, certain aspects can be emphasised, sidelined or cut out altogether. This is a way of directing the viewer's attention towards or away from what the filmmaker wants the viewer to see or not see.

Understanding the genre of a film means being able to ask and answer certain questions:

  • Is a pattern of notable camera movements being used, e.g., long shots, sharp transitions etc?
  • Why has the filmmaker chosen this image for the beginning/ending?
  • Why does the plot start at this point?
  • When was the film made?
  • Does the title give extra meaning to the story? How does it relate to the story generally?
  • Why are the credits presented in this way? Why use this background/font/style?

Every film uses repeated patterns and these can be used against certain important moments. Analysing a film's meaning can entail recognising these patterns and identifying their purpose and importance to the film.

The Films for English 2011


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