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Anatomy of Film. Based on text by Bernard F. Dick. Film, Movie or Cinema?. Movie suggests popular culture Cinema suggests art culture Film encompasses all. Reading Critically. Jaxtaposition Visual elements Sound elements Context Time & Place Social Interaction.

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Anatomy of Film

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Anatomy of film

Anatomy of Film

Based on text by Bernard F. Dick

Film movie or cinema

Film, Movie or Cinema?

  • Movie suggests popular culture

  • Cinema suggests art culture

  • Film encompasses all

Reading critically

Reading Critically

  • Jaxtaposition

    • Visual elements

    • Sound elements

  • Context

    • Time & Place

    • Social Interaction

4 formal structure systems

4 Formal Structure Systems

  • Mise-en-scene

  • Cinematography

  • Editing

  • Sound

Narrative film

Narrative Film

  • Narrative told through sound and image, that builds to a climax and culminates in a resolution

  • Does not require dialogue

  • Images themselves can tell part of the story and can carry as much weight as words

Time space relationships

Time-Space Relationships

  • Conflict is heard and seen

  • Visually represents events unfolding—some occurring at the same time

Movie time

Movie Time

  • Must tell a story within a certain period of time

  • Manipulates real time

  • Is elastic—time compressed or prolonged

Employs many forms of art

Employs many forms of art

  • Print

  • Dialogue

  • Music

  • Camera movement

  • Settings

  • Costumes

  • Performance



  • Logos

  • Main titles, credits, precredits sequences and end credits

  • Opening titles and end titles

  • Other print materials: letters, signposts, street signs, newspapers, plaques

  • Minimizes the need for expository dialogue



  • Actual Sounds

    • Sound Effects

    • Noise

    • Silence

  • Commentative Sounds

    • Music

  • Synchronization—sound and image are related contextually, spatially, and temporally

  • Asynchronization—sound and image are related symbolically, metaphorically, or ironically

  • An Introduction to Film Sound:

Overlapping sound

Overlapping Sound

  • Sound or dialogue that either carries over from one scene to the next or anticipates the new scene

  • Can build narrative


Sound overview

Sound Overview


Voice over narration

Voice-Over Narration

  • The Narrating “I”

    • Absurdly overused

  • The Voice of God

    • An authoritative voice that belongs to no character—completely disembodied

    • Weaves in and out of the action, commenting, reflecting, even questioning

    • Imparts a feeling of objectivity

    • Can insinuate itself into the characters, noting their moods and emotional states

Voice over narration1

Voice-Over Narration

  • Epistolary Voice—plot through letters

    • Allows the audience to hear the other characters

    • Plot device whose contents must be heard

  • Subjective Voice—the inner voice of the character

Voice over narration2

Voice-Over Narration

  • The Repetitive Voice

  • The Voice from the Machine

    • Deus ex machina—god from the machine, of Greek theater

Film process

Film process

  • The Shot

  • The Scene vs. The Sequence

    • Appear to be virtually synonymous

    • Chief difference—there can be scenes within a sequence, but not sequences within scenes

Camera movements

Camera Movements

The shot

Defined in terms of distance, area or the subjects they contain



Extreme Close-up

Long Shot

Full Shot

Extreme Long Shot

Medium Shot

Establishing Shot

Two-shot, Three-Shot

Shot/Reverse Shot

Over-the-shoulder shot

The Shot



The shot1

The Shot

  • High-angle Shot

    • God’s Eye

    • Suggest entrapment or frustration

  • Low-Angle shot

    • Makes subject appear larger

    • Suggests dominance or power

  • Objective-view of camera

  • Point of View Shot

The moving shot

The Moving Shot

  • Pan shot—horizontal

  • Tilt shot—vertical

  • Mobile Camera shots

  • Swish pan—unusually rapid & produces momentary blur

  • Tracking Shot—greater area and more detail

  • Dolly Shot

  • Crane Shot

The moving shot1

The Moving Shot

Zooms and freezes

Zooms and Freezes

  • Zoom in/Zoom out

    • camera does not move

    • Represents deceptive motion and distorts size

  • Freeze Frame

    • Stopped motion

    • Suggests stasis

    • Implies immobility, helplessness or indecision

The sequence

The Sequence

  • A group of shots forming a self-contained segment of the film that is, by and large, intelligible in itself

  • Types

    • Linear Sequence

    • Associative Sequence

    • Montage Sequence

The linear sequence

The Linear Sequence

  • Beginning initiates the action

  • Middle adds to the action

  • End follows and completes the action

  • Elliptical linear sequence

    • Certain details omitted

    • Viewers must make connections

The associative sequence

The Associative Sequence

  • Scenes linked by an object or a series of objects


Montage sequence

Montage Sequence

  • A series of shots arranged in a particular order for a particular purpose

  • Rapid succession telescoping an event or several events

  • American Montage: 30s & 40s

    • Collapses time as shots blend together, wipe each other away or are superimposed

    • Calendar pages, headlines, etc.

Montage sequence1

Montage Sequence

  • Feature of both linear and associative sequence

  • Can be unified by images


Anatomy of film


  • Verb—terminate a shot

  • Noun—a strip of film

    • Film stages: rough cut  director’s cut  final cut

Anatomy of film


  • Joining of two separate shots

    • Straight cut—one image replaces another

    • Contrast cut—images are dissimilar

    • Crosscut (Parallel)—2 actions occurring simultaneously

    • Jump cut—break in continuity

    • Form cut—a cut from one object to another of similar shape

    • Match cut—one shot complements or “matches” the other, following smoothly without any break in continuity of time and space

Transitions bridge scenes

Transitions—Bridge Scenes

  • The Fade:

    • Fade-out & Fade-in

    • Denotes demarcation—the end of a narrative sequence

  • The Dissolve

    • denotes continuity by the gradual replacement of one shot by another

    • No sooner said than done



  • Synecdoche or metonymy:

    • Two images blend in such a way that their union constitutes a symbolic equation

    • However, the result is a metaphorical dissolve

    • A sign replaces the signified




  • Form Dissolve—merging two images with the same shape or contours

    • Easy on the eyes

    • Can relate to plot

  • The Wipe—Line traveling vertically across the scene

    • More fluid than a cut and faster than a dissolve

    • Ideal for presenting a series of events in quick succession

The iris

The Iris

  • Masking Shot or Iris Shot—everything blacked out except what is to be seen telescopically

  • Irising In/Irising Out



  • Selecting and arranging the shots based on

    • Their place within the narrative

    • Their contribution to the mood of a particular scene or to the film as a whole

    • Their enhancement of the film’s rhythm

    • their elucidation of the film’s deeper meaning

    • their fulfillment of the filmmaker’s purpose

Continuity editing

Continuity Editing

  • Assembling shots so that they follow each other smoothly without interruption

  • Preserves the illusion of an ongoing narrative

Eisenstein s theory of montage

Eisenstein’s Theory of Montage

  • Based on contrast and conflict



Continuity editing1

Continuity Editing

  • Rhythm—variations in speed, movement, and pace

  • Time—parallel cutting depicts two concurrent actions

  • Space—parallel cutting affects sense of space as well

  • Tone—primarily light, shade and color

  • Theme—juxtaposing contrasting shots can deepen a film’s theme

Role of the editor

Role of the Editor

  • Takes what has been shot and improves on it

  • The director’s alter ego

  • Controls the rhythm and tone

  • Primary purpose is to bring to completion an artistic work already in progress

Mise en sc ne


  • French phrase used to describe the staging of a play

  • In film—composing a shot or a sequence with the same attention to detail (set, lighting, costumes, makeup, positioning of actors within the frame, etc) that a state director lavishes on a play

  • A form of framing—the art of composing a shot




  • Frame—strip of celluloid on which the image is captured

  • Shots can be framed

    • In terms of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines

    • Geometrically

    • Iconographically

    • In deep or shallow focus

    • From a high or low angle

    • In a frame that has been masked or doubled



  • Tight framing

    • Subject appears to be confined withing the horizontal and vertical borders of the frame

    • Not a hint of offscreen space

    • Gives a feeling of oppression

  • Canted shot—frame looks lopsided

  • Geometrical compositions can be symbolic as well as visually interesting



  • Framing a shot to imitate a painting or sculpture



  • Deep Focus

    • foreground, middle ground and background are equally visible

    • Conveys a greater sense of depth

    • Minimizes the need to cut from one shot to another

    • Brings out meanings that otherwise not be apparent

  • Shallow Focus

    • Foreground is more distinct than background



  • Long take

    • A shot that lasts more than a minute

    • Steadicam

Color lighting

Color & Lighting

  • Color palettes and lighting sets tone and mood

  • Lighting has a direct bearing on the way an image is perceived

Special effects visual effects

Special Effects/Visual Effects

  • “Art never improves, but . . . The material of art is never quite the same.”

    --T. S. Eliot

Film genres

The Musical

The Western

The Crime Film

Film Noir

Combat Film


Romantic Comedy

Screwball Comedy



The Reflexive Film

The Woman’s Film

The Documentary

The Horror Film


Film Genres



  • Infranarrative

    • A complex structure beneath the narrative consisting of the various associations the narrative evokes in us

    • Film’s dual nature

    • Level of meanings found in

      • Symbols

      • Image patterns

      • References/allusions

      • Reading critically

Mythic associations

Operates on an unconscious level, presenting us with



the enchanted and the enchanter




talking animals



The homeward journey

The quest

Ancestral curses







Subterranean rivers

Enchanted islands

Flat-topped mountains

Ominous castles

Desolate moors

Lost worlds

Mythic Associations



  • Tap into our collective memory

  • Themes of myth are universal

    • Return of the hero

    • The desire for forbidden knowledge

    • The quest for identity

    • Coming of age

    • Rebellion against tyranny

  • Transcends time and place

  • Ultimate truths about life and death, fate and nature, gods and humans

Film and myth

Film and Myth

  • Speak the same language—picture language

  • Both are oral and visual

  • Both are intimately associated with dreams

  • Making a mythic association involves remembering a pattern of experience that is universal.

Mythic types

Mythic Types

  • The quester

  • The convert

  • The foundling

  • The exile

  • The knight-errant

  • The blessed damsel

  • The earth mother

  • The lost child

  • The eternal child

  • The alien

  • The shadow self—doppelganger

  • The liberator

Mythic themes

Mythic Themes

  • The descent to the underworld

  • The quest for the grail, sword, ring, or chalice

  • The journey into the unknown

  • The homeward journey

  • The birth of the hero

  • The life force versus the force of reason

  • Wilderness versus civilization

  • The transformation myth

  • The savior myth

  • Good versus evil

Visual iconic associations

Visual/Iconic Associations

  • Icon’s dual nature

    • Depicts not just a person but a person who stands out from the ordinary



  • Definition:

  • Greek Icons:

  • Australian Icons:

  • Christian Icons:

  • Cemetery Iconography:

Intellectual associations

Intellectual Associations

  • We relate the film as a whole—not just one aspect of it—to history, to another medium such as literature or opera, to another film, or even to an earlier version of itself.

  • Intertextuality

Musical associations

Musical Associations

  • Music has 2 main functions

    • Advances narrative

      • plot device

      • not subtextual

    • Enhances narrative

      • functions as subtext

      • Deepens the narrative by bringing it to another level of interpretation



  • Capable of forging ethnic and national connections

  • Has the power to reinforce stereotypes

  • Can evoke certain associations

  • Classical music can constitute the entire subtext

The film director

The Film Director

  • The Auteur—director as primary creative force behind a film

  • May collaborate with a screenwriter, a cinematographer, a composer, an actor, an editor, a producer, or a studio

Literary techniques

Literary Techniques

  • Flashback

  • Flash-forward

    • Dramatic foreshadowing

  • Point-of-view

    • Omniscient narrator

    • Implied author

  • Film Adaptation

Analyzing films

Analyzing Films

  • What techniques did the filmmaker use to create the feeling of a complete film rather than a mere collection of scenes?

  • Could it have been anything other than a film—a novel, a short story, a play, for example—and still have been as effective; or was film the medium in which it reached its level of excellence?

Analyzing films1

Analyzing Films

  • How much of the film is told through images or camera movement, without recourse to dialogue?

  • Does the use of film deepen or enhance the story being told?

Analyzing film

Analyzing Film

  • Do the camera and the script work together, each doing what it does best, so that word and image are allies rather than enemies?

  • What is the subtext, or infranarrative? How does it enrich the film?

Rebel without a cause

Rebel Without a Cause

  • The Director: Nicholas Ray talks about heros: Wood interview—how she got role:



  • Material taken from Bernard F. Dick’s Anatomy of Film, Fifth Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.

  • Presentation by Patricia Burgey

On line guides

On-line Guides


  • Yale Film Studies



  • Film Terms



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