Sequence Analysis

This assignment is to write an 800-1,000 word essay analyzing a selected sequence from one of the films we have watched thus far in class:
“Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing”, “Julie Dash 1991 film Daughters of the Dust”, “Zeinabu Irene Davis’ 1999 film Compensation”, “Icíar Bollaín’s film Tambien La Lluvia/Even the Rain”, or “Pedro Almodóvar’s 1999 film All About My Mother”.
How do the mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound design work together in the sequence to underscore its themes and those of the film as a whole?

The assignment is composed of two parts: the shot list, and the short essay

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Part 1: Shot List

Prepare a detailed shot list that includes 5 shots in the selected sequence you choose. Please model your shot list on the template provided, and include time stamps for each shot.

Part 2: Analytical Essay

Once you have compiled your shot list, begin thinking about how the techniques you have documented function together in the sequence. Develop an argument about how these techniques reinforce the scene’s themes, then select detailed, individual examples from the sequence. You do not need to describe the entire sequence, nor do you need to write about every shot. You don’t even need to write about every technique you’ve cataloged on your shot list. Rather, use selective examples to analyze how particular techniques create specific effects in the overall design of the sequence.

 

Questions to Ask:

Mise-en-scène: How do props and costumes help convey characters and themes? Are particular colors dominant (or absent)? Is the setting significant? If so, how is it presented? How does the lighting help convey the setting and the action? How is character blocking and placement used?

 

Cinematography: Where is the camera placed in relation to the action? Distance? Angle? How do particular compositions draw attention to elements of the settings, characters or themes? How does camera movement function in the sequence? Are different focal lengths or depths of field used? How does cinematography reinforce the mise-en-scène?

 

Editing: What kinds of transitions are there between shots? Are these always the same? Do they change? Does the editing have a particular rhythm, and is it consistent? Does it conform to rules of continuity, or does it seem disjunctive or discontinuous? What spatial and temporal relations are articulated through cutting? Graphic relations? Rhythmic relations? Associational connections?

 

Sound: What sounds are present? When does volume or pitch change? Is silence used? Are specific sounds linked to cuts or camera movement? When and how are onscreen and off-screen sound used? Are sounds diegetic or non-diegetic?

 

These questions are just to get you started. You do not need to answer every question in your essay. Use the questions as a way to help select the techniques that will be the focus of your argument.

 

Tips:

 

Avoid plot summary and extended visual description. Aim instead to analyze how specific cinematic techniques function to underscore the film’s themes and ideas. Organize your essay around key points in your argument, rather than a chronological examination of the sequence.

Avoid evaluative language. (“The costumes are beautiful.”) Aim instead to analyze the effects of the techniques used. (“Ada’s restrictive, layered clothing impedes her movement through the natural surroundings and symbolizes her oppression.”)

 

Use precise film terminology. (Is the camera movement a track, tilt, pan or zoom? Is it a high-angle shot or a low-angle shot?, etc.) When in doubt, consult the Film Art textbook by Bordwell et al.

Avoid vague language. (“The use of lighting in this scene is very effective” or “Parallel editing helps to create suspense,” etc.) Aim instead to analyze the specific effect of individual techniques. (“Close-up compositions emphasize Mookie’s internal struggle in this sequence.”)

 

You are not required to do any additional research for this paper. Please Do Not use any outside sources. Rely on the analytical skills you have been learning in class.

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