film essay 18

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Choose two of the following films and write an essay that explores how they describe the relationship between identity, reality, and truth. How do these films’ narratives challenge the identities and realities of their protagonists (and/or other main characters)? How does each film’s form (cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, and sound (including dialogue)) problematize the notion of stable realities and secure “truths” about the world? Make an argument about how each film constructs the relationship between identity, reality, and truth. . Your essay should be 8-10 double-spaced pages long.

Films: The Conversation, Zoot Suit, Blade Runner



Your essays should be presenting and interpreting evidence from the form of the film in the following ways.

Narrative evidence –> Formal evidence. Your essay should not only read the story-line as evidence; it should also locate that narrative in the images of the film by interpreting evidence from cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, and sound – including dialogue. When you read through your paper, if you find that you are using plot moments as evidence, you have some revision to do. Sometimes, this can be a subtle shift. Other times, it means re-writing your sentences entirely.

Examples:

  • Scottie falls in love with Madeleine at Ernie’s. BECOMES The cinematography, mise-en-scène, and music of the sequence in which Scottie sees Madeleine for the first time at Ernie’s focus on her beauty and indicate his fascination with her. [Followed by at least one more sentence explaining these formal elements]
  • At the end of the film, the family is reunited. BECOMES The final scenes that take place in the historical past unite three generations of the Prescott-Rawlings family in the grand vista of Monument Valley. These sweeping wide-screen shots literally center Lilith Prescott/Van Valen, Zeb Rawlings, Julie Rawlings, and the Rawlings children in super-saturated shots of the most iconic landscape in the American West. The fact that dialogue has positioned them in Arizona suggests that this clan may indeed be the founders of Prescott, Arizona: an important location as it was the first capital of the Arizona Territory.

3. The language of argument and interpretation. Your prompts ask you how the films construct or make arguments about certain ideas: appearance/identity, family, California. In order to show how the film constructs something, use language that foregrounds what formal elements do: cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, and sound – including dialogue.

Examples of sentences that make arguments about evidence:

  • This pair of shots posits that… (cinematography)
  • This camera angle constructs X as… (cinematography)
  • The composition of the frame here identifies… (cinematography)
  • These elements of mise-en-scène describe the family as… (mise-en-scène)
  • X’s costume in this scene identifies her as… (mise-en-scène)
  • By cutting quickly between X and Y, this sequence establishes… (editing)
  • The non-linear structure of this sequence displaces… (editing)
  • In this line of dialogue, X defines… (sound/dialogue)
  • These song lyrics corroborate the narrative’s privileging of… (sound/dialogue)

These sentences must include, or be coupled with, language that justifies your reading of this evidence.

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