You can analyze an entire movie or select a specific scene and drill down further. Before you choose this scene for analysis, watch the whole movie so you understand what is happening. Go through the scene you want to analyze several times so you can pick out the details and take notes. Once you’ve made these important notes, you can write a formal one about the scene.
Select a film that interests you for analysis. When you watch it for the first time, give it your full attention so you can understand the story and what is happening in the scenes. Put your phone on silent or vibrate and put it aside. This way you won’t be distracted during the movie. Once the film is over, write down the overarching theme that you identified. For example, if you’re watching the movie Who disturbs the nightingale, the overarching theme would be the balance of good and evil or how prejudice can affect a city.
Tip: The film can have several themes. So choose one that interests you to focus on and apply it to the scene you will analyze later.
Find a scene that’s about 2-5 minutes long to analyze. Find a scene that is important to the rest of the story and not a moment that doesn’t contribute significantly. When making your choice, also consider the elements of the scene, such as the acting, editing, camera work, or plot. For example, if you want to analyze Jaws, you could choose the opening scene to see how the music and camera work affect the mood. Analyzing scenes that consist only of conversations between characters can be just as interesting as analyzing a big action scene. For a quieter scene, you can discuss how camera angles and dialogue affect interpretation of the conversation.
Put all distractions aside and watch your chosen scene at least 2-3 times. Pay attention to the main plots and moods of the characters in the scene, and think about how they relate to the rest of the film. Don’t take notes the first few times you see the scene so you can absorb as much of it as possible. After watching it 2-3 times you can start pausing the scene or write down things that you notice.
Write the events of the scene in the order in which they happen. This will give you a general understanding of everything that is happening. This includes what the characters are talking about as you list the main plots of the scene. You don’t have to list every single shot of the scene. However, note each time something happens that moves the scene forward. The events of the opening scene in Jaws: teenagers partying on a beach, two of the people leave the group, one of them swims in the water and is then grabbed by the shark.
EXPERT COUNCIL Video Producer, COO at Cinebody Gavin Anstey is COO at Cinebody. Cinebody is human-centric video content software that empowers brands to create instantly authentic and engaging video content with anyone. Gavin studied journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder before embarking on a career in video production and software. Gavin Anstey Video Producer, COO at Cinebody What are the main elements of a scene? Gavin Anstey, a video producer, tells us, “Lighting is always an important element. Is it natural light or artificial? The lighting sets the mood of the scene. The next thing is the actor when he’s in the scene. How good is he “Most of the communication is non-verbal and works through body language. How does the actor evoke feelings or an emotion without saying anything? And finally, does the actor sound “real and authentic”? Or does it sound cheesy?
See your scene from a larger perspective to understand how it affects the rest of the film. Also pay attention to the scenes that come before and after your chosen scene. Write down what information the scene gives you about the film that will later be important or thematically relevant. The opening scene in Jaws introduces the viewer to the shark and shows that it poses a threat to those in the water. As the film progresses this builds a conflict since it is set in a coastal town.
Start by noting what characters appear in the scene. List what you know about them from the rest of the film, such as their goals and personalities. Watch the actors perform and notice how they move and interact with each other. Listen to the dialogue and determine how it relates to the plot of the film or the character’s relationships. For example, in the shark attack scene from Jaws, you’ll notice that the kids are having fun in the water while Chief Brody is tense and concerned for everyone’s safety.
Tip: Pay attention to the characters’ costumes as well, as they could give clues as to their intentions. For example, if the character is wearing dark clothing, they may be evil or planning something sinister.
For example, symbols in a movie are audio or visual cues that you associate with a feeling, mood, or action. Review the scene and look for any important props or recurring images. Write down everything that catches your eye and consider what they mean in relation to the scene and the movie as a whole. For example, in the final scene of Inception, the spinning top is a symbol of uncertainty as the viewer is unsure whether the ending is real or a dream. Another example is the letter “X” or an X shape in a scene in the film The Departed, representing death. Figures can also be symbols. For example, the joker in The Dark Knight is a symbol of chaos or uncertainty. Not every scene contains specific symbols related to the rest of the film. So don’t worry if you can’t find one.
A film’s composition, or mise-en-scène, refers to how the elements of the shot are arranged on the screen. Pause the scene often and see how the actors and set decorations are positioned on screen. Pay attention to the objects closest and farthest from the camera to understand what stands out in the scene. For example, if one character is standing and looking down at another character who is sitting down, it could mean that the standing character is more important or powerful than the other. If you’re watching the movie on a computer, take screenshots of the scene so you can analyze the stills. See how the scene is lit and how light and shadows affect the mood. Shots that are darkly framed can add mystery to the scene, while well-lit scenes can seem like a cozy or exposed location.
Camera angle refers to how much you can see in the frame and what you want the viewer to focus on. Note if the camera moves often or if it stays in one place, as this can add to the overall feel and tension of the scene. Notice which elements in your scene fill the frame and whether there are many close-ups or long shots where a lot can be seen. For example, action scenes usually have lots of movement and multiple angles to keep the viewer engaged. Conversely, horror scenes may have no camera movement and lots of close-ups to keep the viewer in suspense. Notice when shots shift focus from one object or character to another.
Editing refers to the changes between takes during your scene and how they affect how a viewer experiences it. Note how the transitions between shots affect each other and how quickly they occur. Write down how the changes between takes affect the mood of the scene. For example, if you see a shot of a desert followed by a shot of a glass of water, you might get thirsty. In another example, the cut in the opening scene of Jaws makes the viewer tense, knowing the shark is approaching, but the woman in the water is unaware of the danger.
Close your eyes and listen to the scene so you can focus on the music and sound effects. Then watch the scene again with your eyes wide open to see how the sound fits with the character’s editing and actions. Make note of how the sounds affect the overall mood set by the rest of the scene. For example, the music at the beginning of Jaws helps build suspense as it speeds up until the shark attacks. Wear headphones and, if possible, replay the scene so you can hear any subtle noises that you might not otherwise hear. Also, pay attention to the silence in the scene, as it can be just as important as loud noises.
Look at the notes you made and compare them to the overall theme of the film. Choose a topic for your analysis that you can use to expand and defend your argument with several elements from the scene. Formulate the thesis in a single, concise sentence. For example, a thesis for the opening scene in Jaws might be: “The opening scene of the shark attack in Jaws uses accelerating music, fast editing, and point-of-view shots to create suspense.”
Open your analysis with a striking sentence related to the film or the theme of the scene. In the next sentence, mention the name of the film, the director, and the year it was released. Write your thesis at the end of the introduction so the reader knows what to expect from the rest of the essay. Your introduction should be about three to four sentences long.
Use the next paragraph to describe the actions of your scene in chronological order so the reader knows what you’re talking about. Then add a sentence or two at the end of the paragraph to show how your scene fits into the themes and events in the rest of the film. The summary paragraph should be about four to five sentences before you continue.
Write about two to three paragraphs, each discussing a separate element from the scene that defends your thesis. Use examples from the scene to support the claims in your paragraphs. Explain how the elements of the scenes affect the mood and the rest of the film. For example, if you’re writing about the opening scene in “Jaws,” you should discuss the music, editing, and camera angle in your paragraphs. Don’t use all the notes you made about the scene, as they won’t all fit the thesis of your essay.
Rephrase your thesis so that the first sentence in your conclusion reflects the main idea of your essay. Then, in the next two or three sentences, summarize the ideas you mentioned in the paragraphs of the essay. End the paragraph with a sentence that leaves a lasting impression related to the thesis so the reader can see why they should be interested in the analysis. For example, you might end an analysis of the opening scene of Jaws by discussing how the film’s opening scene influenced the horror genre.
Once you’ve analyzed your chosen scene, look online to see what others have discussed about the scene or movie. You may notice things that you hadn’t considered before. Research what was happening in the world when the film was released to see if the events had an impact on the scene or the film’s theme.