Choose any film we have not watched in class and watch (or rewatch) it.
Then, in a 1-2 page, double spaced essay, analyze a single scene from the film and describe how it’s meaning is constructed through editing.
(*note: a scene is a moment in a film that occurs at one place at one time. Once there is a break in either place OR time, the scene changes. For example, a conversation between a couple at a restaurant would be one scene. That scene may contain several shots – a wide shot of the whole space, a close up of each character talking, a close up on the condensation dripping down a glass, etc. – but if one of the characters gets up and uses the restroom and we follow them in there as they fix their makeup, that would be the start of a new scene.)
Break down the scene by describing each shot in detail.
How do you think these shots relates to the overall theme or tone of the film? Why would the director and editor choose those shots instead of the others they may have filmed in production?
AVOID talking about plot and acting/performance at length. Only give necessary details that someone who has never seen the movie may need to understand the scene.
For instance, look at the following scene from Moonlight by Barry Jenkins (up until 2:04):
Moonlight – Swimming Scene ("The Middle Of The World") (Links to an external site.)Moonlight – Swimming Scene ("The Middle Of The World")
A reaction paper on this scene would begin by talking about the wide shot of young Chiron and Juan as the latter gets ready to go in the water. You could describe how the camera slowly tracks forward (moving on a dolly in to the characters) as Juan encourages Chiron to follow him. Chiron’s then moves towards the camera and stands looking out at Juan and the water. When he moves closer, the focus also follows him and isolates Chiron from the background as it falls out of focus.
It then cuts to a handheld shot looking up at Chiron from the water. The water occasionally splashes over the lens and obscures the view.
Next, the scene cuts to a closer shot of Juan holding Chiron just at the top of the water. Waves continue to crash over the lens, but in looking up, their faces are carved out from the blue sky above them. The upward angle again as well as the baptismal waters harken back to religious imagery. Juan cradles Chiron’s head and holds him like a child. He becomes a father figure to Chiron and this moment solidifies it.
We jump cut as Chiron’s confidence grows. The pacing becomes quicker. As Juan teaches him, we get a succession of 4 shots where they are both in the frame together until Chiron tries to swim on his own and the camera pans right to follow him off into the ocean. The camera pans back to Juan emphasizing the distance between them as Chiron finally starts to get the hang of how to swim.
Then we see a few shots of Chiron as struggling against the waves. The waves feel more prominent here as he swims out. The camera is slightly lower than before mimicking Chiron as he struggles to keep his head above water. And the audience can only really see the back of Chiron’s head in these shots. It feels dangerous. And he gets smaller as he swims away from shore…
The above would be a good beginning stage of your essay. Make sure to be specific by giving concrete and thorough examples like you see above. Take what you see here and expand upon these concepts in your own assignment. Avoid general statements and terms like “good” and “bad” as judgements. You are almost taking a scientific approach to analysis at this stage. What is in front of you and what could it mean?
Film Chosen: 6 Underground (2019) by Michael Bay