Films are important to human life. They serve as tools for entertainment, educating and disseminating people. During weekends and holidays, people-young and old, spend most of their leisure watching movies either at home or at movie theaters.
Depending on one’s perception and art of viewing, the moving image within a movie can entertain, educate or inform. Notably, a person watching a film with an informed awareness is more likely to understand the elements behind film production. For example, an informed awareness instills dexterity and background instructions as ingredients of film understanding.
Apart from entertainment, critical and attentive film watching imparts greater thought in addition to awareness. Additionally, viewing a film not only lifts up a person’s celluloid experience, but also enable persons to understand the complexity, dense language, principles, cryptograms, and signs cinematic attributes exhibited during viewing.
Other essentials paramount in understanding and interpreting a film include reading some facets of cinematography and familiarization of film terms that will enable one to comprehend the film language. This will stimulate thought as regard to the film, hence making the viewers cinematically literate. Most importantly, with an informed awareness, every viewer can interpret and analyze a film without any complication (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, pp.1-5).
2. Analyzing an Entire Movie
Perhaps to start with, it is better to define what we mean by analyzing a movie. Movie analysis involves breaking up the entire movie into numerous sections aimed at ascertaining the scenery, proportion, purpose, and correlation of the scenes. Each movie has its own plot as designed by the director or cinematographer.
However, the plot cannot make the film entertaining or educative without good action. Actors are the one who give meaning to the plot of the movie. For instance, the critique emotions and moods of the actors are potential ingredients that add vitality to the plot hence, success of the movie. On the other hand, the art of film watching calls for decisive analytical approach in order to understand the plot of the movie.
In addition, this analytical approach enables the audience to understand the fundamental elements of cinematography. Thus, film analysis entails prior pertinent preparation aimed at understanding the rationale of the movie and an inquisitive thought of adjudicating the basic elements, which compose the movie. In most cases, the credibility of analyzing a movie lies in the question “how”.
Additionally, part of the movie evaluation involves proper deliberation on the role of music and other special effects as elements that compose the movie. For example, illumination, actors, colors, locale, wardrobe, and frame composition are some of the elements behind film production (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p.6).
In order to analyze the entire movie fully, one must be in a position to comprehend the talent and delirium of various actors, the roles played by producers and directors, the reason of using different types of costumes, and the inclusion of makeup artists or actors.
Thus, if a viewer is in a position to combine these elements, the probability of divulging the theme of the movie is high. Nevertheless, what matters most in the art of film watching is the end as it is vital in laying out the theme of the movie. There are certain times when viewers fail completely to understand the entire movie.
They therefore cannot analyze the movie. However, to arrive at the first-pace action, producers must first focus on the plot making it hard for viewers to comprehend the movie easily. However, repeated watching of the movie institutes impressions of the plot, and as time goes by, viewers are in a position to depict the mood and theme of the movie.
For instance, if actors are acting a movie titled “Life”, laughter and emotions are imperative in order to furnish meaning to the plot. Below are steps for analyzing the entire movie (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p.7).
2.1 Efficacy of Dialogue and Storyline
Many people tend to forget the role of a screenwriter and instead focus on the roles played by actors and producers. Nonetheless, screenwriters as chief architects of the movie may choose to acclimatize a book and abrogate it to script form or write an original story for action. Whichever the way, viewers should be in a position to identify minutiae of dialogue and plotlines.
For instance, research shows that a flourishing movie script characterizes with authentic dialogue and scenarios easily manageable by artists and actors. On the other hand, most screenwriters use full of personal obscenities and thoughts easily understood by viewers. Thus, part of the analysis entails establishing dialogue honesty and the flow of scenes in a logical manner. Furthermore, the scenes must remain on the storyline.
2.2 Background and Set Pieces
Movie directors are the one responsible in building the ambiance of the movie. Thus, when a person decides to analyze a movie, he or she must first examine the color of the panorama, costumes and sets. During this time, the analyzer will assume that actors and dialogue do not exist- at least for a moment.
This is because color, costumes and sets develop the mood and atmosphere of the movie. Good movies have excellent backgrounds that add vitality to scenes without overwhelming the movie. On the contrary, poor cinematography leads to anachronism and inadvertent focus.
2.3 Individual Performance of Actors
When analyzing a movie, it is important to know what actors who are not in the main action do. Excellent actors are those who understand their role especially in generating the plot of the movie. For example, a character acting as villain should exhibit redoubtable opposition to the one portraying intrepidness. Thus, an analyzer should ask whether these actors inhabited their roles to attract other actors who will counter them.
2.4 Editing of the Movie
Research shows that excellent movies started from editing houses. This is true because there are so many excellent movies that have become poor due to poor editing. For instance, these movies have their storyline cut or scenes that deny forward plot. Thus, when analyzing a movie, one should consider the flow of scenes in reference to the storyline. Superbly edited movies do not confuse the audience, as there is a systematic forward plot from one scene to another (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, pp.14-134).
2.5 Directors and Fingerprints
The main role of a director in a movie centers on film production. Nevertheless, this director should be in apposition to comprehend the thoughts of the screenwriter, and at the same time, the competence and skills of actors and other persons involved in film production.
Thus, when analyzing a movie, it is important to inquire from the director on how he or she arrived at the actors and their reputation. The analyzer should also examine contributions from the director especially on edgy dialogue, signature elements, the milieu of music, and other perspectives such as photography angles.
3. Finding and Interpreting Meaning in Movies
There is a lot of criticism regarding finding and interpreting meaning in movies. This depends on how one views a movie. For example, there are people who believe movies are for entertainment purposes only while some believe that movies can educate people on culture, economics and politics.
However, the truth of the matter is movies are substantially real phenomena, which portray something. Movies have great impact on people’s lives especially on historical and social realities. Thus, the theme of a film can influence people perform social, political and economic duties.
Nonetheless, this cannot happen minus first finding and interpreting the meaning of a movie. The meaning in a movie can vary from one viewer to another depending on interpretation. Research shows that there are four levels of meaning in a movie, which help people in finding and interpreting meaning in a movie (Perkins, 1990, pp. 1-6).
3.1 Referential Meaning
The plot summary differs from one movie to another. Surprisingly, viewers watching a movie can come up with different interpretations based on individual ability to identify the fundamental elements that make up the movie. For instance, in the film, Wizard of Oz, tornado knocks a young girl only to wake up in a supernatural world named Oz. she therefore has to make friends who will show her the Wizard-the only friend who will return her back home. Thus, the plot summary helps one to find and interpret the meaning in a movie.
3.2 Explicit Meaning
This comprises the message in the film. In order to understand the meaning of a film, it is imperative to familiarize with the context of the movie. The context of the movie helps viewers to understand the plot summary and the developments happening from one scene to another. Context tries to answer the question “how” and then “why”.
3.3 Implicit Meaning
This is the factual interpretation of a movie. The implicit meaning goes beyond explicit meaning and here, every viewer interprets differently. Furthermore, viewers can use the move to refer to their own life and make informed decisions. For instance, in the film Wizard of Oz, young adults are acquainted on the dangers of indiscipline and rebellion.
3.4 Symptomatic Meaning
Symptomatic meaning in a movie explains the social ideology that characterizes the movie. In addition, it also explains the cultural ambience of people living in a certain place at a particular time. This can make viewers strive to work hard and become prosperous or continue celebrating their cultural diversity (Nowlan, 2002, p.1).
Boggs, M. J. & Petrie, W.D. (2006). The Art of Watching Film. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Publishers.
Nowlan, B. (2002). Interpreting Film: Meaning and Representation, Culture and Politics, the Truman Show and Stranger with a Camera. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from
Perkins, V. (1990). Must We say What They Mean?: Film Criticism and Interpretation. Movie, 34(5). 1-6.