Film Theory Paper Assignment (Fall 2017)

Film Theory Paper Assignment (Fall 2017)

This paper takes the form of a letter. Imagine that you are one of the following film theorists – Hugo Munsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, Sergei Eisenstein, Walter Benjamin, Laura Mulvey, Mary Anne Doane, or bell hooks – and write a letter to the filmmaker of a specific film.

· Write the 1500 to 1800 word letter in the first person, as if you are the theorist.

· You can write about any film.

· Write the letter to the director of that film.

This means that the paper should be formatted like a formal letter, and include (professional) addresses. (Do not mention that you have a time machine, we’ll just assume that you’re using one.)

The letter should be analytical, undertaking a close, detailed analysis of the text (film), while displaying deep knowledge of the relevant theoretical writings. Those are the 2 biggest criteria for assessment. Use the theory to illuminate the film, and produce an interesting reading of the film. Is a great amount of meaning constructed in the film accomplished through the processes described by the theorist? As the theorist, you can express any mix of satisfaction, joy, or disappointment with the film, but those feelings and opinions must be grounded closely within the ideas and premises articulated in the film theory.

Your paper will be assessed on the following criteria: The most crucial component of this paper is how you demonstrate IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE of the theory in question: the crux of the argument as well as its nuances – the writer’s formal preferences, as well as intellectual or political leanings. A discussion of a film’s dialectical montage for example, is worthless without constant and direct references to Eisenstein’s (or “your”) politics. The paper must therefore contain meaningful CITATIONS of the theory (see below). You might, in another instance, know what Bazin says about realist mise-en-scène very well, or what Arnheim argues about cinema’s “imperfect” nature, but you must still support any claim of what he might or will probably say with specific CITATIONS of his work. The highlighting and underlining that you made on your readings will come in handy here. You can consult and cite Kevin McDonald, but he is a secondary source. Your grade depends on how well you know the work of the theorist .

Be careful and inventive in your FILM ANALYSIS. Uncover as many relevant details of the film’s image and soundtrack as you can. Keep the theorist in mind as you (re)view the film.

A very important part of the paper is the THESIS STATEMENT. Do not overlook this just because it’s not a conventional paper. Be patient with the process of developing one. Remember that you are not simply reciting material from the book, but APPLYING it, and actively making an argument about that application. The following are some basic examples of thesis statements (They are not essay titles):

i.          “Film A’s adoption of a my dialectical montage enables it to reveal something about its subject matter beyond what is visible in the image.” – Eisenstein

ii.         “Film B’s use of deep focus composition makes it a work that I would consider artistic.” – Arnheim

iii.        “Although the editing patterns of film C involve a great amount of conflict between shots, my analysis shows that it also has affinities with what I love about realist mise-en-scène.” – Bazin

Please come in for a consultation or conversation about this paper if you want or need to. If you cannot make office hours, set up an appointment.


All references to the primary readings must be accurately and clearly cited. But in this instance, since these consist entirely of assigned readings, you need only place the author’s name and page number in parenthesis. For example:

· The film displays the “mummy complex” otherwise known as the human impulse to conquer “the passage of time.” (Bazin, 4)

· The cuts in this montage sequence “creates the dynamic effect in the apprehension of the whole.” (Eisenstein, 165)

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