Essay about Movies: Topics, Outline, Tips
Writing an essay about movies is likely to be the hardest task you will ever take while writing an essay. Really. While the same goes on default with other arts - there is a difference with writing about the art of cinema. It's astoundingly collaborative form of art. Films are made by hundreds and thousands of men (thus long and unbearable end credits where literally everyone who ever worked on film is spotted). General idea of a film transforms from the mind of a producer, screenwriter, director, cinematographer, actors and other people involved in production. It is in constant change. This means the majority of the meanings you may read from the film are incidental and circumstantial.
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And this may turn simple analysis of the piece into a nightmarish ride into the obscure unknown. Without a trace of pretense, you may stray so far away from the film's intended message that the resulting essay will be itself an original piece of art on tangent based on the source material.
But that's just a warning. It's always fun to write an essay about movies.
Types of essays about movies
One rather curious thing about film writing is that it can be about anything. You can take one element out of the movie and analyze it the ground zero with a variety of tools. You can dissect through the historical point of view. Or immolate by the looking glass of the artistic intent. With all that said - it all narrows down to several types. Basically there are five types of essays dedicated to the art of film:
- Analysis of the film - including its themes, use of artistic techniques, etc.;
- Analysis of particular element or elements of the film - things like actors acting style, use of sound or lightning, a dissection of references to other works of art, etc. For example essay about horror movies tend to review psychological aspects of depiction of horror;
- Comparison of film and its source material - good old "book vs. film" or "film vs. real event" (well-known but not quite accurate and 100% effective"based on a true story"). It also includes analysis of the changes made into a final product and its effect on it and circumstances under which those were made;
- Recounting of the films production - basically a reversal of traditional film analysis. In short it may be a non-fiction story about the strange ways of doing film the right way;
- Analysis of historical and aesthetic context - it may cover more than one film. Usually such type of essay requires a deep dive into a history books in search of hard proofs of certain claims;
There's also another kind of film essay - apophenia rampage. This one isn't really an academic genre, rather a conspicuously common thing in Internet. People like to overthink things and sometimes they make otherwise implausible theories about certain works of art. Case in point - Stanley Kubrick' The Shining. Some "researchers" think that this film tells a story of how Kubrick faked the moon landing and accused America of Native Americans Genocide and also Illuminati Lizard People of the Avocado Jungle of Death Eating Cloud Baboon Bat.
Things to remember
While writing an essay about movie you should keep in mind that there are several elements that you should include if you want to construct a coherent analysis.
- Get the names, roles and dates right. Sometimes the year is wrong and producer had morhed into a composer. It's always better to double check all the names, roles, titles and dates in databases. In this case IMDB may come in handy.
- Get the quotes and references straight. Film writing is a narrow corner so if you quote something - don't forget to give credit. It is not just being polite - it shows the scope of your research and the way you formed your own point of view on the subject matter.
- Don't repeat other people's concepts. While it's always fun to claim that Aliens is about Vietnam War and overcoming of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - it is already talked to death from every perspective. If you want to write credible movie analysis - you need to find something new to talk about. Surf through analysis on a given subject and find what is missing. That is what you need.
- Keep the structure easy to follow. Otherwise reader will be bored by the mess you've made and will move on to something else. That is not what you want. Keep the structure simple. In the beginning - explain what are you going to do. Then explore the topic step by step, in digestible bites. Follow every point from A to Z, then move on the next. This will keep the pace. In the end - summarize everything you've came around.
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Writing about movies is fun. Even the text is swamped by scientific expressionism - it is always fascinating to see how many things you can dig up in one relatively short piece of art. It is an endless source of ideas good and bad. It is a testament of human dare.
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