Critical Film Analysis on One of These Films

For your Critical Film Analysis (your second paper for this course), you may focus on any of the following films: Triumph of the Will, Night…

For your Critical Film Analysis (your second paper for this course), you may focus on any of the following films: Triumph of the Will, Night and Fog, Anthropocene, A Brief History of Time, The Bicycle Thieves, and Salesman.
Triumph of the Will: and Fog: Brief History of Time: Bicycle Thieves:
Choose from among the following prompts:
1. Triumph of the Will was a Nazi propaganda film.  Answer following questions in your essay by focusing on specific visual and sound elements of the film: What techniques and strategies does the film use to persuade its audience? In other words, how did it “seduce” German audiences in the 1930s to support a totalitarian regime with fascistic and criminal aims?  Additionally, answer the question: what critical strategies can we learn for judging media today that might attempt to persuade us in similar ways?
2. Analyze the editing in Night and Fog.  The film combines contemporary color footage of German concentration camps without any people–empty abandoned camps–with archival footage from WW II and the 1930s.  The French director, Alain Resnais, also edited the film. What choices does he make in this editing? How do the voice over narration and the music interact with editing choices? What effect does all this have on you as a viewer?
3. This semester, one question we have considered is the tension between representing reality and creating a work of art. The films we have watched are artistic, but they also attempt to represent reality, or (in the case of propaganda) attempt to persuade the audience.  How does the film Anthropocene balance artistry with reality?  Does it, ultimately, have the desired impact of raising audience awareness and/or encouraging audience action to fight global climate change and potential extinctions?
4. Errol Morris is considered one of the greatest documentary filmmakers of the last forty years. A Brief History of Time is both an adaptation of physicist Stephen Hawking’s book by the same name, and a biographical profile of Hawking. Discuss the film’s exploration of two major and interrelated themes: time and memory.  How does the film relate time (historical, cosmic, physical, philosophical) with memory (personal, familial, etc.)?
5. The Bicycle Thieves is a fiction film, but it had an enormous impact on documentary filmmakers because of its style.  What elements of film making style does De Sica use in making the film? Why are these stylistic elements so important for later documentary filmmakers such as David and Albert Maysles in a film like Salesman?
6. Salesman is considered a classic of “observational” film or cinema verite.  Even though it has no narration nor exposition (in the form of talking-head experts), it still makes an “argument.”  That argument is open to interpretation, but most viewers walk away from the film having been influenced by it in some way.  If you had to identify an “argument” or “main point” of the film, what would you say it is? Use specific scenes and sequences to support your claim.
I tend not to specify essay length.  What should motivate your writing is not meeting a length requirement, but making your point effectively, with ample evidence, clarity of style, and logical structure.  Given that you need to lay out your main point, and support that main point with film sequence examples that you briefly summarize and analyze, then this will be a substantive essay. Another useful thing to keep in mind is your audience. You should assume that you are writing for an intellectual community who is interested in understanding documentary film and its implications for us today.  Our class is one such intellectual community. Perhaps more broadly you can think of your audience as well educated people who have some awareness of what you are writing about, but might disagree on specifics. Your purpose is to convince them that what you have to say is not only important, but innovative in some way.


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