There’s Something About Films

by: Rachel Newcombe

Film classes are growing in quantity and popularity and opening up a whole new field of study, which means a whole new area of essays that can be submitted to QUEUC! 

So, as the conference nears, I have taken it upon myself to define a few terms used in nearly every film paper. Now in discussions about film (whether of an academic or casual setting) you will seem like an expert (that's the point of a humanities degree, right? to seem like an expert in something?).

Even if you aren't a cinephile yet you can fake-it-until-you-make-it with these key terms: 

 

Mise-en-scène is a term that refers to the image that is framed. It encompasses everything from the staging to the way it is shot (basically whatever you see can be considered the mise-en scène). Now there is a fancy way of describing what's going on in the background, and an accurate term to describe why you love Wes Anderson so much. 

Really, could this film be any more opulent? Thanks Wes.

Really, could this film be any more opulent? Thanks Wes.

Diegesis is a filmic term that describes the narrative world of the film. Everything within the film (characters, events, etc.) is considered part of the diegetic world. The opposite of this term is non-diegetic, or something that is part of the film but not part of the ‘world’ of the film. The best example of this would be soundtrack music; the characters cannot hear it but the audience can and it can be used to influence emotion very effectively.

Lloyd Dobler's iconic Peter Gabriel music is diegetic...

Lloyd Dobler's iconic Peter Gabriel music is diegetic...

...while the 'Jaw's theme' most certainly is not (though, I do love the idea of a shark wearing speaker).

...while the 'Jaw's theme' most certainly is not (though, I do love the idea of a shark wearing speaker).

Sequence can be best thought of as a chapter in a book, a series of shots that link together to create one event in the course of the narrative. They can be broken down and pulled apart to illustrate specific points that can really strengthen your thesis, whether you’re arguing conventions of a genre or why Bridesmaids is one of the greatest films of all time.

The best sequence of events to ever happen in film?

The best sequence of events to ever happen in film?

Montage is something most people are familiar with; it’s a process of film editing that takes separate shots and creates a whole sequence, often to show the passage of time or make connections. Montages can be one of the richest areas for essays (if they weren’t important, why would filmmakers have them? Hmmmm). They are easy to view, and pull different ideas together into one sequence.

Sergei Eisenstein is the founding father of 'montage' - back in the 1920s! The Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin is arguably the most famous montage e v e r. Click the picture to see it in full.

Sergei Eisenstein is the founding father of 'montage' - back in the 1920s! The Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin is arguably the most famous montage e v e r. Click the picture to see it in full.

And we've only scratched the surface. Not satisfied? More detailed terms can be found at http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/pruter/film/.

We can make a cineaste out of you yet.

Ellen BlackComment