Chapter 2_ Thematic Elements

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					    Chapter 2: Thematic Elements
l   Theme: The central, unifying purpose and focus
    of the film (Unlike literature, the theme of the
    film is not limited to an idea.)
l   Types of Themes found in Film:
    1. Plot
    2. Emotional Effect or Mood
    3. Character
    4. Style, Texture, Structure
    5. Idea
            Focus on Plot
l The  film is most concerned with what
  happens. Its primary purpose/ focus is
  linked to its plot.
l Action/Adventure films and detective
  stories are concerned mainly with plot
l Examples: Bourne Series, Gladiator, Day
  After Tomorrow, LA Confidential , Raiders
 of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean
      Emotional Effect or Mood
l   The film’s primary concern is to convey a certain
    mood to an audience, get the audience to feel
    and react a certain way.
l   Horror/Suspense Films are most notably
    concerned with the Emotional Effect
l   Horror/Suspense: Alfred Hitchcok films, Saw
    Series, Texas Chainsaw Massacre series
l   Comedy: Stepbrothers, Superbad
l   Romantic Films: Notebook
l   Dramadies (part comedy and part drama) are
    concerned with both emotions. Royal
l The  film’s primary concern is with
  portraying a unique character and tracing
  his/her development. These films are
  “character driven” rather than plot driven.
l Bio-pictures focus on character (Ali,
  Raging Bull, Frida, Ray, Capote)
l Non-bio pictures that also focus on
  portraying a unique character: Rushmore,
 Charlie Bartlett, Napoleon Dynamite
    Texture, Style, Structure
l These   films are most concerned with the
  visual representation of the story and
  experimenting with style and structure.
  What we remember most is the “look” of
  the film or the way in which the story was
l Examples: Memento, Sin City, New World,
  Waking Life, 300, Scanner Darkly
l   The film’s primary concern is to convey an idea
    about life, human relationships, the human
    experience, and/or society.
l   The idea may be stated directly by a character
    or clearly represented by a particular scene or
    conveyed more subtlety through the connection
    of various elements.
l   The film’s central idea is open for interpretation
    and there may be several opinions as to what a
    film’s central idea is.
          Moral Implications
l These   films deal with the moral
  consequences and implications of a
  character or characters’ decisions and
  actions. Unlike the Moral Riddle, these
  films seem to suggest more overtly a
  moral statement like: “money is the root
  of all evil.”
l These films include:
 Crash, A Simple Plan, Quiz Show
 The Truth of Human Nature
l These  films look at the universal
  experience of human nature. These films
  depict characters who represent some
  idea about the universal human
l Examples: Lord of the Flies (How young
  boys react once civilization is removed.)
l Sideways looks at how people cope and
  deal with disappointment and broken
  Struggle for Human Dignity

l These  films trace the struggle of a
  character to defy the internal or external
  challenges he/she faces to restore dignity
  to their lives. The central character is
  usually at a disadvantage in his/her life.
l Examples: Rocky Films, Pursuit of
  Happyness, Million Dollar Baby, On the
          Social Problems
l These   films are concerned with examining,
  critiquing societal problems, institutions.
  These films usually offer a critique, but
  perhaps not a solution to these problems.
  They may also deal with their subject
  matter in a serious or satirical way.
l Examples: Philadelphia, Dead Man
  Walking, Do the Right Thing , Michael
  Moore documentaries
    The Complexity of Human
l These  films look at the joy, pain,
  complications that arise out of family,
  friendships, romantic relationships.
l Examples: In the Bedroom, Breaking the
 Waves, Brokeback Mountain, Terms of
 Endearment, Before the Devil Knows
 You’re Dead, Eternal Sunshine of the
 Spotless Mind
     Coming of Age/Loss of
 Innocence/Growing Awareness
l These  films deal with a character, usually
  young, who experiences events that
  cause a change in awareness about
  his/herself, society, and/or relationships.
l These films include: Whale Rider, Almost
 Famous, To Kill a Mockingbird, This Boys’
 Life, My Girl , Thirteen
    A Moral or Philosophical Riddle
l   These films center around a moral/philosophical
l   These films only raise moral/philosophical
    questions rather than addressing them.
l   They use ambiguity, symbolism and images
    rather than overt statements.
l   These films include: Being John Malkovich, I
    Heart Huckabees, Fight Club, I’m Not There
l   A reaction to this type of film would be: “What’s
    this all about?”
           Identifying Theme
l   Usually, this can not be done until after you’ve
    seen the film and thought about it.
l   Start by explaining the film to someone else.
    Usually, what first comes out of your mouth
    about the film, will indicate the film’s purpose.
l   Make a tentative statement about the film’s
l   Begin analyzing individual elements and then go
    back to revise previous statement.
         Evaluating Theme
l Evaluating  a theme is highly subjective.
l Few criteria:
    1. Universality of the theme (Does the
    theme/characters transcend the time in
    which the film was made?)
    - Easy Rider versus Grapes of Wrath
    2. Significance of theme (Is the theme
    -Nacho Libre versus Godfather

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