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Analysis of the Cinematic Gaze in Understanding a Character's Identity (Essay Sample)


Please choose ONLY ONE of the following questions and write a 6-8 page essay (approx. 1800-2000 words), using Times or Times-New-Roman 12 point font. Use ONLY FILMS listed at the end of each question.


FMS 1 Essay Topics: Comparative Essay

Due Wednesday December 4


Please choose ONLY ONE of the following questions and write a 6-8 page essay (approx. 1800-2000 words), using Times or Times-New-Roman 12 point font.  Use ONLY FILMS listed at the end of each question.

We are looking for a strong argument that engages with at least 3 readings from Film Analysis, Eisenstein, Espinosa, Astruc, Neroni, Solanas and Getino, Narine, and Baggesgaard (but not including Engaging Cinema).  You are not required to use any additional reading. (Please do not cite reviews from the internet or newspaper). This essay is comparative in which you should apply your understanding of film technique and language to larger conceptual questions. Limit your reading of the films to only the information that supports your argument. 

  1. All films engage with ideology at some level, some are more explicit than others. While some films criticize dominant ideology in an attempt to offer an alternative one, others support that dominant ideology by reinforcing commonly accepted principles, ideas, and social hierarchies. Choose two of the following films from the course (Battle of AlgiersBabelDo the Right Thing, Ali Fear Eats The Soul) in which dominant social norms and forms of power come into conflict with the forces they attempt to master and control.


  1. Film establishes a way of looking at bodies. Laura Mulvey argues that the cinematic gaze is imbued with a certain sense of power, one that shapes how we see others.  Discuss how the camera or the identification with a certain character’s perspective helps to shape how we understand identity—not only how we see others but also how we see ourselves.  How does the film criticize this dynamic? Discuss two of the following films: Citizen KaneReassemblageAli Fear Eats The Soul, Cléo 5 to 7.


  1. Many of the films you have watched and will watch this quarter exhibit doubling, repetition, super-imposition, repeated rhythms, patterns or types of shots. Identify a few shots or short sequences where you see this doubling taking place. Discuss the relevance of this repetition as you see it occurring in two of the following films: Rear WindowBattleship PotemkinIn the Mood for Love, Meshes in the Afternoon.







Tips for Writing:

An analysis of a film is built out of readings of individual scenes or elements. YOU WILL LIKELY WANT TO FOCUS ON 2-3 SCENES FROM EACH FILM as evidence for your argument.

While our sequence analysis focused on formal techniques and their relation to the larger film, here you will want to expand your formal reading to include the social/political/historical dimensions discussed in the second half of the class.  Discuss how formal techniques (sound, cinematography, editing, narrative structure, etc.) are used to address issues around race, gender, nationality, historical context, political environment, etc. As a compare contrast, your argument will derive from finding similarities and differences between the two films.  

NOTE: As a resource for general advice on writing papers on films, see Nichols’s Engaging Cinema Chapter 12, especially, in this case, 441-42 on the search for a topic.

When quoting material, in-text referencing is preferred, but endnotes or footnotes are acceptable.  When necessary, include a list of works cited.  Remember always to provide the appropriate references for the primary or secondary materials used in your work.  Failure to do so is considered plagiarism.


1) Opening and Thesis Statement.


Formulate a strong independent thesis — one that interests you.  If your thesis is vague, your argument is likely to be vague as well.  State your thesis as specifically as possible.  You must decide how you will approach the topic: which aspects will you emphasize. In the rest of your paper you will go through the details of your argument, giving evidence (specific examples of images or sequences) to support each statement, and making sure that each statement follows from your thesis.


Avoid repeating the exact words of the paper topic as given.  Every topic allows for more than one approach, leaving you some space for interpretation.  Think of the opening paragraph as the entrance to your paper.  Is it interesting: does it make your reader want to go on reading?


2) Body and analysis

Your paper is expected to be analytical rather than descriptive.


In an analytical mode you:


— avoid the obvious

— go beneath the surface of the “literal” and visual conventions

— attempt to combine diverse elements of films and define their relationship in your own words

— find symbolic meaning, contradictions, political allegories, etc. in the films

— use examples to illustrate your argument


In descriptive mode you (what you do not want to do):

— summarize the plot or visual representation

— give examples from the films without attempting to explain what they mean

— talk about the film as a text at a literal or static level

— restate in a simplistic way the what the readings say (paraphrase)


3) Conclusion

Do not summarize what you developed in the previous paragraphs, and do not repeat the statements of your introduction.  Here you should try to show the implications of what you “discovered” in your analysis.


To write a good paper you should be prepared to go through several stages:

Planning: re-read or look over the readings and your journal, and take notes

Pre-writing/outlining: find some method of organizing your thoughts


Analysis of the Cinematic Gaze in Understanding a Character's Identity
Your Name
Subject and Section
Throughout the history of society, women are often depicted of having inferior status compared to men. Additionally, the community was built from the basis of patriarchal conventions that has prejudices concerning the role of women in the improvement of society (Narine, 2010). These conventions objectify women as an accessory for triggering and satisfying the male's sexual desires (Narine, 2010). This stereotypical portrayal of women is observed especially in films where women’s characteristics should be beautiful, fragile, and needs man to be the solution to her problems because man usually over estimate his role in society by placing his worth at the center of human existence (Baggesgaard, 2013).
According to the theory of "Visual Pleasure" by Laura Mulvey (1975), cinematic creations, ranging from fiction to historical dramas, take into account the film’s appeal to men or the “male gaze” when framing the scenes of a movie (as cited in Nerine, 2010). This is often characterized using themes that will pique the interest of men such as sexualizing the female body using scenes of nudity (Nerine, 2010). Although the “male gaze” is the most commonly used “gaze” for the success of a film, the perspectives of the “gaze,” should not be limited into to gender preference but should cater beyond limitations of gender identity.

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