How to Read A Film?

Well, you are here, because you are interested to learn how to read a film.

Right?

Great! Let’s go…. We will try to find out the way to read a film perfectly. But as you know, film read is not a read. Isn’t it? Then what?

Don’t worry. I will explain the topic here perfectly. Hope you will love it.

Does a film have a language? Then how to read a film? A question may arise in your mind while reading this topic. Here is your answer.

How to Read A Film: Insights

Film is not a language like English, French, or Arabic. It is not necessary to learn vocabulary while reading films. Infants appear to understand television images before they learn to speak. Even cats watch television. Clearly, it is not necessary to acquire an intellectual understanding of film in order to appreciate it—at least on the most basic level.

But film is very much like language for the people who are highly experienced in film or highly literate visually. So, there is a strong element of our ability to observe images, whether still or moving, that depends on our learning. It is the process of taking ideas, words, actions, emotional subtext, tone and interpret them in visual terms.

But everyone doesn’t see or interpret the same image in a same way. Nevertheless, film is like a language. If two spectators both see the same rose in the screen, one may perhaps think of a heritage rose he/she picked last summer, while another thinking he/she gave it to any of her beloved one last year. In cinema, however, we both see the same rose, while the filmmaker can choose from an infinite variety of roses and then photograph the one chosen in another infinite variety of ways.

There are some hidden, indirect message that filmmakers try to convey to their audience through storytelling tools. Only film scholars or an intelligent spectator can identify those small deep factors. But you can also read a film by understanding attentively storytelling tools.

If film is a language, then we must ask: what is the structure of that language? What are the tools that we can use to tell our story visually? Here are given below some storytelling tools to look for when reading a film:

Think about Frames

In any image the frame is not simply a neutral border; it actively defines the image for us. Selecting the frame is the fundamental act of filmmaking; as through the frame, the filmmakers tell the audience where to look at, what to see and how does it look like. Which frame represent what- it is a matter of deep thinking while reading a film.

See the Scenes not only with Eyes but also with Perception

The first important thing when you watch a movie is not just paying attention on story/ plot or characters. Rather, we should pay attention on how the characters presented by the camera. Remember, as a spectator we can only see what the eyes of the camera show us. Almost everything else we see on the screen is manipulated by the director/ cinematographer. There can be many metaphoric scenes in a film which is also called ‘Montage’. Montage scenes are not about simple pictorial presentation. These scenes carry deep implicit meaning for the need of the story. These scenes have a perception. To read a film one must feel that perception.

Diversity of Shots have a Certain Meaning

Is the director using a long shot, a medium shot, a close up, or an extreme close up? How the shot is taken? From a high angle, a low angle, or from eye level or birds eye view? Is the camera placed in an objective location, or does it represent the point of view of one of the characters? Does the camera move or does it stay in place? Is it handheld or stable? These factors carry a certain reason and meaning.

For example, when we see extreme close shot of a subject it means director tries to show us his/her particular body language or expression. On the other hand, when we see a long landscape shot it means an establishment of a location or environment. In ‘Citizen Kane’ film we notice some low angle shots. It represents subject as a significant one. So, pay careful attention to how the director sets up shots in any given sequence.

Look at the Composition

Also consider the composition of the scene. How effectively the director arranged actors, objects, lights, etc. to create the mood of the scene? There is a certain meaning of all arrangements that also called ‘mise-en-scene’ A proper ‘mise-en-scene’ create the whole environment of a particular scene. It influences the verisimilitude or believability of a film in the eyes of its viewers.

Perfect Light Set up is Important

Light creates the atmosphere and the mood. It can reveal/conceal form, texture and all other details. Light influences how the audience responds to a picture. It can intrigue, mystify, excite a spectator. Light can guide the audience’s interest. It can concentrate their attention and move it from one area to another gradually or abruptly. So perfect light set up is one of the important tools to read a film.

The Power of Sound

Pay attention how music used to set the mood of the film? Sound can actively shape how we perceive and interpret the image. The audience will interpret the same images differently, depending on the sound track. Film sound can direct our attention quite specifically within the image. Sound can guide us through the images, pointing to things to watch. For example, in horror film sound, background music play significant roles as a storytelling tool.

Look for Repetition

Look for repetitions that cue you in to the things the director or writer try to impose in their story. Is there a recurring song, background music, any specific dialogue, camera angle, special effect that add certain meaning to the film? Think over these issues while reading a film.

Observe the Editing

Post production or editing is the most creative part of film making. But most people do not pay attention to how a film edited or how it cut from shot to shot. This is an important part of how the films influence or manipulate audience. Do the editor/director use effects like fade in/fade out frequently to mean something certain? Why they use jump cuts, L/J cut or cutaway shots? Each and every editing technique used in the film has a purpose. To read a film properly we have to understand why edit tactics used in a film.

Think All Over

Think overall mood of the film as created by acting, music, lighting, sound effects, costumes, colors, sets, etc. What are their individual function, how they are used- These small details, all of which filmmakers often pay a great deal of attention to, often go unnoticed but play a crucial role in a film. Thus, film scholars read a film.

The conclusions that can be drawn from this article is that a normal viewer only see a visual image but intellectual viewers research about a film to read a film accurately. But, the simplest visual images interpreted differently in different cultures. So film read may vary person to person.