What Is Formal Analysis In Film?

What is Formal Analysis in Film

Do you know what is formal analysis in film? If you don’t know, then this article for you.

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Formal analysis is a form of film criticism that is concerned with the technical, visual, and auditory elements that comprise films. Formal analysis looks specifically at how these elements come together to construct meaning in a film. This article takes a very broad approach to formal analysis by looking at it from three different vantage points: form as language, form as style, and form as structure.

What is Formal Analysis?

“Formal analysis” is essentially the art of close reading. Instead of thinking about the text as a story or argument, formal analysis asks readers to consider the deeper level elements that make up a piece of text.

What is the Purpose of Film Analysis?

Like all forms of criticism, formal analysis is useful in multiple different ways. It lets both the audience and filmmakers know what they did right or wrong with their approach to filmmaking. In this sense, it can be a helpful tool for those who want to make films themselves. Formal analysis also provides insight into why certain films are considered classics and others forgotten. By understanding how the filmmaker put together these particular pieces of film, we can come to understand what techniques made their work great and which might have limited its appeal.

What is the First Step of Analysis of Film?

The first step is to choose a film. This may be an old classic or something brand new, and it should be something that you have seen before. As in life, the best route for learning about anything is a personal experience rather than someone else’s idea of what they think you should learn. The second step is to look at each element individually. For example, movement and camera angle. You will want to look at how the element looks on its own as well as how it works within the context of the film as a whole. In discovering what effect this particular element has on your interpretation of the picture, you are already beginning to define what style means and using structure (formal analysis) as a framework from which to do so.

What are 8 Elements of Film?

A film is made up of many things including movement, sounds, dialogue, and images to name only a few. Even though it may seem like each of these elements are in themselves complete entities they cannot be fully analyzed without also looking at the context in which they appear. This combined explanation is what can create a formal analysis for any given film. Since many different types of films exist studying just one type does not allow for many comparisons between films.

Besides, there are eight elements of the film and they are:

1. Character

2. Plot

3. Conflict

4. Resolution

5. Structure

6. Scenes

7. Dialogue

8. Visuals

How do you Conduct a Film Analysis?

Conducting a film analysis is actually quite simple. First, one must think of a movie they really enjoy. It should be something you know very well and can watch over again without getting bored. The goal here is to analyze the content of the film: not its style or anything else that might be involved with watching it in your spare time. Next, pick an element or two from each category (language, structure, and style) and begin thinking about what happens during the course of the film. What does the dialogue sound like? How are scenes constructed? Finally, look at how these elements combine to form meaning in this particular instance of filmmaking.

Why is Formal Analysis Important?

Formal analysis is important because it allows the audience to understand how a filmmaker put together their work and why. It also shows us where content, style, and structure all come together to make the film what it is today. This perspective can be applied to any form of filmmaking in order to enhance our understanding of the artistry behind these works.


Formal analysis can be used in so many different ways. It is an excellent way to learn more about a particular movie or play with a new form of media. By using the structure of film as a framework from which to analyze style and content of any kind. We are able to see how each element contributes and combines together to create something larger than themselves (i.e., the whole structure created by all these elements).

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