SOAS University of London

School of Arts

Introduction to Film Language, History & Theory

Module Code:
158100009
Credits:
15
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

This module is primarily designed to introduce students who have no background in Film Studies, or in analysing cinema, to the vocabularies used to understand and analyse film language. The module will thus focus on the close reading of specific films – from the early days of cinema, just after its invention in 1895, to the present – so as to deconstruct and analyse their technical, visual, aural and spatial features.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Closely analyse films and use the correct vocabulary when doing so
  • Understand the history of cinema in the 20th century
  • Understand the main theories of cinema
  • Understand different methodologies for writing and thinking about film, including new “creative” research methodologies such as audiovisual criticism 

Workload

One 1-hour lecture and one 1-hour seminar per week.

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000-word essay (20%)
  • One 3,000-word essay (60%)
  • In-class presentation (20%)

Suggested reading

  • Bazin, Andre, “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema” [1950-55] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Comolli and Narboni, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” in Movies and Methods: An Anthology, ed Bill Nichols (1976)
  • Metz, Christian, “Some Points in the Semiotics of the Cinema” [1975] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Bordwell and Thompson, “Glossary” in Film Art: An Introduction (1979)
  • Giannetti, Louis, Understanding Movies (1972)
  • Bolgar Smith, Kate, Soundtracks of the City: Listening to the Film Music of the Black Diaspora in London and Paris (SOAS PhD, 2016)
  • Cham, Mbye, “Oral Traditions, Literature and Cinema in Africa”, in Literature and Film: A guide to the theory and practice of film adaptation, eds Stam and Raengo (2005)
  • Chion, Michel Film, A Sound Art (2009)
  • Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (1994/1990)
  • Doane, Mary Ann, “The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space” [1980] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Dovey, Lindiwe and Angela Impey, “African Jim: sound, politics, and pleasure in early ‘black’ South African cinema.’ Journal of African Cultural Studies 22.1: 57-73.
  • Razlogova, Elena. “The politics of translation at Soviet Film Festivals during the Cold War. SubStance 137 – 44.2 (2015)

Additional reading:

  • Arnheim, Rudolf, “The Complete Film” [1933], in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Bazin, Andre, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” [1945] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Meyer, Birgit, Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment (2003)
  • Minh-ha, Trinh T., “The totalizing quest for meaning,” in Theorizing Documentary, ed. Michael Renov (1993)
  • Perez, Gilberto, The Material Ghost (1998)
  • Stam, Robert and Louise Spence, “Colonialism, Racism, and Representation: An Introduction” [1983] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Stam and Shohat’s Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (1994)
  • Bordwell et al, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (1985)
  • McKee, Robert, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (1999)
  • Mulvey, Laura, “Visual pleasure and narrative cinema” [1975] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Diawara, Manthia, “Black spectatorship: Problems of Identification and Resistance” [1988] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)

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