Before we get too far with this film history thing, The Monkey thought it might be a good idea to get you up to speed on film analysis related terms and concepts. Just like every other profession film has its own vocabulary so that we can talk to each other and sound smart. And so no one else can understand a damn thing we say. So what follows is part one of (your guess is as good as mine) some basic film terms. I shall make every effort to try to keep these organized in some fashion, so that terms that refer to the same elements of film are kept together.
French for “author”. Used by critics for a writer, Director (most often), or other film figure whose work bares a personal stamp. That is they revisit the same theme, or ideas repeatedly (i.e. Spielberg’s search for the father), or otherwise leave an identifying style to their work (i.e. Tarrantino).
The diegesis includes everything that inhabits, or is inferred by the audience in a film (the objects, events, spaces, actions, characters etc.). It is the internal world of the film, and it may have rules that go against the real world (Thus in zombie films the idea of the dead returning to life does not seem unrealistic). Some film’s may have little to no diegesis (i.e. Stan Brakhage, or Luis Brunuel).
The joining together of various clip of film. There are many ways to transition from shot to shot, which I will cover in a future post about editing.
A cinematic device to move forward or backward in diegetic time to relate events that happened earlier or later in the narrative. When used it causes the order of the plot and story to no longer match.
Recognized categorization of films into various types by audiences and/or producers. Sometimes this occurs in hindsight. Genres are organized by stylistic or narrative conventions. There may also be sub-genres within a genre. Some examples include Science Fiction (with Dystopian Future being one sub-genre), Horror (vampire, slasher, zombie, etc. are all sub-genres , Western, Drama, etc. It should be noted that this is different from labels such as “Chick Flick” which do not decide a genre but rather a very loose and popular categorization The Chick-Flick label includes Romantic Comedies, Dramas and other films that are popularly believed would appeal to women.
Literally: “put in the scene”: It is everything you can SEE in the film frame (the setting, lighting, costumes, performances etc.) Films often use the elements of mise-en-scene to underscore emotional content, highlight subtext, or otherwise enhance the narrative content. For example, In Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow the titular town is filmed in muted tones of white, black, grey and brown while oppressed by the specter of The Headless Horsemen. This changes to a more varied color palate after he is defeated, and the curse is lifted. It becomes, in effect, a visual representation of the mood of the town.
Story vs. Plot:
Often used interchangeably by the public. They are, in fact, different. Story (fabula in scholarly circles) is all the events that occur in a film, in order. Thus if a character relates a story about their life that is not shown via flashback, that incident is included in the chronological reconstruction of the events covered by the film. Plot (Syuzhet) is how the events are shown (ie order, duration, and setting). Think of it this way, The Story of Saving Private Ryan would first be the events in World War 2 followed by the portions at the cemetery when Private Ryan is an old man. The plot reconstructs the events so that the present day sequences have more emotional impact. Another example is Memento, where the plot (showing the events in reverse chronological order) causes the audience to experience the same confusion that the main character does, since he can only remember things for a few minutes.The story is the film watched backwards and includes the events that Leonard mentions but are never shown.
Shot/ Scene/ Sequence:
Shot: a single run of film through the camera. Where the cuts are. An easy way to identify shots is when the picture changes.
Scene: all the action in a single time and space. For example if a film shows characters driving in a car, arriving at a house, and then talking in the living room that makes up three scene. 1. Car 2. Street outside house 3. Interior Living room.
Sequence: a series of scenes that shares a similar theme, or narrative device. For example a car chase in a film is often popularly called a chase scene when it is actually a Chase sequence, since it takes place at many locations. A romantic comedy can generally be divided into three sequences: Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again.
Well there you go, boys and girls. I think that will do it for part 1. If there are any terms you would like me to tackle next, or if you have any questions, just post a comment and I will answer you.