Early Film Exam

Part One: Clip Identification & Explications

(20 points each. 30 minutes.)

For each of the two clips, please do the following:

1) Identify the title and director.

2) Discuss its stylistic features. You should decide what the most prominent stylistic features are and explain how they work. For example, you might consider the film’s mise en scène, editing, narrative structure, etc.

3) Relate those features to the film’s overall style and meaning. How do these features reflect the historical moment in which the film was made or the stylistic movement of which it is a part? How do these features combine to suggest an overall approach to narrative filmmaking?

Part Two: Short Essay

(60 points. 40 minutes)

In response to the prompt, write a mini-essay (approximately 5 paragraphs) in which you make an argument about the material we’ve been studying for the past 4 weeks. Your answer should contain:

  • A discussion of at least three films that we’ve seen thus far in the semester;
  • A reference/explication of at least two of the readings that we’ve read.

The prompt is broad to allow a wide range of responses. Begin with a clear statement of your argument. Be as specific as possible, mentioning scenes or shots in your response. Points are given for answers that are clear, cogently argued, and refer specifically to the scenes and articles under consideration.

Western Analysis Paper

Length: 2000 words (approximately 6 pages, Times New Roman, 12-point font)

Paper topics Due: Thursday, March 26th at 5pm via email

Final papers due: Thursday, April 2nd at 5:00 pm via email


In class and through our readings we have discussed the Western and its depiction of American expansion during the 19th century. We discussed how genre films combine tradition and innovation, drawing upon settings, characters, plots, and iconography from the Western tradition to represent and investigate American history and culture.

Your task is to write a paper based in the close analysis of one or two of the Western films we’ve studied. Your essay should provide a clear and well-conceived argument about how your film engages with the Western genre to suggest meanings to its audience. It should support that argument with ample evidence from specific shots and scenes in the film, making reference to mise en scène, editing, dialogue, camera angles, shot composition, lighting, and so on. To gain this evidence you will need to watch your chosen film(s) more than once or twice. Ask yourself: How do the visual aspects of the film combine with the narrative to create meaning for the audience? What, ultimately, does the film want to communicate about your chosen topic?

Since the purpose of this paper is to foreground your developing skills in film analysis, do not consult sources other than those explicitly assigned for the class (readings, etc.). Do not consult Course Hero or other websites that provide notes, papers, exams, etc., from other students.

If you are stuck getting started, I would recommend making a list of the qualities that are associated with Western cinema and then looking for those qualities in your chosen film(s). Rewatch key scenes and use the attached handout on mise en scène by Louis Giannetti that to get you started in thinking about them. How is the film using these techniques to create and build the spaces of the film? Then ask yourself: how do those spaces contribute to the questions about human existence and experience that the film explores? How is the film using the West and the Western to think about human experience in America?

Keep in mind: The most successful papers will not simply list the qualities of Westerns and then locate them in your chosen film. Rather, they will go beyond a description of those qualities to analyze how the film deploys those qualities to provide meaning for its viewers.

Topic email: I am requiring that you submit your paper topic to me to tell me in what direction you are planning to take your paper. These emails don’t have to be extensive; three or four sentences are enough. But keep in mind that the more information you give me at this stage, the more help I can be in suggesting possible approaches or areas in which you might want to go. If you’re unsure what you want to write about, put down some possible ideas and I can help you figure out which would be most productive.

Possible themes to consider:

  • Violence: How is violence used in the film(s)? What is considered to be legitimate or illegitimate uses of violence? What are the consequences of the use of violence for the individual or the society?
  • Gender: How does the film define appropriate gender roles for men and for women? What qualities are men and women expected to possess (or not to possess)? What happens when characters violate those expectations?
  • Society: What defines a just society? Or an unjust society? How can the just/unjust society best be achieved? Whose job is it to bring about?
  • Heroes and Villains: How do we know who is a hero or a villain? How does the film use these simple categories to define what matters in our cultures? Is it ever difficult to tell whether someone is a “good” or “bad” character? What does such confusion tell us?