Film Analysis – Great Masters Of European Film (European Film)  FILM

Instructor:  László Arató
Required Texts
· David Bordwell – Kristin Thompson: Film Art – An Introduction, McGraw-Hill (as a reference book)
· Reading Packet, available in the office, containing hand-outs:
a) a Glossary of analytical terms, concepts
b) André Bazin: The Evolution of Film Language
c) short studies concerning the periods/schools of European film history covered
d) analyses of the films discussed in class – written by different specialists, critics

Course Overview

This course offers an introduction into the key terms and fundamental approaches (the examination of narrative techniques, cinematographic-stylistic features) of film analysis. It provides an opportunity to get acquainted with some of the most important movements (schools) and some of the greatest masters of European film. It starts with the definition of film as a temporal-visual, later temporal audio-visual form of art. It goes on to examine some of the basic differences between theater and film, then shows how silent film developed its own autonomous language, how “moving pictures” are able to tell stories without words. Students will get acquainted with three important national schools/movements of European silent film: German expressionism, Soviet montage and French surrealism. Each movement will be represented by one outstanding film example. Then we’ll move on to sound films and to some great European masters of the thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and seventies. Besides “solitary masters” like Bunuel, Fellini and Antonioni, Italian neorealism and  French new wave (and perhaps the new German cinema) will also be covered.
Each double class will start with viewing a film and will continue with the discussion and analysis of the film. Each discussion will focus on some particular approach and concept of film analysis (like mise-en-scene, the relationship between story and plot, editing,  metaphors and metonymies, diegetic and non-diegetic sound, the function of long takes etc.).    Thus the course has four primary objectives: 1) Familiarize students with the basic theoretical vocabulary necessary for studying narrative films. 2) Familiarize students with a dozen of great European films and help them to discover and/or identify their narrative and stylistic peculiarities. 3) Help students to realize the function these peculiarities play in the creation of meaning i.e. to show ways of interpretation and to encourage to discuss and revise these interpretations, eventually create their own interpretations. 4) To get students acquainted with some important historical schools and their peculiarities.



1. Expectations, requirements – some key concepts. Film as art, theatre and film.
2. F.W. Murnau: The Last Laugh (Man) – German expressionism, mise en scene, cinematographic image, story and plot 1.

3. M. S. Eisenstein: Battleship Potemkin – The relationship of shot to shot: editing, the Soviet montage, rhetorical narration, types of editing

4. Fritz Lang: M - story and plot 2.; the function of (diegeteic) sound, metaphor and metonymy 1.; some expressionistic features

5. L. Bunuel: An Andalusian Dog – French surrealism; metaphor and metonymy 2.

6. L. Bunuel: Viridana – the perfect Christian and the realities of life – Bunuel’s classicism

7. L. Bunuel: The Phantom of Liberty – conventions and transgressions – an afterthought of/to surrealism

8.  Vittorio De Sica: Bicycle Thieves – Italian neorealism

9. F. Fellini: La Strada – beyond neorealism, the journey - levels of meaning

10.  F. Truffaut: Jules and Jim – the French new wave, the long take, the style of detachment

11. Ingmar Bergman: Through A Glass Darkly (1961) or Persona

12. .M. Antonioni: Blow-Up – a detective story or an essay in epistemology

13. Nikita Mihalkov: Unfinished Pieces for Mechanical Piano

14. R. M. Fassbinder: Ali, Fear Eats the Soul – or a film by W. Herzog, Wim Wenders or  A. Tarkowsky or a contemporary Hungarian director

15.  Final exam.

Assignments and Grading

1. Attendance and contribution to class discussions     20%
Class will be conducted in a discussion format, supplemented by mini-lectures explicating theoretical concepts and difficult readings. In-class (public and often “conducted”) viewing and discussion of films is the essential part of the course, thus everybody is expected to be present. More than two double classes mustn’t be missed, as it is practically impossible to catch up. (In fact two absences are four absences in this case: two films and two analyses.)
2. Midterm test          30%
The test is made up of three parts. 1) Five definitions (some with examples) will be asked from the glossary. 2) There will be 3-4 brief essay questions – one paragraph each. 3) The
analysis of one of the films discussed (1-1½ page). The list of sample questions (possible questions, concepts to be defined) will be provided two weeks before the in-class test.
3. Final test           20%
Similar to 1) and 2) of the midterm test, but 5 brief essays this time and no 3). Sample questions provided as above.
4. A paper of 5-7 pages (double spaced)       30%
The comparative analysis of two or more films from a certain point of view (e.g. the function of sound, the function of long takes, crime stories with surplus meaning). A list of recommended topics will be provided at least a month before the due date. The topics will cover films we shall have examined in class. Other topics/titles may be chosen as well and the comparison might cover films that have not been discussed together. In the latter case the instructor (me, L. A.) should be informed in advance. The paper must be typed; style, spelling, grammar, structure do matter! Sources must be indicated – both printed and internet.

Course Policy

The most important is that you watch those films and participate in the discussions: that is the “pre-requisite” of all the rest.
Late work: You’ll have to hand in your paper on the day of the final test. No excuses will be accepted after this date. Late assignments will result in a full letter grade deduction per day, after three days delay there’s no use handing in the paper.
Plagiarism: please be sure that you are familiar with the definition of ‘plagiarism’ and Western Maryland College’s policies towards it. Plagiarism results in course failure.