Instructor: László Arató
· 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 historycovered
d) analyses of the films discussed in class – written by differentspecialists, critics
This course offers an introduction into the key terms and fundamentalapproaches (the examination of narrative techniques, cinematographic-stylisticfeatures) of film analysis. It provides an opportunity to get acquaintedwith some of the most important movements (schools) and some of the greatestmasters 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 ofthe basic differences between theater and film, then shows how silent filmdeveloped its own autonomous language, how “moving pictures” are able totell stories without words. Students will get acquainted with three importantnational schools/movements of European silent film: German expressionism,Soviet montage and French surrealism. Each movement will be representedby one outstanding film example. Then we’ll move on to sound films andto some great European masters of the thirties, forties, fifties, sixtiesand seventies. Besides “solitary masters” like Bunuel, Fellini and Antonioni,Italian neorealism and French new wave (and perhaps the new Germancinema) will also be covered.
Each double class will start with viewing a film and will continuewith the discussion and analysis of the film. Each discussion will focuson 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 withthe basic theoretical vocabulary necessary for studying narrative films.2) Familiarize students with a dozen of great European films and help themto discover and/or identify their narrative and stylistic peculiarities.3) Help students to realize the function these peculiarities play in thecreation of meaning i.e. to show ways of interpretation and to encourageto discuss and revise these interpretations, eventually create their owninterpretations. 4) To get students acquainted with some important historicalschools and their peculiarities.
PLEASE NOTE: The actual course work begins two weeks earlier than the regular BSM Semester. Therefore, BSM students wishing to take this course will be required to catch up with it. In particular, they will have to borrow and watch the first movie: F.W. Murnau: The Last Laugh (Man) individually.
GREAT MASTERS OF EUROPEAN FILM – A POSSIBLE LIST OF FILMS TO BE VIEWEDAND DISCUSSED
1. Expectations, requirements – some key concepts. Film as art, theatreand film.
2. F.W. Murnau: The Last Laugh (Man) – German expressionism, mise enscene, cinematographic image, story and plot 1.
3. M. S. Eisenstein: Battleship Potemkin – The relationship of shotto 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 metonymy2.
6. L. Bunuel: Viridana – the perfect Christian and the realities oflife – 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 ofmeaning
10. F. Truffaut: Jules and Jim – the French new wave, the longtake, 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-lecturesexplicating theoretical concepts and difficult readings. In-class (publicand often “conducted”) viewing and discussion of films is the essentialpart of the course, thus everybody is expected to be present. More thantwo double classes mustn’t be missed, as it is practically impossible tocatch up. (In fact two absences are four absences in this case: two filmsand two analyses.)
2. Midterm test 30%
The test is made up of three parts. 1) Five definitions (some withexamples) will be asked from the glossary. 2) There will be 3-4 brief essayquestions – one paragraph each. 3) The
analysis of one of the films discussed (1-1½ page). The listof sample questions (possible questions, concepts to be defined) will beprovided 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 timeand 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 pointof view (e.g. the function of sound, the function of long takes, crimestories with surplus meaning). A list of recommended topics will be providedat least a month before the due date. The topics will cover films we shallhave examined in class. Other topics/titles may be chosen as well and thecomparison might cover films that have not been discussed together. Inthe 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.
The most important is that you watch those films and participate inthe 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 finaltest. No excuses will be accepted after this date. Late assignments willresult in a full letter grade deduction per day, after three days delaythere’s no use handing in the paper.
Plagiarism: please be sure that you are familiar with the definitionof ‘plagiarism’ and Western Maryland College’s policies towards it. Plagiarismresults in course failure.