For those who like cinema but don’t know how to ‘view’ it, here are some tips.
We all have different opinions and views about a particular film and we discuss these multidimensional reviews around with friends. So, we all become critics at the end of the day. But are we really experts? The concept of a film critic is often misunderstood and hence, critics themselves often become subjects of criticism.
Looking at a film’s moving images, other than for pure entertainment, enhances the experience. For that, an informed awareness of and some background training in the craft of filmmaking is necessary. It includes understanding the film’s complex and dense ‘language’ — its conventions, codes, symbols, cinematic attributes, and other factors.
If you are a serious movie buff, start reading about these various aspects of filmmaking. To help you become cinematically-literate, here are some views on the art of reading, analysing, watching, critically viewing, and deconstructing a film (to take apart the film’s components and interpret how it was all intentionally assembled together).
Anyone can learn the language, techniques, and structure of cinema of both the past and present. The Internet Movie DataBase (www.imdb.com) is always a useful resource for factual information about films.
Here are the suggestions for viewing a film intelligently:
1. Selecting a film: Choose a film which is worth your while, may be a critically-acclaimed classic, a significant film according to Bollywood/Hollywood or any other foreign language film or even an art house cinema.
2. Basic information: Know the basics, like the film’s title, year of release, main stars/performers, directors, production company/distribution, rating, running time, genre classification, brief summary, taglines, awards, etc. You must know whether the film was made under a big production company, average one or independently financed.
3. Controversy: It is sometimes interesting to know if there were any controversies around the film.
4. A one-liner summary: If you were to write a ‘one-liner’ summary to describe the film (often called a synopsis or film treatment), what would it be? For example, for 3 Idiots, the one Liner could be “Baccha kabil bano kabil, kamyabi toh jhak marke pichhe bhagegi” which describes the whole film.
5. The type: What type of film is it? Sequel, spoof, based on a novel or real events.
6. Recognition: Any awards or honours won at Oscars, screened at Cannes, National Award, etc. Find out whether the film deserves second viewing or not. During the first viewing, become familiar with the basic plot, main characters, important action, etc. In other words, acquire a brief synopsis of its story including time and place, the characters and their interactions, and the film’s main themes without taking notes. The second time around, pay more detailed attention to what is being projected — take notes and make observations, begin to think in a more concentrated way about the film’s structure, acting, directing, the camera shots and angles, etc.
7. Study the dialogues: Turn on subtitles if the film is in a foreign language.
8. Examine the philosophy behind: Consider a film’s main title and its opening credits: Why was the specific title chosen (were there any other alternatives considered?), and how do the credits establish a tone or mood? What are the first sounds and images in the film? Can you find any motifs in the credits? Do the end credits have any unusual features (out-takes, gags, additional footage, etc).
9. Pause particular scenes: Be prepared to pause (the freeze technique allows one to ‘see’ how everything is positioned in a frame) and to replay various scenes, shots, or sequences. (For a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, you can pause to take a closer look at the sets, clothes, colours used and frames)
10. Maintain objectivity: Do not pre-judge a film based on what you’ve heard about it (from critics or friends), your preconceptions about the actors in it, the reputation of the director, etc.
11. View the film as a whole: Some individual parts may be ‘great’ but the film must hold together, and be cohesive and meaningful in its entirety. At the end of the day, a film is an experience and if one gets to know the above approach to viewing a film, I believe as an audience you know how to organise your reviews and opinions.