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Chapter 2: Thematic Elements

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1 Chapter 2: Thematic Elements
Theme: The central, unifying purpose and focus of the film (Unlike literature, the theme of the film is not limited to an idea.) Types of Themes found in Film: 1. Plot 2. Emotional Effect or Mood 3. Character 4. Style, Texture, Structure 5. Idea

2 Focus on Plot The film is most concerned with what happens. Its primary purpose/ focus is linked to its plot. Action/Adventure films and detective stories are concerned mainly with plot Examples: Bourne Series, Gladiator, Day After Tomorrow, LA Confidential , Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean

3 Emotional Effect or Mood
The film’s primary concern is to convey a certain mood to an audience, get the audience to feel and react a certain way. Horror/Suspense Films are most notably concerned with the Emotional Effect Horror/Suspense: Alfred Hitchcok films, Saw Series, Texas Chainsaw Massacre series Comedy: Stepbrothers, Superbad Romantic Films: Notebook Dramadies (part comedy and part drama) are concerned with both emotions. Royal Tenenbaums

4 Character The film’s primary concern is with portraying a unique character and tracing his/her development. These films are “character driven” rather than plot driven. Bio-pictures focus on character (Ali, Raging Bull, Frida, Ray, Capote) Non-bio pictures that also focus on portraying a unique character: Rushmore, Charlie Bartlett, Napoleon Dynamite

5 Texture, Style, Structure
These films are most concerned with the visual representation of the story and experimenting with style and structure. What we remember most is the “look” of the film or the way in which the story was told. Examples: Memento, Sin City, New World, Waking Life, 300, Scanner Darkly

6 Ideas The film’s primary concern is to convey an idea about life, human relationships, the human experience, and/or society. The idea may be stated directly by a character or clearly represented by a particular scene or conveyed more subtlety through the connection of various elements. The film’s central idea is open for interpretation and there may be several opinions as to what a film’s central idea is.

7 Moral Implications These films deal with the moral consequences and implications of a character or characters’ decisions and actions. Unlike the Moral Riddle, these films seem to suggest more overtly a moral statement like: “money is the root of all evil.” These films include: Crash, A Simple Plan, Quiz Show

8 The Truth of Human Nature
These films look at the universal experience of human nature. These films depict characters who represent some idea about the universal human experience. Examples: Lord of the Flies (How young boys react once civilization is removed.) Sideways looks at how people cope and deal with disappointment and broken dreams.

9 Struggle for Human Dignity
These films trace the struggle of a character to defy the internal or external challenges he/she faces to restore dignity to their lives. The central character is usually at a disadvantage in his/her life. Examples: Rocky Films, Pursuit of Happyness, Million Dollar Baby, On the Waterfront

10 Social Problems These films are concerned with examining, critiquing societal problems, institutions. These films usually offer a critique, but perhaps not a solution to these problems. They may also deal with their subject matter in a serious or satirical way. Examples: Philadelphia, Dead Man Walking, Do the Right Thing , Michael Moore documentaries

11 The Complexity of Human Relationships
These films look at the joy, pain, complications that arise out of family, friendships, romantic relationships. Examples: In the Bedroom, Breaking the Waves, Brokeback Mountain, Terms of Endearment, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

12 Coming of Age/Loss of Innocence/Growing Awareness
These films deal with a character, usually young, who experiences events that cause a change in awareness about his/herself, society, and/or relationships. These films include: Whale Rider, Almost Famous, To Kill a Mockingbird, This Boys’ Life, My Girl , Thirteen

13 A Moral or Philosophical Riddle
These films center around a moral/philosophical riddle/puzzle. These films only raise moral/philosophical questions rather than addressing them. They use ambiguity, symbolism and images rather than overt statements. These films include: Being John Malkovich, I Heart Huckabees, Fight Club, I’m Not There A reaction to this type of film would be: “What’s this all about?”

14 Identifying Theme Usually, this can not be done until after you’ve seen the film and thought about it. Start by explaining the film to someone else. Usually, what first comes out of your mouth about the film, will indicate the film’s purpose. Make a tentative statement about the film’s theme. Begin analyzing individual elements and then go back to revise previous statement.

15 Evaluating Theme Evaluating a theme is highly subjective.
Few criteria: 1. Universality of the theme (Does the theme/characters transcend the time in which the film was made?) - Easy Rider versus Grapes of Wrath 2. Significance of theme (Is the theme intellectually/philosophically interesting?) -Nacho Libre versus Godfather

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