Art of the Critique Film Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

The birds flying away in the end are representative of the freedom to love each other that Allie and Noah now have with each other. No physical bounds can restrain them. These elements became apparent on the fourth viewing. I then went back through the scenes to see if bird imagery was hiding in other scenes. Birds were found throughout the story, such as Noah providing bread for Allie to feed the birds, a mockingbird on the porch after they make love, etc. Upon closer examination, this emerged as a central tool for conveying the theme that Noah and Allie's love was as wild and free as the birds.

An analysis of "The Notebook" is a prime example of how the technique of viewing the film several times until the layers emerge can reveal deeper meanings with each viewing. In order to understand how the various elements of the film blend together, using freeze frame is an excellent way to analyze the photographic elements of the film.

Part IV: Identify criteria for evaluating the film

Now, I have revealed my techniques for reviewing a film and the method that is used to understand the deeper meaning and symbolism of a film. However, in order to write a meaningful critique, the criteria that the film is expected to meet must be established. Every critic will have their own favorites and those that they do not like. Every critic has their own set of criteria by which to judge films. The criteria established for a certain film depends largely on the purpose of the film, the genre, and what the film was trying to convey. The first part of film critique is to view the film attentively, rather than casually. The techniques that I use for accomplishing this have already been discussed at length. However, understanding the literary and Cinematic elements of the film are not enough to write a useful critique of the film.

In order to develop criteria by which to judge a film requires research. This research should focus on finding the strategy used in making the film, the history behind the film and how the creators came up with the idea. The critic should be able to clearly identify the type of film (Dirks, n.d.). This information search should include, but not be limited to the year of release, the rating, main stars and performers, the director, the running time and the genre classification. These factors represent only the basic information necessary to understand the film and to make a critical assessment of it.

The critic must make an assessment of the content and decide whether it was social, political or historical (Dirks, n.d.). In the end, the opinion of the critic is only that, an opinion. However, the critique will have much more credibility if they pay attention to the elements that make a good film critique. Credibility is a key element in the film critique. A good critic builds a relationship built on trust, which can only be built if the critic does their homework.

In order to develop a set of criteria for evaluating the film, the critic must address the key elements of the film. The first element of the film is the plot. The critic must decipher how the story is told. They must also examine the vantage point of the film, whether the transitions are effective, and whether they is closure at the end of the film (Dirk, n.d.). The critic must then address the themes of the film, both major and minor. The critic must analyze the characters and acting performances. Perspective and visual cues must be included in the critic, as well as soundtrack or musical score (Dirk, n.d.). All of these elements must meld together to enhance the theme and meaning that the director was trying to convey. There are other elements that can be discussed, but these are the most important to the film critic.

The film critic must also understand the culture of the film and the culture for which it was intended. Misunderstandings regarding the culture portrayed in the film can create difficulty both for the reviewer and the film. This is particularly true when the film is not intended for the critic's home culture (Goudreau, 2006). Lastly, the critic must have a thorough understanding of filmmaking techniques and why various techniques are used (LoBrutto, 2005).

Let us see how to develop the criteria for the film "Avatar." The plot for Avatar centers on a paraplegic war veteran who is sent to another planet. The first thing to mention is that it is a science fiction fantasy. Therefore, one could not use the same criteria as a genre. The "culture" in the film is not familiar to anyone, but the director not only makes the viewer accept it, but uses it to point out the errors in human culture. Computer graphics were used, but that does not detract from the need to examine frame composition and techniques such as panning or fade-in/fade/out.

The director in Avatar set out to make an explicit statement about mining, the industrialized pillage of the planet, and the destruction of indigenous cultures. All other criteria must be taken in consideration of the ability of the director to accomplish these goals. It is difficult to analyze the acting, as they were all computer generated, but that does not meant that characterization and the depth of characterization cannot be explored. In the case of Avatar, the characters are not real, but their emotions and connections are very real by human standards. This example examines how one must develop a set of criteria for each film that is unique to that film.

Part V: Conclusion

The most important lesson that I learned from this experience is that film critique must take a methodical approach. Although every film is different, the critic can take an approach that allows them to thoroughly examine the film and understand the deeper meanings that were intended by the producer. Film critique differs significantly from casual viewing. The casual viewer seldom goes beyond plot and basic characterization. To do so, is an injustice to the film industry.

The methods used to developing a set of criteria are the vaguest in terms of being able to put them into a particular order. The most important element of any critique is to be able to understand what the filmmaker intended and the messages that they tried to convey. The bottom line in filmmaking is if the director was able to convey those messages in a way that was clear and understandable to the audience.

Film is like a huge pizza. Each layer adds something to the whole. Crust is the base upon which the other ingredients are layered. It is the central idea or thought that holds supports the rest. The plot is like the tomato sauce, it has to flow smoothly from one slice to another. The cheese is the emotion behind the film that holds it all together. Subplots, technique and other elements of the film are like the toppings that add interest and flavor to the whole. The test of a skilled critique is the ability to see all of the different elements of the film, yet to still be able to see the film as a whole entity.


Boggs, J., and Petrie, D. (2008). The Art of Watching Films (Ashford Custom 7th ed.).

Mountain View, CA Mayfield.

Dirks, T. (n.d.). Tips on Film Viewing. Part 2. Filmsite. Retrieved August 9, 2010 from

Goudreau, K. (2006). American Beauty: The Seduction of the Visual Image in the Culture of Technology. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 26 (1): 23-30.

LoBrutto, V. (2005). Becoming Film Literate: The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures. Westport,

CT: Praeger.


Avatar (2009). Director: James Cameron.

Seven (1995). Director: David Fincher.

The Notebook (2004). Director: Nick…

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