Thinking About Film
Area of Study
Taught In English
Prior study of film.
Course Level Recommendations
ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.
Recommended U.S. Semester Credits4
Recommended U.S. Quarter Units0
Hours & Credits
This module will introduce students to a range of theoretical and conceptual approaches
that have shaped the study of film. Its focus will be both on the history of these ideas,
situating them in their appropriate context, and on how we, as contemporary viewers
and thinkers, can make best use of them in developing our own analyses of a series of
filmic case-studies. The course is intentionally wide-ranging in its focus and encompasses
theories and films from the late 1940s to the present day.
Topics covered include:
? An exploration of realist traditions in post-1945 cinema, especially Italian
? An analysis of the various ways in which film can be said to be political;
? A discussion of the way digital cinema is in dialogue with contemporary
trends in film theory;
? An analysis of how theoretical approaches drawn from semiotics and
structuralism have shaped film analysis;
? A study of the role of psychoanalytic and feminist approaches in the
emergence of a critical analysis of classical cinema;
? An investigation into how the study of film audiences has shaped an
understanding of the medium.
Autumn Semester topics:
Choice of 1 from 3
? Elective A: Digital Cinema: beginning with an exploration of the ontology of the
cinematic image itself, we will trace how digital technology emerged from earlier
developments in film history and has come to represent perhaps the single most
radical shift in cinema since the coming of sound in the 1920s. We will explore the
opportunities these technologies have offered filmmakers, whilst also
investigating their political and philosophical ramifications: aesthetics always
having a wider impact. Beginning with a discussion of the work of André Bazin
and Walter Benjamin, two writers whose work shaped the evolution of Film
Studies in its first half century, we will use a number of cinematic case studies ?
including works such as Richard Linklater?s Waking Life (2001) and Pete Docter?s
Up (2009) ? to explore how contemporary theory has responded to these
? Elective B: Crime and Punishment: we will first engage in detail with the
structuralist theories of the 1960s and 1970s, which analysed classical gangster
films and Westerns such as the original Scarface (1932) and My Darling
Clementine (1946). We develop these ideas through Alan Sinfield's concept of the
'faultline' narrative, and apply our understanding of these theories to more recent
media texts that deal with civilisation, society and the law, from Heat (1995) to
City of God (2002) and the Grand Theft Auto series. What do these stories teach
us about crime and its consequences? Are their lessons the same as the films of
the 1930s and 1940s? How can we expand these theoretical frameworks to
analyse films of the last decade like The Dark Knight (2007), which deal with the
threat of terrorism rather than domestic crime?
? Elective C: Screening the Sacred: this elective will develop knowledge of the cinema
as an aesthetic medium through an analysis of intersections between film and
religion ? a flourishing area of research. It will offer the opportunity to examine
representations of sacred themes on screen, including some of the most controversial
films in the history of cinema.
After an introduction to the overall subject matter of this elective, each session will
focus on a particular area of investigation: filmic re-workings of the Bible; the
identification of saviour-figures in secular films; the depiction of evil on screen;
Redemption narratives; film censorship and religion; eschatology; and a case study of
Martin Scorsese, whose feature films incorporate many of our key topics and
therefore serve as a valuable resource.
Spring Semester topics:
Choice of 1 from 3
? Elective D: Art Cinema: Emerging in the wake of Italian Neorealism in the 1940s,
the late 1950s saw the appearance of a new mode of European filmmaking that
was boldly experimental in both its challenge to conventional film aesthetics and
in its willingness to explore themes and ideas left untouched by mainstream
Hollywood and European cinema. From the depiction of sexuality and decadence
in Fellini?s La Dolce Vita to the narratological games played by Resnais and
Robbe-Grillet in Last Year at Marienbad, these films challenged audiences in ways
that few films had done before. Through a series of cinematic case studies, we
will explore a range of issues with which these works engaged, considering
questions of authorship and national cinema alongside investigations into the
aesthetic developments they pioneered.
? Elective E: The Author, Dead or Alive: who is the author of a film? As cinema is a
collaborative process, is it appropriate to single out the director as sole creator?
Do we understand films better by understanding the psychology of the individual
director, or by studying their films as a whole and identifying unconscious
structural patterns that recur throughout their work?
This elective will introduce key theories of authorship through a series of classic examples.
We begin with Cahiers du Cinema, and the debates led by Francois Truffaut, Andrew
Sarris, Robin Wood and Peter Wollen, as they analyse the work of John Ford, Howard
Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock. The module then encourages you to apply your
understanding to contemporary directors, with a particular focus on of the work of
Christopher Nolan. Later weeks draw on the work of Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes
to problematize earlier auteurist theories, and ask whether the author is merely a cultural
?function? ? or whether the idea of an author is even useful.
Elective F: Representation this elective begins by mapping out the critical territory
around the idea of representation. This will involve discussing and exploring the idea of
?realism?, where it developed from, and how it has come to assume such significance in
relation to film.
Teaching: Lectures, seminars and film screenings
STUDY OPTION 1:
? 2,000 word essay;
? A ten-minute presentation and 1000 word written analysis.
STUDY OPTION 2 OR STUDY OPTION 3: 2,000 word essay.
Study Option 1 = Whole Year
Study Option 2 = Autumn
Study Option 3 = Spring/summer
Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.
Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.
Some courses may require additional fees.
Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.
Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.
Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.