Thinking About Film

Kingston University

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Thinking About Film

  • Host University

    Kingston University

  • Location

    London, England

  • Area of Study

    Film Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    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.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course Content:

    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
    canonical debates.

    ? 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

    ? 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

Course Disclaimer

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.


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