An Introduction to Film Analysis: Technique and Meaning in Narrative Film, by Michael Ryan & Melissa Lenos

My Copy: 9780826430021 (image from Bloomsbury publishing, though there are two different covers, it seems)

I’m not sure how long ago I bought this skinny textbook, but I’ve thumbed through it a few times for my master’s thesis. I know that’s the main reason I bought it. As someone wanting to learn more about film-making, this seemed to be a great investment.

Certainly, it’s got enough to make me think, and is rather affordable for a “textbook.”

An Introduction to Film Analysis is probably one of the best introductory books on a subject that I’ve found so far. It has plenty of great, basic information regarding film techniques and meaning, as well as the various ways to do critical analysis of film through “criticism.” The book was clearly geared toward teachers and students in film studies, but there are plenty of examples and still photos from films that anybody who wants to better understand film (or write about it) can pick it up.

When in the “critical analysis” section, I felt a little disconcerted that some of the analysis the authors made was so political, and seemed to lean toward a certain viewpoint (and the bit about psychology, the differences between liberal and conservative thought was a little startling). These paragraphs regarded mindsets and filmic interpretations, and how they came about.

Then again, isn’t that what this book is about, and why it was written when it comes down to it? I think it was just a stark reminder that what we think of as “politics” tends to permeate everything. And understanding where filmmakers and critics lie in their personal values and politics can help others understand the direction a film or interpretation went. There are many different ways to interpret what’s been seen, but careful analysis and understanding the times the films are made in make it easier and better for one to really understand the story.

I love how the book elaborated on the fact: a film is a product of it’s time, and that has to be taken into account. Also, the values and beliefs of filmmakers and writers, resources available, story flow and direction, etc.

I think this book did a great job breaking down what to look for in films. A worthy introduction that could probably replace some more complex texts. Great resource for anybody that likes watching films repeatedly and analyzing them for deeper meaning (or has to do that for some reason), but I also think it’s great to help you learn observation, what each piece of a story is trying to tell you to come up with the whole.

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