How to write a critical essay on a film


I have noticed that many of you are still not giving evidence properly in your essays, even though many of you know a lot about the text.

The reason we have been looking at different techniques, and focusing on them in specific scenes, is because that is how I need you to write them in your analysis paragraphs. If you don’t use proper evidence, then your essay will not achieve a National Five or Intermediate Grade . If you are just telling what happened, even if you are giving details, it is called narrative. That means you are just telling the story, and not answering the question. You have to PROVE, with evidence how something emphasises the theme you are looking at

Evidence is: how a cinematic technique says something that proves your point.

You must use a technique such as:Camera shot (Subjective and objective; POV) (ECU,CU,MCU,MS,LS,ELS, Aerial Shot); camera angle (LA, HA, Eye-Level); Camera movement (Tilt; Pan; zoom; Track; Jump-Cut); Editing (Fast, slow); Sound (diegetic; non-diegetic); Dialogue;  Mise-en-scene: (everything on the screen)Movement and positioning (of characters); action; mannerisms; facial expressions; props; costumes; setting); Colour; Lighting.


You must choose the technique and then detail how it is used:  An example WITH  3 pieces of evidence.

Dialogue is used to highlight, through the character of Effie Trinkett, the ridiculous nature of the people in the Capitol. Katniss, Effie and Peeta are in a car which is taking them to catch the train to the Capitol. Effie says in an excited exaggerated tone:

“You two are in for a treat! Crystal chandeliers, platinum doorknobs and it flies…”

Effie is prattling on in her silly voice, oblivious to the anxiety Peeta and Katniss are going through. She is describing the train that they are about to go on as a ‘treat’ which shows how ridiculous she is. Katniss tunes out and stops listening to her insensitive words which  are emphasised by Effie’s voice fading, whilst her mouth movement and facial expressions show that Effie is still talking. This suggests that we are experiencing Katniss’s subjective POV through the sound in the film. She has tuned out because Effie’s lively chatter means nothing to her, especially as she is facing her potential death. The insensitivity of Effie symbolises  the cruel and unjust way the people of the districts are treated. The Capitol people do not realise how the people in the districts suffer by being subjected to the Hunger Games as they see it as an honour to be chosen.

Have a look at the shots in the montage section that happens as Katniss makes her way to hunt in the Meadows.Look at Cinna’s section (characterisation) and the montage section. Remember Dialogue is evidence too. Just like in a novel, or short story.

Choose a question

This is what you are answering in EVERY paragraph. –although you are allowed to choose the theme for each paragraph, you must say how the director uses this film technique to  highlight the theme you are talking about.

Choose the themes you want to talk about in the 5  paragraphs you have to write (this is additional to your INTRODUCTION and CONCLUSION).

I have given you an essay plan to help you plan this. We have been looking at the themes of Oppression, Power and Appearance versus Reality (which is connected to POWER as President Snow controls the citizens of Panem).

The theme of appearance versus reality is accentuated during the propaganda video that is shown at The Reaping.  The Capitol people are controlled by being conditioned through the propaganda video about the Hunger Games to see things in a different way to the reality of the situation. President Snow is treated in a God-like way – which is symbolised through the character of Effie Trinkett.

Evidence of that would be(don’t write evidence of that would be in your essay): The extreme-close-up of Effie Trinkett shows her eyes closed, as if in prayer, whilst the propaganda video is being played. This prayer image is reinforced by her mouthing along to the words, as if she is in church. The prayers said in church are continually repeated, which emphasises the fact that she knows the words because she has heard them many times before. This gives the impression that she treats President Snow in a reverential way as if he is a God-like figure, as her mouthing along to the words signifies her total belief in them.

Effie mouthing the words in prayer stance

She also exclaims in a excited tone: “I just love that!” This shows her total disconnection from the feelings of the terrified children waiting to have their names chosen to become tributes, which means they have to fight in a fierce battle to stay alive.

Effie I just love that!

Effie  is clenching her fists in absolute joy after she has finished mouthing along the words.

Effie I just love that! 2

Just after her mouthing along to the Propaganda video
‘I just love that’ Her excitement and happiness is totally out of place next to the poor children waiting to see if their name is going to be chosen.

(you will have already given some context in your introduction about the Hunger Games, and how many people are forced to enter, but you will still need to explain a little about what it means to  the poor children).Then you would have to give evidence of how they feel:

The propaganda video shows a low-angle shot of a Gladiator-like figure to highlight his power over the district children and accentuate their vulnerability.  He is meant to represent a male tribute but he does not look like any of the district children; which is suggested by the camera cutting to shots of the dejected looking young children in the crowd. In particular, a close-up shot shows a small,  weak and sickly, terrified looking boy looking very agitated, highlighting how uncomfortable he is.

scared boy in crowd during propaganda video

Unlike Effie, he, just like all the other children, is not following the words. The difference between the ‘real’ tribute and the one in the video is significant. The one in the video is more like the Career Tributes from Districts One and Two, who are specially trained to compete in the Hunger Games to ensure the Capitol people get a good show; and who believe it is an ‘honor’, as do the Capitol people, to participate in the Games.The horrific nature of the Games is not considered by the Capitol people, or Districts One and two, both of whom are conditioned to believe it is a good thing. This highlights that they believe in the propaganda video instead of the reality of the real-life horrific nature of the Games.


This week we will be concentrating on trying to get enough evidence of cinematic techniques for you to use to start writing your essays.


Finish redrafting your three analysis paragraphs. Remember it is analysis and not an introduction.

  • Remember to use your PEAR structure (with proper evidence not statements)
  • Vary your words (see the helpsheet)
  • Read it through to check the expression (reading out loud is better as then you can hear how it flows)

Also: Complete the ‘Shooting the apple’ section on the worksheet. See below for a breakdown of this in full.

If you want to rewatch the HOPE scene before answering the question it is here:

DEADLINE FOR FULL ESSAYS Monday 17th December.

With Introduction

5 analysis paragraphs


Follow your essay plan.

Message me if you get stuck.

I will be in school to collect them and will be marking them over the Christmas holidays.

This is a good website, which I think, has all the dialogue from the film 🙂


Seneca Crane is influenced by Katniss’s strength, skill and courage when she impresses him during the skills evaluation in front of the Game-makers. Katniss is aware that if she scores too low the viewers will be disinterested in her, but if she scores too high she’ll be a target for the other tributes. She enters the private chamber to do her best and impress the Game-makers, but becomes enraged when they seem disinterested in her archery skills.

A long, high angle shot with Seneca just visible in the corner shows Katniss ready with her bow standing watching them as they totally ignore her. She attracts their attention to her first shot by loudly saying ‘Katniss Everdeen’. Seneca Crane is then shown in a medium shot nonchalantly sipping his drink acknowledging that he will now pay attention to her. While she readies herself to take the shot, the camera cuts to a long shot of the Game-makers to show that they are watching her. She misses, and laughter is heard. The camera cuts to the Game-makers to show their indifference and laughter at her failure. Then it cuts to a side close-up of Katniss where the incredulity of her missing the shot is shown on her face. She looks back at the target which emphasises her shock at how she missed the target, when she is an expert archer. The camera cuts back to a close-up of her face and the audience can infer that it was her lack of skill in using this particular bow and arrow that caused her inaccuracy.

Once she factors in the difference in weight etc, she accurately hits the target. The camera continually cuts between Katniss and the Game-makers to show that they are now completely oblivious to what she is doing and have gone back to socialising.  In an act of desperation and fury (which is shown by an ECU and a tilt of her head that infers ‘how dare they ignore me’, she then walks forward and very slightly, shakes her head at their ignorance),

I will make you pay attention shoot the pig

Katniss launches an arrow right at the succulent pig the Game-makers are snacking on. This catches their attention and, despite her thinking she screwed the whole thing up, earns her a 11 out of 12 rating. Her courage is shown by her audacity to say ‘thank you…for your consideration’ in a tongue in cheek tone of insolence, and then bow to them.


[referring to Katniss’ high rating] President Snow: An eleven? Seneca Crane: She earned it. President Snow: She shot an arrow at your head. Seneca Crane: Well, at an apple. President Snow: Near your head. Sit down. [Seneca sits next to Snow] President Snow: Seneca, why do you think we have a winner? Seneca Crane: What do you mean? President Snow: I mean, why do we have a winner? I mean if we just wanted to intimidate the districts why not round up twenty four at random, and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. [Seneca doesn’t know what to reply and just looks at Snow] President Snow: Hope. Seneca Crane: Hope? President Snow: Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. Seneca Crane: So? President Snow: So, contain it. Seneca Crane: Right.

President Snow understands the danger of having someone with the potential courage and audacity of Katniss. She shows a strength of character and intelligence that could challenge his authority. He thinks Seneca should have punished her with a low score for her stunt. He sees this high score as a challenge as her audacity has been rewarded and as a result, she will recieve more attention from sponsors.

Katniss further challenges Seneca when she threatens to end her and Peeta’s life in a double suicide when they are told only one of them can win. Katniss knows that Seneca will have no choice but to let them both win, as he will face the wrath of the Capitol audience if he gives them no victor. He has to make a quick decision without thinking of the consequences:

[believing that they have won, Katniss and Peeta hug and the arena is turned to day again, they wait for confirmation and an announcement is made again]

Voice of Announcer: Attention. Attention, tributes. There’s been a slight rule change. The previous revision allowing for two victories from the same district has been revoked. Only one victor may be crowned. Good luck. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

[on hearing this Katniss and Peeta look at each other]

Peeta Mellark:Go ahead. One of us should go home. One of has to die, they have to have their victor.

Katniss Everdeen: No.

[she throws her bow and arrow down and walks towards Peeta]

Katniss Everdeen: They don’t. Why should they?

[she takes out the nightlock berries she’d taken from Fox Face’s hand earlier]

Peeta Mellark: No!

Katniss Everdeen: Trust me. Trust me.

[she gives Peeta half of the berries]

Peeta Mellark: Together?

Katniss Everdeen: Together.

Peeta Mellark: Okay. One.

Katniss Everdeen: Two.

Peeta Mellark: Three.

[just as they are about to eat the berries the voice of the announcer stops them]

Voice of Announcer: Stop! Stop! Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the winners of the 74th annual Hunger Games.

[on hearing this Katniss hugs Peeta]

Katniss’s words ‘trust me’ show her awareness of the situation.