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.


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