Cinematography in the movie, The Piano

ENG 154 Interpretation of Film                                          Fall 2021|   Instructions for Paper 1



You must submit your paper electronically via the Blackboard managed by your TA. Go to the Assignments menu, select the appropriate assignment and you will see an option to “View/Complete” the assignment.  Follow the instructions to upload your paper. To submit your paper, you must click the “Submit” button. If you encounter serious problems uploading your paper, then make sure to email your paper to your TA before the deadline to avoid a late penalty. If your TA requests a hard copy of the paper, you must bring that to discussion section on October 1.


The aim of the first assignment is to develop your ability to critically analyze and interpret the use of one compositional element of cinema in a selected film [in the case of this first paper, either mise-en-scene or cinematography].


Write a paper that develops an interpretative argument drawing its evidence from one of the following:


1] Mise-en-scene in Meshes of the Afternoon

2] Mise-en-scene in Us

3] Mise-en-scene in Ratcatcher

4] Cinematography in Meshes of the Afternoon

5] Cinematography in Us

6] Cinematography in The Piano


N.B. You may not write about mise-en-scene in The Pianonor cinematography in Ratcatcher. Any such papers will automatically receive an “F” grade.


Start with your own observations and notes taken during the screening [and during your subsequent viewings]. Look for patterns, structures, contrasts, emphasis ordevelopment in the way in which a compositional element of cinema is being used in the film. Then consider how the film’s specific deployment of this element contributes to the meaning of the film. For example, how do the particular uses of mise-en-scene shape the meaning of Meshes of the Afternoonin relation to female identity, gender relations and/orthe space of the home? Do not just laundry list your observations, but use them as evidence to build an interpretive argument about the film. You do not need to address every aspect of mise-en-scene or cinematography in your chosen film, only the salient ones to your interpretative argument. However, if you choose to focus your argument primarily around one aspect of mise-en-scene or cinematography [e.g. props or camera movement], don’t make your paper too narrowly focused [on a single detail], but seek a balance between depth and breadth.


You will need to view the film again to complete this paper.


You do not need to explain or cite definitions of analytical terms [e.g. low-key lighting] nor do you need to summarize the plot. Anticipate that your reader is familiar with both the film and the terminology of film studies.


You are not expected to do additional reading or research for this assignment, but we do encourage you to make use of the texts we have read so far in the course and the discussions that we have shared in class.Make use of this material as you see fit, but make sure to cite your sources correctly.If you quote a source, you need to introduce it and identify the writer in the sentence. Do not merely insert a quotation without context.  Before submitting your paper, check the spelling, grammar and clarity of your prose because poor presentation of your ideas will negatively affect your grade.  Once you have submitted your paper, check the Integrity Report on TurnItIn to ensure that you have cited all your sources properly. You may resubmit your paper as many times as you wish up until the deadline and the system will generate a fresh Integrity Report.


The paper must be typed, double-spaced, with page numbers, in a font no larger than 12-point, and using margins no wider than 1.25 inches. Also give the paper an effective title. The paper must be at least 1000 words in length and no more than 1250 words [excluding your “Works Cited” list].  Please write the word count at the end of the paper and the name of your TA at the top of the paper.  Please remember that film titles are italicized in academic writing and not placed in quotation marks [which is a journalistic convention]. The first time you mention a film title, you should put the director and year of release in parenthesis after the title.  The first time that you refer to fictional characters in a film, you should put the actor’s name in parenthesis following the character’s name.


The opportunity to rewrite this assignment after it has been graded will not be available. We thus encourage you to talk with your TA about your paper ideas, so please make an appointment in good time before the deadline so that you have time to respond to their feedback. You will also have the opportunity to do some peer workshopping on your paper thesis in the Friday section before the paper is due [Sept 24].Your TA will not read entire rough drafts or “pre-grade” your papers, but they will be glad to read outlines and sections of your papers to provide feedback on your ideas. You may also want to make use of the Writing Center for this assignment.


Final words of advice: remember that a compelling paper includes a strong, original argument, detailed evidence to support it, and a well organized and engaging essay structure to communicate it to your reader.

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