All films tell stories. And for the stories to be understood, they must be woven around the basic film components of theme, plot, characters, language and setting. These components are discussed in details as follows:
The theme is the main or the central idea which the film writer wants to communicate through the script. This theme could be overtly or covertly presented through dialogue directions, description of characters and setting. There is need for film critic to comment on the theme of the film he/she writes on.
The plot is story that the scriptwriter tells. More than that, it is the structure, the plan of the story, the arrangement of the shots, scenes, episodes, incidents, acts and the overall film. It has the following elements: exposition, conflict, complication, crisis, climax, flashback, point of attack, suspense etc. every good plot has a beginning, middle and end. A film critic includes, in the work, a plot, a summary of the film in about a page. He looks at the plausibility or otherwise of the plot, the sequence and knitting to achieve a synergy.
The characters in a film are the characters about which a story is told. They include human beings, gods, spirits, animals etc. character essentially means character’s idiosyncrasies, distinctive qualities, desires that he/she exhibits through actions, dialogue, language, and scriptwriter’s directions. Character can be portrayed or delineated through its external, internal and objective characteristics (Mgbejume, 2002). The two major characters in a film are the protagonist (the lead character) and the antagonist (any character that stands against the protagonist). Others are seen as minor characters.
This refers to the scriptwriter’s way or method of communicating his/her work to the viewers. This could come in the following ways: diction, semantic, syntax uses, proverbs, idioms, adages, symbols, gestures, dialogue, aside, monologue etc. It also concerns or refers to thought, appreciate choice of words easily spoken of (Duraku, 1997).
Film setting refers to the representative of the natural location, locale of the film. It is the habitat of the characters. Setting has three elements namely:
(a) Physical setting of the script
(b) General significant occurrence, which grows out of a character’s social, moral, and cultural intercourse within each of the settings and
(c) The atmosphere, which embodies the emotional characteristics of each setting, (Mgbejiume, 2002).
Every when critically assessed must be anchored on a theory. Giannatti (1999:438) gave a list of theories which can be used in appreciating a film. The theories are as follows:
- Theory of Realism
This theory applies mostly to documentary films. Films that are based on this theory represent elements as they are in real life.
- Formalist Theory
This theory postulate that movie is unlike real life. It is based on the principle that films do not represent or reproduce reality. However, with manipulation of time and space occasioned by the modern techniques, films could produce a world that resembles real world only in a superficial sense.
- The Auteur Theory
This theory states that films ought to be assessed on the basis of how and not what. The auteur theorists like the formalists, hold that what makes a film is the stylist
treatment i.e the director’s use of mis-enscene, the cinematography, editing and sound.
- Electric and Synthetics Theory
The exponents of this theory maintain any films should be assessed in any context deemed fit by a critic. They oppose the use of any theory to interpret or assess a film, rather arguments with concrete facts are proposed. This theory is however criticized due to its subjectivity.
- Structuralism and Semiology Theory.
This is the introduction of scientific approach to film assessment; which allows more systematic and detailed analysis. The exponents of this theory note that language of cinema is symbolic with complete signs, hence, they come out with cinematic communication based on signs ad codes.
This theory has to do with the theory of history, because films have histories. Giannetti (1999: 465) identified four film histories, each with its own set of philosophical assumptions, methods and source of evidence as follows: (a) Aesthetic film histories – film as art; (b) Technological film histories – motion picture as inventions and machine; (c) Economic histories – film as an industry and; (d) Social histories – movies as a reflection of the author’s values, desire and fears.
Source:NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA