DFP: Principles of Film Form and Film Style

This unit talk about Principles of Film Form and Film Style.it states the different rules that form a Film and the kind the style a Film can fall into.

Understanding Film Form Film form according to Bordwell and Thompson (2004:54) is “a system of relationship that we can perceive among the elements in the whole film”. Element in this context is a small but necessary part of the film while the system is a unified set of related interdependent elements that depend on and affect one another. Such elements are acting, directing, light, costume, sound, music, etc. The thrust of the matter is that each unit of the film is essential and should be considered in relationship to the whole and at the same time, the overall context of a movie can make any element significant, (Anunike, 2005). There are no laid down rules or regulations on the form to be adopted while producing a film. This is because film art is artist’s perception, and imagination and all artists do not share the same experience and cultural background. Hence, movies do not have the same form. But the general principles of film form are discussed and perceived under functions, similarity and repetition, difference and variation, development and unity/disunity.

  • Function

Every element in a film fulfils a function or a role. There must be a justifiable reason why an element is chosen. For instance, why is a particular costume or sound effect adopted in a particular scene and for a particular character and not for another one. The viewer must therefore be able to rationalize the function of an element in a film.

  • Similarity/Repetition

Repetition of an element draws attention to it and makes it significant. Another name for repetition is motif. This creates parallelism, which in turn gives pleasure to the film viewer. Film form also makes use of universal similarities and specific repetitions.

  • Difference and Variation

Similarity and repetition could be very boring and lead to disinterest in the film. To avoid this, variation is brought in. so variation and difference in film form and analysis refer to the addition of variety. After all, variety they say, is the spice of life.

  • Development

Every good film has an order. From the beginning, middle and then the end or concluding part. This is why producers segment films into shots, scenes, episodes and acts in order to appreciate their differences and similarities as its overall plot progression.

  • Unity and Disunity

A film achieves unity when the relationships in the film are clear and in synergy. However, a disunited film develops illogically and elements are superfluous and sometimes have no known synergy unity and disunity should be used to with regards to films formal convention. For instance, it is wrong to judge absorb film as lacking in unity.

Understanding Film Style


It could be seen that film form refers to the principle by which a film is structured. However, film form cannot be discussed independent of its style or the technique adopted in structuring it or in laying its outline. Bordwell and Thomson (2004:175) outlined four techniques or styles as: Mis-en-scene, cinematography, shot-to-shot, and sound in cinema styles or techniques.

  • Mis-en-scene

The director’s control over what appears in the film is known as Misen-scene. Aspects of mis-en-scene include setting, costume, make-up, lightening, movement and acting. There is also mis-en-scene in space and time.

  • Cinematography

Like in mis-en-scene, the film-maker controls what is filmed and how it is filmed. This is known as cinematography. The cinematography aspects of film include:

(a) The photographic aspects of the shots

(b) The framing of the shots and the duration of the shots

  • Short –to – shot technique

A film contains thousands of shots framed out of sequence, hence there is a need to co-ordinate one shot with the next in sequential order. This is the essence of editing. It is during editing that these shots are arranged sequentially and necessary ones that may likely distort or disorganize the order removed. It is also during editing process that unwanted footage and superfluous frames are eliminated.

  • Sound in the cinema technique

Sound in another film technique or style which engages a distinct sense mode, shapes how images are perceived and interpreted, directs attention to the image and gives a new value to silence. Sound, sound effects and music synchronization are carefully used with other elements to achieve a greater aesthetic value in the film.

Source:NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA

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