Film criticism as emphasized by Bordwell (2004:15) is “a judgment about the value or worth of a film, giving enough information to support your judgment”. The following tips serve as a guide to critics while performing the act of film criticism:
- Avoid extreme judgment e.g “the film is totally bad “or “the film is extremely good.” The critic is expected to take and expose both the good and bad aspects of the film into account in his/her job.
- Always give brief plot/synopsis, suggesting the main conflicts and character developments in the film.
- Mention striking aspects of the film e.g impressive set, costumes, colour, design, music, sound effect, editing, with a particular attention to acting.
- Compare the film with other films that belong to the same genre, which are made by the producer or director or which raise similar thematic issues.
- There is need for brevity. Two or five pages of double line spacing is recommended.
Questions that Guide Film Criticism
The film is a visual medium of communication which uses light and shade as well as words and music to create an effect, (Wainwright, 1982). The critic must therefore answer certain questions that throw light on the leading roles and how well or otherwise they are portrayed, (Baldock, 1996). These questions as summarized by Bordwell (2004:17) include the following:
- Have you somewhere indicated your judgment of the film?
- Have you provided brief plot, or synopsis of the film which support judgment?
- Have you described these quickly and vividly, using concrete language and metaphor?
- Have you qualified your judgment by balancing positive and negative aspects of the film?
- Have you started the criticism with an attention-grabbing opening?
- · Have you concluded it with a striking statement?
Basic Steps to Criticism Writing
Kernodle cited in Anunike (2005:61) lists three basic steps for film criticism as follows:
- Begin with asking what the film sets out to do. This entails unraveling the purpose or objective of the film.
- Then ask how it had done or achieved the set objectives.
- Finally ascertain how well it was worth doing.
- Under the first step, the critic explains what the scriptwriter and the director attempt to do in the film and the directorial approach/interpretation respectively. Secondly, the critic goes into personal appreciation as to what extent the filmmaker, actors, actresses and director have succeeded in what each set out to do. In the third step, the critic makes personal judgment as to the value or worth of the film.
It is pertinent that the critic at the first paragraph gives his/her overall impression or assessment of the film. This is followed with comment on plot and performance at the body of his/her work. He/she finally writes the final impression in the film in the last paragraph.
Omanney and Schanker in Anunike (2005:61) gave designed questions that help in assessing a film. These questions are treated under the indices used in the critique of a film. They are as follow:
- The Theme.
The theme is the central idea which is communicated in the film. These questions need be answered concerning the theme:
(a) Is the fundamental idea true or false in its concept of life?
(b) Is the theme adversely affected by warped or limited experience of life?
(c) Does seeing the film add something positive to your understanding and experience?
(d) Are you in agreement with the philosophy of the film?
(e) Do you think the film is consistent with the setting and plot and characters in the film?
(f) Should the general public be encouraged to watch the film, should it have been produced?
- The plot
The plot is the story structure, the plan, arrangement of the shots, scenes, episodes, incidents, acts in the film. These questions show what is expected in the plot:
(a) Is the arrangement of events in the film clear?
(b) Does the plot rise to a strong climax?
(c) Do you think the suspense held until the end?
(d) Are you satisfied with the final outcome or do you think another would be more satisfactory?
(e) Which do you find more interesting, the events, the people, the style or the shock value of the film?
(f) Is the story emotionally stirring?
Characters are the human beings gods, spirits, animals etc about which a story is told (Mgbejume, 2002). These questions aid the understanding of the role of characters in the film.
- Do you consider the character credible and true to life?
(b) Do the actions of the characters fall in line with their motives?
(C) Do the characters fit into the social and geographical background of the story?
(d) Do the characters arouse sympathy, amusement, affection, disgust, admiration or hatred?
Language refers to the scriptwriter’s method of communicating the film to the viewers (Duruaku, 1997). These questions should be asked about the language use:
(a) Is the language brilliant and entertaining?
(b) Do you consider the language consistent with the characters and setting?
(c) Does the language advance the plot?
(d) Do you think people of the social class represented by the characters in the film would speak that way in real life?
The actors /actresses are assessed based in the following questions:
(a) Do you believe the actors interpreted their roles well?
(b) Has the actor made the character living individuals?
(c) Do you think the actor is natural or artificial?
(d) Does the acting grip emotionally?
(e) Is the actor’s voice pleasing?
(f) Does the actor distinguish between the character depicted and himself/herself?
(g) Is the actor consistent in character.
(h) Does the actor relate well with others in the film?
(i) Does the actor fit into style of the film?
- Design Elements
The design elements are evaluated based in the following questions:
(a) Do you consider the set, costume, make-up, lighting, prop etc proper in the film?
(b) Does any of the design elements draw attention to itself?
(c) Do you consider the design elements conducive to the emotional reaction of the film?
(d) Are the costumes, make up and props in harmony with the background?
(e) Is the setting proper for the social class or other classes of people depicted in the film?
Source:NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA