Category: Essay

Critical Reception

Here is the final essay on Vertigo (1958) Hitchcock.

‘With reference to critical writing and reviews you have considered as part of your study, discuss how your ideas on your chosen film have developed.’

We know that something very similar to this is going to crop up in the exam and it’s a really good bet to go for rather than the film specific essay. However you do need to reference critical writing and reviews, so it is essential you have quotes and are able to credit the author. You should certainly use the Robin Woods from Hitchcock Film Revisited (1965) and quote or paraphrase some of his ideas about the film, which are below. You should also use some of the quotes / ideas from the range of reviews we read in class.


Read one review / essay in this folder and complete a slide of notes on what you have read in the slideshow below.

Hitchcock’s Film revisited by Robin Wood

These quotes from his essay on Vertigo would be useful in addition to the reviews you have looked at.

Reflect on these quotes and choose some which you think resonate most closely with your reading of the film.


Create your own slide show of quotes (5-8), to use in an essay on critical approaches or indeed any essay on Vertigo. You should include what arguments you are going to make and the examples you would use to explain the quote and your other ideas that spring from it.

The Imposter : Your Analysis

Next Monday you will submit a 750 word essay on The Imposter. Your question will be a choice from the following:


‘When watching documentaries, we are just as involved in narrative and character as we are when watching fiction films.’ Discuss how far this is true in relation to your own studies of  documentary spectatorship.


‘For the spectator, the viewing of documentary films is really no different from that of viewing fiction films.’ With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far do you agree with this view?

For your essays it is crucial that you have MICRO evidence from specific moments in the films.

In pairs or 3s you will be analysing one of the following sequences from The Imposter:

  1. Missing Boy: 00:00:16 – 00:05:30
  2. No Other Way: 00:27:20 – 00:30:54
  3. Going to School: 01:02:00 – 01:08:00
  4. They Killed Him: 01:08:00 – 01:14:30
  5. Frederic Bourdin: 01:17:00 – 01:22:08
  6. Digging: 01:27:24 – 01:31:45

Remember in your analysis you need to consider micro features & specific terms:

  • mise-en-scene
  • cinematography
  • sound
  • performance
  • editing

Use this template to help you make notes on the micro and macro impact of the scene. 

Remember also to reflect on Bourdin as the central focus of the film’s narrative and the spectator’s relationship with him. His role as protagonist or antagonist and how we as a spectator respond differently to him at different moments within the film. Remember Layton’s overarching intention in this film:

“He invites sympathy. He has this childlike quality about him, and he can be very charming. And at other times he can be quite repellent, because he can be remorseless and you’re reminded about what he did. So as a filmmaker, I was asking, How can I find a way of getting the audience to experience a bit of that?”

These are the questions we considered before watching the film in class. How can you develop your answers and include them in essay format? You could use some of these questions as part of your plan for your mini essay. (In 750 words you won’t be able to answer them all!)

  • What documentary conventions is Layton using to tell this story?
  • What genre does Layton borrow conventions from in order to tell this story?
  • What is Layton’s agenda?
  • What is The Imposter a documentary about?
    • Is it about a missing child and a ‘whodunnit’ style mystery?
    • Is it a character study of a con artist?
  • How does Layton guide us to respond to Bourdain?

The Imposter Essay

‘Documentaries work on the spectator in ways that are very close to fiction films, using narrative and character to create drama and suspense.’ With reference to The Imposter (2012) Layton, discuss how far you agree with this statement.

This essay is going to require you to consider the spectator in relation to narrative and character.

  • How are we invited (guided) to respond to the characters (especially Bourdain) through micro features that have been appropriated (borrowed) from fiction films?
  • How do we engage with the different characters through the documentary convention of the interview?
  • How does Layton use fiction film techniques in the specific reconstruction sequences to ‘work on’ the audience and create drama and suspense?
  • How is the narrative established and structured for us? How are we positioned in the ‘narrative’ and how does Layton restrict or reveal key narrative information?
  • What is the central theme in the narrative and  how is it revealed to us in the denouement?

Bicycle Thieves Essay

We are going to self assess the timed essays that you submitted for Bicycle Thieves.

Please highlight the areas of your essay which show:

  • Terms
  • Examples
  • Analysis
  • Significance

Here is a slideshow which takes you through the assessment: