Textual Analysis Research

Links to the Films

Your Initial Response

Complete one of these documents in preparation

Context / Film Research.

You’ve got one week to conduct the research necessary to help you understand your chosen film:

  • Character Representation
  • Narrative
  • Genre
  • Visual Style
  • Historical Context
  • Critical Reception (Reviews)

By the end of the week you will submit a proposed sequence from your film as well as an essay question which will help you focus on the sequence as well as link your ideas to the whole film. You should take a copy of this document to record the research that you undertake this week.

Some Sources to Get you Started

Days of Heaven

Lighting in Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven Close Analysis

Reference: Zucker, C. (2001) ‘ “God Don’t Even Hear You,” or Paradise Lost: Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven.”’, Literature Film Quarterly, 29(1), p. 2.


Nerdwriter (Animating Light)

20 Years of Japanese Cinema – Media Magazine Article

Reference: Ramey, M, 2009. Cinema of Japan. Media Magazine, 27, 7-12.

La Haine

Structure, culture and cinematography.

Ghetto Culture – Media Magazine Article

Reference:  Turner, P, 2011. Ghetto Culture. Media Magazine, 35, 19-22.

Research Sources for your Comparative Video Essay

In your final video essay, which compares our two films you need to show that you have done some independent research.

From IB Film Specification:

‘Each student carries out broad research, using both primary and secondary sources, in order to investigate possible areas of film focus and films for comparison from within the areas of film focus, using materials from a range of sources, including original films, critiques, publications and other media.’

In the assessed coursework you should do this research entirely independently and should aim to have between 8-12 sources. These sources will be made up of a combination of:

  1. Your two chosen focus films
  2. Books on your film focus or chosen films
  3. Critics Reviews
  4. Magazine and Newspaper Articles
  5. Video Essays
  6. Podcasts
  7. Websites & Blogs

For this practice unit we have provided some research materials that we would like you to quote from in your video essay. We are also going to go to the library later this week to find book.


In pairs divide and conquer one of these resources, which will be allocated to you by your teacher.

Find 1-3 quote(s) from the source, which you think are useful in developing your understanding…

  1. …the context of the film movement
  2. …the film genre (vampire horror)
  3. …the cinematic style (micro features) of our films

You should also generate a full Harvard reference for your specific source.

Put both the quote and the Harvard reference into this slideshow for the whole class to access when we put together our video essays next week.

Mr G’s Class

Miss H’s Class

1) Horror Monsters Media Magazine Article

Read this article on monsters published in The Media Magazine

2) Crash Course on German Expressionism

3) Film IQ – History of Horror

4) Academic Journals

We subscribe to a huge library or academic articles, books and reviews.

You can access the resources here (see below for user names and passwords)

Here are three articles which I found on Film Vampires:

  1. A Century of Vampires
  2. Warm Blooded – True Blood & Let The Right One In.
  3. Here is a review for Let The Right One In.


Some monsters to thrill, scare and delight you.

Why do we like to scare ourselves?

A key features of any horror film is the monster. The monster is said to represent the fears, anxieties and concerns of society at that time. That means that the monster and the theme of the film are inextricably linked and intertwined with each other.

To start developing your understanding we are going to look at some classic horror monsters and consider their representation and beneath that what social fear they stand for.


In pairs, do some research and develop a monster profile for your allocated monster.

Mr Gregson’s Monsters

Miss Hales’ Monsters

The Superhero in Other Cultural Traditions


Films are a cultural product and therefore reflect  the period and culture in which they were made.

The super hero then embodies heroic values of a given culture or time.

The binary of the hero is of course the villain and, if the hero embodies our cultural description of heroism, the villain embodies our fears of criminality and ‘evil’ to use a simplistic term.

If we are using Batman The Dark Knight to explore how that Superhero reflect the America Christopher Nolan finds himself in, we can use film to explore other cultures’  values, attitudes and beliefs with regard to the superhero.

In this lesson we are going to look at films from China and Japan and ask ourselves what we can learn about these cultures through their cultural products (films):


Look at the sequences below from excellent films from the orient: What impression do you get of the heroes in these sequences? How are these ideas constructed through the mise-en-scene and cinematography?

Traditional Chinese Superheroes

Hero (2002) Yimou

Modern Japanese Hero

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Nerdwriter Video

Evolution of Batman

‘The world about us has changed and is continually changing at an ever-accelerating pace. So have we. With the increase in media coverage and information technology, we see more of the world, comprehend its workings a little more clearly, and as a result our perception of ourselves and the society surrounding us has been modified. Consequently, we begin to make different demands upon the art and culture that is meant to reflect the constantly shifting landscape we find ourselves in. We demand new themes, new insights, new dramatic situations.’

‘We demand new heroes.’

Excerpt from Alan Moore’s introduction to the The Dark Knight Returns (if you’re a graphic novel fan you can read the complete article here.

The Evolution of the Batman


So let’s explore some recent(ish) iterations of Batman. How is he being treated in these films? What ideologies (values, attitudes and beliefs) seem to be attached to this character? How is the audience encouraged to respond to the character of Batman?

How do you know? What clues are you getting from the text that lead you to this conclusion?

Batman The Movie (1966) Martinson (Batman = Adam West)

Batman 1989 (Burton) (Batman = Michael Keaton)

So after all our study and research, lets look at Nolan’s Batman and explore how he is a product of a darker time. How he satisfies our demands for ‘new heroes’.


Take a copy of the slideshow above discuss and complete.

Embed the slideshow with a brief reflection on the representation of the Batman in Nolan’s trilogy into your reflective journal.

America Post 9/11 – The War on Terror

Contention / Thesis

‘All cultural products, including film, are a reflection of the time in which they were made!’

How can we test this idea? We can see if it applies to our films? Is it possible to see, in the characters and themes of The Dark Knight, the significant events after 9/11 attacks and the ensuing ‘War on Terror’ prosecuted by the American military and intelligence services?

Can we also get a sense of social attitudes at that time and how Gotham, it’s inhabitants, the police and Batman echo this social structure (and divide)?

This is a video which covers most of the important historical contexts.

…The War on Terror


Note making document.

There are a lot facts in the above video on the socio-political context in America after post 9/11. Also it explores some of the social divides created by wealth or lack of it.

As we’re watching this video, and in the light of work we did on the key article from yesterday’s lessons, what contextual elements of the film seem to echo these contexts?

What themes are in the film, which seem to be concerned with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the war on terror?

What conclusions do you each about the nature of The Batman of the new millennia.

Reflective Journal

Embed the video into your journal

Summarise in 3-5 bullet points the key historical events that you can argue echo in The Dark Knight

The Batman – Dark Ideologies


Read, discuss, understand this key note article on Batman by Pete Turner.

  1. Some important terminology to define before we read:
    • Ideology
    • Socio-Political Context
    • Vigilante
    • Dominant Hegemony
    • Authoritarianism
    • Dichotomy
  2. Read the article aloud around the class.
  3. Stop/start discussion on the article and specific sections of it:
    1. Vigilantism, justice and vengeance
    2. By any means necessary – the tactics of Batman
    3. Inequality in Gotham
    4. The masses
  4. Complete notes on the article during the discussion
  5. Highlight key quotes from the article to use in next week’s essay
  6. Generate a Harvard reference for the article to use in the bibliography of the essay
Reflective Journal
  1. Embed article
  2. Summarise in 3-5 Bullet Points
  3. Reflect on the importance of reading articles / reviews on films we are studying (50 words)

The Archetypes in Film (Heroes and Villains)

Archetypes in literature are fundamental or prototypical characters that are used in stories. They have recurred in literature and art since the earliest writing. They personify universal patterns of human behaviour.

Film uses and reuses archetypes in various forms and with varying degrees of nuance, between realism and hyperbole.

In this exploration of Batman the Dark Knight we are exploring two archetypes, the hero and the villain. We will explore how the context in America, especially the events of 9/11, have reshaped the superhero and super villain in order to help the audience understand the world they live in and help them contextualise their fears. I want to explore how the superhero has become darker and the super villain has been redefined in this time of uncertainty, terrorism and fear.


Complete one slide in this slideshow with an analysis of one Superhero that you have been given. Mr G & Miss H may be open to alternative suggestions of heroes depending on the quality of argument you make, that this superhero represents a fundamental human quality that is significant for the time.

Miss H’s Superheroes.

Mrs G’s Superheroes.

Independent Study

Read this article from the BBC about Hollywood use of Archetypes and their roots in Greek myth. It also goes on to describe what it is about us humans that continue to retell the superhero story across the generation.

Embed the slide show into your reflective journal and also find a clip of your superhero online and reflect on how the film’s narrative at that moment conveys their heroic characteristics and/or their very human flaws.

Narrative in The Dark Knight

Remember Narrative? – The Study of Stories…
Narrative Revision
Task 1

In groups of three review the previous posts on narrative; summarise for each other and then a whole class discussion.

Narrative Part 1

Narrative Part 2

Narrative Part 3

Task 2

Complete a narrative analysis of The Dark Knight

Independent Study

Watch this video essay and summarise the key points in 5 bullet points, in your reflective journal, on the nature of The Joker as the ultimate antagonist.

Pan’s Labyrinth Final Essay

An IB Film textual analysis essay is multilayered (like an onion). Here is a graphic, which tries to explain those layers:

1) The inner most layer must have as it’s focus the micro features of the sequence. So far we have only covered mise-en-scene in any detail and in this essay that should be your focus.

2) The middle layer is on the macro features of the film. During the last few weeks we have covered a lot of macro ground: genre, representation & narrative. You should try and link the micro and macro.

For example:

  • How do the characters, setting & iconography fit (or not) into the fantasy fairy tale genre?
  • How is this scene significant in the representation of Ophelia & to what degree does her characters redefine the ideology surrounding fairy-tale princesses?
  • This scene is important in the parallel narrative structure and reflects on Vidal and the conflict (theme) at the heart of the narrative, how?

3) The last layer is the context layer. This film was made as a comment on the Spanish civil war, the people who rose to power (the Fascists) and the resistance of some, to their cruel ideology. Del Toro is also using cultural references:

  • Other films
  • Art work
  • Historical events
  • Myths and legends…to add layers of meaning to Pan’s Labyrinth.

How are those references evident in the scene and what is the meaning is attached to those contextual references that deepens our understanding of the film?

The Essay & Sequence

‘A textual analysis of The Pale Man Sequence. How does mise-en-scene in Ophelia’s second task create meaning for the audience and reinforce the themes & messages that Guillermo Del Toro is trying to communicate in Pan’s Labyrinth?’

The essay is set and should be submitted through Google Classroom.

This is the sequence that is the focus of your analyse. 

Please use this document to help you make notes on the key elements of mise-en-scene.