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.

Horror Narrative

The next macro study to apply to a film is to consider the narrative as part of the genre.

Remember the basics of narrative?

What are the typical features of a horror narrative?

Consider two narratives as you complete this document:

  • A fairy story you know well. (Has this has been done previously?)
  • A horror story or film you know well

Upload your narrative analysis of the horror film to your reflective journal along with a trailer for the film you studied.

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.

Narrative in Pan’s Labyrinth

Narrative Analysis of Pan’s Labyrinth.

Create a presentation (on Google slides) which analyses the narrative features in the Pan’s. Please work in pairs and use no more than four slides, one for each section listed below.

1) Structure

The film starts at the end and takes us back to the beginning – why?

Also, think about the film as a narrative of two halves. Consider the structure of the two parts to the film. Where are the parallels and over laps?

2) Characters’ Function

What roles do the characters have in the narrative and is this always clear?

3) Conflicts

Where are the conflicts located in the film? Who is struggling, against whom? What is the outcome of the struggle? How does this lead us towards the themes….

4) Themes

What is the journey of the film and how does the conflict and epiphany reveal the themes?

Reflective Journal

Embed your slideshow into your reflective journal.

Remember to:

  1. Introduce the slideshow, what is it and what does it explore?
  2. Reflect on what you have learnt about narrative and how this will help you develop your own screenplays.

Narrative in Film (Part 3) Non Linear Narratives

Non-linear Narratives

Films have a big advantage in how they can tell stories.

  • They are not bound by the rules of normal time!

Editing can reorder screen time, which is different from reel time (the duration of the film), and this reshaping of the narrative can add to the audience’s pleasure of the film. How?

Task 1 – Exploring some Non-Linear Films

Think of a film, which plays tricks with its narrative and or characters. Try to describe what it does with the structure of the story and how that might enhance our pleasure. Some notable examples:

  • Dunkirk
  • Inception
  • Memento
  • Shutter Island
  • The Sixth Sense
  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Last Five Years
Here is a short film, which plays with narrative and uses am interesting narrative structure.

Some Video Essays on Narrative:
1) Controlling Narrative Information

2) A Narrative Analysis of a Cult Film (Memento)

Narrative in Film (Part 2) Character Function

Narrative Function

First off, it is important to note that we are not talking about characterisation or representation!

We are talking the role the characters have in the narrative. In other words what is their job in the story? This analysis can give us helpful clues to understand the themes and ideas, especially when we consider the ways in which the characters (ideology) conflict.

Stories typically have most, if not all, of the following characters types:

  1. The protagonist (the hero at the heart of the story)
  2. The antagonist (the villain who opposes and tries to defeat the hero)
  3. The donor (a character who gives the hero advice and sometimes a helpful object)
  4. The dispatcher (a character who sends the hero on the journey)
  5. The helper (the sidekick for the hero who helps the hero through the trials)
  6. The false hero (a traitor, close to the hero who ends up betraying the hero)
  7. The girl (the ‘reward’ for the hero)
Characters’ narrative function in Harry Potter.


Consider these character roles for the stories you studied in the last lesson. Please remember that a character in a story may fulfill more than one role.

Using the film you studies yesterday develop your poster with details of the characters’ and their narrative function.

Extension – Character, Conflict and Themes (Dialects)

Narrative in Film (Part 1) The 3 Act Structure

Introduction to Narrative (The study of stories)

The structure/shape of the stories

  • The big events that push the story forward, causing the characters to act / react.
  • When and how important story information is revealed.
    • How the audience is positioned in the story & when we learn important narrative information

The characters & their narrative function.

The themes/messages that the director wants to communicate.

  • The development of the main character(s) & their epiphany

The role of the narrator in highlighting the themes (if applicable)

The significance of setting to the story

The 3 Act Narrative Structure

Here is a cool video about the narrative structure of films which are about the adventures of a heroic figure in a typical Hollywood adventure film.

Here is an info-graphic from this video from Ted Ed.

Task 1 – Describe a simple narrative

Use it to think about the basic narrative structure of a film/story you know well, a fairy story like: Cinderella, Snow White, Jack & the Bean Stalk… or if you don’t know those, a Pixar movie like: Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E…

Remember the story mountain? Apply this in reverse to the story that you have chosen and explain the basic structure of that narrative.

Create a timeline of your own with five stages (use screenshots from the film if possible) Identify the five key stages of the narrative:

Act 1

  1. Ordinary World

2. Disruption

Act 2

3. The journey or quest.

4. The final struggle or epiphany

Act 3

5. The restoration or return

Task 2 – The Journey and the Theme

Extension Task

Consider the last two slides in the show above. In your story, who changes, how & why? What do they realise and how does this epiphany reveal the theme of the story?

Add this to your poster in either stage 4 or 5.

Representing Ofelia

Most films follow one character (the central protagonist). Typically this central character has to undergo trials and overcome problems as the story progresses. Often these events and conflicts change the character and they learn something essential about themselves or a great truth about the world.

Today we are going to look at the character development of Ofelia. You should consider how her story reflects the themes of the film. To help you consider what those themes might be watch this video essay from Nerdwriter: 

You will be allocated one short scene from the film and you should complete an analysis of how she is represented. Please look particularly at the mise-en-scene and comment on how C.L.A.M.P.S communicates messages and ideas about the character and her experiences.

Here is a link to the whole film

Here is a document to help you complete the analysis.

You will be leading a discussion with the rest of the class on the section that you have been given in the next lesson.


  1. Complete a slide show of 6 slides, which cover the 6 areas of mise-en-scene (CLAMPS)
  2. Use the video to take screen-grabs of interesting elements of mise-en-scene and copy those into the slide.
  3. You can then record a voice over using Screencastify to analyse features of the text.