How Film Analysis Improves Self Understanding

There is nothing quite like finding a film that you love, that resonates with you, and that even feels like it was made for you. Well, what if I told you that it probably was made for you- or, at the very least- people like you? Take Steven Spielberg’s E.T. for example. Though the film appealed to many, it was especially popular among those whose parents separated or divorced. Spielberg explained recently that the film was inspired by his own parent’s divorce, stating that he “had been working on an actual literal script about [his] parents’ separation and divorce” and that he transformed it “into a story about children and a family….” Understanding why a film is made can help people to better understand why a film may or may not appeal to them. Through film analysis, people can deepen their understanding of the movies they watch and in turn themselves. Film analysis improves individuals’ knowledge of psychology, and their own self-awareness. 

One way in which film analysis can help people deepen their self-awareness is through the study of basic film elements such as cinematography, light, and sound design (to name a few). When we examine the way these elements are used in films, we can see certain patterns that can teach us about how we each react to certain movies. One of the most explicit ways that filmmakers use psychology to influence their audiences is through the use of color. Color can be everywhere or nowhere in a movie, and it all depends entirely on what the director is trying to say. Depending on when and where certain hues appear throughout a film can tell us a lot about a movie and in turn, how we as audience members will respond to it. Take the Wizard of Oz, for example. It’s one of the most groundbreaking films in its use of color, but it’s also worth noting that the way it uses color is very strategic. When Dorothy is in Kansas at the start of the film, where all of her real-world problems occur, the film is in black and white. It is depicted as a scene that is somewhat devoid of joy, and it’s reflective of Dorothy’s own emotions. But once Dorothy arrives in the Land of Oz, a world where she makes new friends and has her fantastical adventure, the film is cast in bright colors, which is reflective of Dorothy’s temporary escape from the problems that face her in her waking life. What does this have to do with us? Well, it helps us to understand how color affects us. We’re meant to feel excited when the screen fills with colors showing us the full beauty of this magical land. It raises our moods. You’ve no doubt heard the idiom about “feeling blue,” but it’s grounded in some fact. The color blue has connotations of feelings of coldness, isolation, and sadness. This is an idea that is heavily reflected throughout Picasso’s “blue period,” wherein the artist painted many monochromatic (or nearly monochromatic)  blue paintings. By looking at the colors in films, we can better assess why and how they make us feel in certain ways.

While breaking out the visual and auditory elements of films can be very useful for deepening our levels of self-awareness, it is not the only way to assess a film. One can gain knowledge by studying characters and their arcs. We can learn from characters and the mistakes they make and relate them to our own lives. When we understand the motives, a character might have for their actions, it can offer us insight into why we might behave certain ways and perhaps even show us how to grow past our own struggles. Overall there is a lot to be gained from studying the films we watch. By understanding what we watch, we can better understand how the content affects us and what we can learn from it. The next time you find a movie that you have to watch twice, why not pause once in a while and make some observations? You might just learn something about yourself.


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