Understanding Film: Introduction to Film Forms and Analysis
"Cinema is not only about making people dream." - Nadine Labaki
At a Glance
- Live online course
- 2 hours a week
- Mondays 18:00 - 20:00
- 10 weeks: April to June
- Tutor: Eleonora Sammartino
- Fees from £120 to £205
- Imperial College attendance certificate (T&Cs apply)
- Book from 1 March 2021
On this course, we will focus on film forms, exploring the elements that make up its language. Through the analysis of film clips from various genres and industries, we will look in depth at elements such as costume design, acting, camera movements, editing, and sound to develop analytical skills and a better understanding of film. We will also consider different modes of production and key roles in the industry that contribute to the making of film.
At the end of this course, you will have developed analytical skills, a greater understanding of film language and better knowledge of film as a creative industry.
Online Access to Course
This is a taught live online course which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time on a specific day of the week. To take part in the course you will need a suitably equipped and internet-enabled device. Please find full details and instructions below under 'Course Delivery'.
Those who attend at least 80% of the course sessions will receive an attendance certificate from Imperial College London upon completion of the course.
Course Programme (indicative and subject to change)
Week / Session 1: Mise-en-scène
In this first session, we will introduce the course, taking a look at its main themes and topics.
After a brief overview of film forms, we will focus on selected elements of the mise-en-scène, such as costume and make-up, set designs and props, considering how these contribute to the creation of the world in which the film is set, the narrative, and character development. We will also talk about some key costume designers in the industry.
Week / Session 2: Lighting and Colour
This class will develop some of the themes discussed in the previous week and further explore how elements of the mise-en-scène can be significatively used in the composition of the frame to create meaning. We will then explore lighting and colour in more depth, considering different aesthetic and cultural traditions, industrial contexts and technologies that have shaped their use in global cinemas.
Week / Session 3: Cinematography
This week, we will focus on cinematography, a term that describes everything that is related to the use of the camera. In considering framing, camera movements, focal length and tonality, we will explore how these can create meanings in mainstream film traditions as well as independent and art cinema. The class will also offer an overview of some key technological developments and their impact on film aesthetics and techniques.
Week / Session 4: Continuity Editing and Narrative Cinema
In this first week dedicated to editing, we will focus on continuity or invisible editing and its close ties with classical Hollywood cinema. Through some examples, we will consider editing techniques essential to the creation of narrative continuity in films, contextualising the emergence of narrative cinema in relation to socio-historical, industrial and technical developments in the 20th century.
Week / Session 5: Alternatives to Continuity Editing
In this session, we will continue to focus on editing by looking at alternatives to continuity techniques, such as the spatio-temporal discontinuity in the films by Yasujirō Ozu and Andrei Tarkovsky or the jump cut, popularised by the French New Wave in the 1960s. Another important example is represented by montage, from the ideological associations of Soviet Cinema to the more pop use in musical moments in contemporary cinema.
Week / Session 6: Long Take, Time and Space
This class will focus on the long take, a shot of longer average duration, bringing together some of the issues analysed in the weeks on cinematography and editing. This type of shot can be used to achieve varying effects in different genres; however, its emphasis on continuity in time and space allows more freedom to spectators in creating their own (mental) editing, while challenging them for the same reason. The long take will also give us the chance to analyse how temporality and spatiality are constructed through cinematic language.
Week / Session 7: Performance
This week will be dedicated to performance. Actors are often the main selling point and attraction in films, easily recognised by audiences. Either in immersive techniques like method acting or more Brechtian approaches, this craft is fundamentally based on the body of the actor and its physicality. Through some key examples, we will analyse how the body can inform characters and narrative through movement and expression and can be used as a visual element in the composition. On an aural level, the voice also importantly contributes to the performance. We will also consider the importance of actors’ extra-textual persona and how this influences the meanings created in the film.
Week / Session 8: Music
In this first week fully dedicated to sound, we will explore the importance of music in the soundtrack. From the more orchestral (if not Wagnerian) work of in-house composers during the classical Hollywood period to the more recent reliance on pre-existing popular hits, music is a fundamental element in the creation of emotional and intellectual meanings. We will look at the work of some key composers and the use of popular songs to understand how this element of the soundtrack can shape setting, space, characters, and mood, also considering the synergy between the film and the music industries.
Week / Session 9: Ambient sound
The class will look at sound effects and, more specifically, ambient sound, considering how this can contribute to the definition of the location, character, and mood. Though often overlooked, we will talk about the work of the sound department, both on set and in post-production, and roles such as the foley artist and the sound editor.
Week / Session 10: Special effects and spectacle
In this final week, we will bring together many of the themes and issues analysed throughout the course by looking at special effects. We will start by considering practical special effects, such as prosthetic makeup, miniature models, and mechanical effects, and then move to the examination of visual and digital effects, more closely associated with the post-production process. The session will especially focus on the relationship between special effects and different forms of spectacle, thinking about the importance of this element in our enjoyment of films.
There is no requirement to undertake specific reading for this course, but if you would like to look in greater depth at the subject the following books are recommended:
- David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction, 11th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2016 [This is edition is preferable, however previous ones are also good]
- Timothy Corrigan and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction, 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015 [Previous or following editions would do as well]
The tutor will provide additional material and more specific suggestions for further reading each week.
Dr Eleonora Sammartino is an experienced teacher in Film Studies. In addition to Imperial College, she has taught at undergraduate level at a variety of institutions, including King’s College London, University of Reading, and University of Greenwich.
Eleonora gained her PhD in Film Studies at King’s College London in 2018, with a thesis on gender and the contemporary American film musical. She has worked for film festivals in Italy and UK and is currently part of the organising committee of FILL – Festival of Italian Literature in London, for which she has hosted film screenings.
All our online courses are taught live which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time. To take part in the course you must be able to attend the online session at the time stated for the course description.
All times stated are British Standard Time.
To take part you will need a computer, or laptop, or tablet computer, connected to the Internet. The device you use will also need to have a camera, microphone and speakers. Most devices now have these built in, but if not you might have to buy them from a computer shop and to connect them to your device.
This course will use Zoom as its online delivery method. Zoom is very easy to use and you do not need to set up a Zoom account to use it. Near the date of your first online session you will be sent an email with a web address (or URL) that will allow you to access the course. This is called the Course Link. All you need do is click on the Course Link in the email and you will be asked to enter your name. This is the name that will be seen by your tutor and other students in the class.
Once you have entered your name you might be asked to enter a password to enter the class. The password will be included in the email sent to you. Once you enter the password you will either be taken directly into the class, or asked to wait in a virtual waiting room until the tutor is ready to let you into the class.
We have also produced a Handy Guide to Zoom [pdf] which gives you basic information on how to use it.
All courses lasting two hours have a 10 minute break in the middle. For one hour courses there is no break.
Course Fees and Rate Categories
|Hours||Weeks||Standard Rate||Internal Rate||Associate Rate|
|All fee rates quoted are for the whole course Please note there is no early-bird discount available for the April intake courses|
Rate Categories and Discounts
- Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.
- Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
- Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email email@example.com before completing the online enrolment form.
- Students (non-Imperial College)
- Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
- City & Guilds College Association members
- Members of the Friends of Imperial College
- Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
- Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
- Harrods staff
- Historic Royal Palaces staff
- Natural History Museum staff
- Science Museum staff
- South London Botanical Institute Members
- Victoria and Albert Museum staff
- Royal Geographical Society staff
- Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
- Austrian Cultural Forum staff
- Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
- Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
- Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
- Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
- Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
- Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
- Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)
- Members of the London Zoological Society
- Members of the Kennel Club
It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.
Applicable terms & conditions
Please read the Terms and Conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.
|Hours||Weeks||Autumn term||Spring term||Summer term|
|20||10||n/a||n/a||w/c 26 Apr - w/e 4 Jul 2021 (10 weeks)|
Web enrolment starts 1 March 2021
Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:
- Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
- First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
- The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
- The following email notifications are sent
|What is sent||When is it sent||What does it contain|
|1. Payment confirmation||Instantaneously following submission of your online application||
|2. Enrolment confirmation||Sent in due course but likely not before the end of March. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received||
|3. Programme information||Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts||
|If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756
- Questions regarding the content and teaching of this course should be sent to the tutor, Dr Eleonora Sammartino, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Questions about your enrolment and payment should be sent to the Programme Administrator, email@example.com
If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.