Guidelines for Writing Film Critiques

History l613 & 1623

Dr. Kent

In viewing the films presented in class you are to assume the dual role of historian and movie critic. You will need to be alert both to the historical importance of the film and to the ways in which the director has chosen to depict the historical period, themes, events, and characters. You will then write a brief 750-1000 word (4 typed pages) critical response in which you relate the materials and the film to historical events studied in this course.
Your written critique should include, but need not be limited to, your responses to the following questions:
l. What historical period, themes, events, and characters are portrayed?
2. On the basis of your reading and study, how historically accurate is the portrayal? How does it differ from "historical reality"? Give examples.
3. What biases or points of view does the film reflect? Who are the heroes or villains, if any, and what do they represent? What political, social, or economic views or values, if any, does the film treat? In what ways are these biases or value judgements revealed?
4. What cinematic techniques or devices does the director employ to enhance historical authenticity or to give the viewer a "visual feel" for the period and events depicted? (For example, the use of black and white, rather than color, to depict somber themes or emphasize harsh environment; the use of music to establish mood; frequent close ups to stress individuals; panoramic shots of the landscape to emphasize the terrain; or the use of romance or humor to humanize an historical character.)
5. Does the film seek primarily to inform, persuade, arouse emotions, entertain, or a combination of these?
6. Is the film's focus on the way individuals shape history or on the impersonal forces (economic, social, environmental) that sweep individuals along with them?

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