How to read a film: a beginners' guide to cinema

Course Dates: 13/05/24 - 24/06/24
Time: 14:45 - 16:45
Location: Keeley Street
This course will develop your critical appreciation of the cinema by teaching you how to read and understand film texts. We will look at the elements that underpin film form – narrative, mise en scène, cinematography, editing and sound – alongside its historical development. We will consider film style by exploring classical, post-classical and art cinema and we will examine influential critical modes of analysis, such as genre, authorship and spectatorship.
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How to read a film: a beginners' guide to cinema
  • Course Code: HF091
  • Dates: 13/05/24 - 24/06/24
  • Time: 14:45 - 16:45
  • Taught: Mon, Daytime
  • Duration: 6 sessions (over 7 weeks)
  • Location: Keeley Street
  • Tutor: Paul Sutton

Course Code: HF091

Choose a start date  

Mon, day, 13 May - 24 Jun '24

Duration: 6 sessions (over 7 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This course will provide you with the tools necessary to read film confidently. It will explore some of the key facets of film form, outlining how filmmakers make decisions relating to narrative, mise en scène, cinematography, editing and sound. We will consider how all of these interact to create meaning for the spectator but also how they might signal the imprint of a particular individual, such as the director, editor or cinematographer. In doing this the course will enable you to unpack critically the images and sounds that you see and hear on screen.

The course will use film history as a means of exploring how certain aesthetic developments have come to dominate certain forms of cinema. We will look at various key moments in this history wherein filmmakers and/or film movements have led to particularly significant stylistic innovations. We will look at what is known as classical and post-classical cinema as well as art cinema, all of which will provide a critical context for this discussion. The course will also explore important modes of critical analysis, including genre, authorship and spectatorship.

What will we cover?

The course will cover the key elements of film form and their interrelationship. These will include: narrative, mise en scène, cinematography, editing and sound. The course will consider a number of key historical moments in the development of film style, looking at both individual films and directors as well as specific movements. The course will also examine key analytical approaches to film criticism, exploring developments in genre theory and questions of authorship and spectatorship.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Describe the development of cinema since its inception
• Evaluate a range of ways of thinking about the cinema
• Demonstrate a critical appreciation of the cinema and of individual films.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is designed for those who have a passion for film and would like to deepen their knowledge of film form and film history. It will provide an introduction to the subject but will also be useful for those wishing to build on existing knowledge.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course will be delivered via talks by the tutor with small and large group discussions. Short film extracts will be screened throughout. I will provide a short text at the beginning of the course and where appropriate will direct you to useful online material but any advance preparation is entirely optional.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will require a pen and paper (or laptop/device) but any ancillary materials required will be provided in the form of
handouts or links to online resources. Film clips will be screened in class and where possible I will provide links to these and to useful online audio-visual material.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other film studies courses at, culture & writing/film studies.

Paul Sutton

Dr. Paul Sutton is an independent film scholar who has taught Film Studies in UK higher education for over 25 years. His research covers psychoanalytic and film theory as well as Italian and French cinema and critical theory. He has published articles in journals such as Screen, French Studies and the Journal for Cultural Research. He is currently writing a psychoanalytic book on film spectatorship, Afterwardsness in Film, and has recently published work on television as a form of palliative care, and an assessment of the films of the Italian experimental filmmaker Ugo Nespolo.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.