Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress


A Hypertext Resource for Literature

back one section Section back one page Page    Page 9.4.7    Page forward one page Section forward one section

Scene Analysis Paper

The scene analysis paper should be about 1200 to 1500 words long, roughly four or five pages. Aside from the goals of clarity, coherent organization and so forth that apply to every paper, this paper asks you to describe a scene from a film in a way that a) demonstrates a facility with analyzing film as film, including descriptions of film-specific techniques, and b) uses details from the chosen scene as a way to say something about the film as a whole. I encourage you to draw on the assigned readings for this paper, and you are welcome to supplement those readings with additional research.

The following three "circles" describe the levels at which the paper can work; the best scene analyses will combine all three kinds of analysis.

Three Circles of the Scene Analysis

Center circle: the specific elements of one scene.

Example: "The lighting of the boarding house scene starts with the page of Thatcher's manuscript fading into the white of the snow."

This circle will supply most of the evidence your paper cites. Details from your chosen scene will populate the body paragraphs, certainly, but they can also work to add specificity to your introduction or conclusion.

Second circle: the context of your chosen elements in the work.

Example: "The boarding house scene is lighted environmentally, creating a 'natural' effect unlike the obviously artificial directional lighting of the rest of the film."

This circle may not require its own section, but dropping in details that situate your scene in the film as a whole can help your reader bridge the gap between your smallest details and your largest claims about the whole film.

Outer circle: the consequences of your point for the work as a whole.

Example: "Even though the presence of an abusive father seems to complicate Kane's nostalgia for an innocent childhood, the lighting of the boarding house scene reinforces the 'naturalness' of childhood that feeds our sympathy for his nostalgia."

Your introduction and conclusion can do a lot of the work of moving your paper into this circle, where the paper explains to its reader why paying attention to details of a scene will result in some kind of new understanding of the film. This circle allows you to move beyond the most straightforward explanations-a scene uses dark colors to represent evil, and so does the film, for example-to showing something a little unusual that your analysis brings out in the film.

The following links are the same as those from the Fiction Analysis Paper description.

back one section Section back one page Page    Page 9.4.7    Page forward one page Section forward one section