Form in Film

  • Artwork cues us to perform a specific activity. Without playing along and picking up on the cues, the artwork remains only an artifact. (A painting uses color, lines, and other techniques to invite us to imagine the space portrayed or to run our eye over the composition in a certain direction.)
  • In any system, a group of elements affects one another (if our heart breaks down, our whole body will be in danger)
  • Film form means the overall system of relations that we can perceive among the elements in the whole film.
  • Stylistic elements utilize various film techniques.
  • Colors identify prominent landmarks, such as in Kansas (black and white and the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz.
  • Camera movements call our attention to story action.
  • Music serves to describe certain characters and situations.

Form vs. Content

  • Every component functions as part of the overall pattern that engages the viewer.

Conventions and Experience

Form and Feeling

  • Emotions represented interact as the film’s total system.
  • The emotional response is related to form as well (In TWO, we find the Land of Oz more attractive than Kansas. But because the film’s form leads us to sympathize with Dorothy in her desire to go home, we feel great satisfaction when she finally returns to Kansas.)
  • Delayed fulfillment of expectation (suspense) may produce anxiety or sympathy.

Form and Meaning

  • Referential Meaning- an allusion to particular pieces of shared prior knowledge outside the film, which the viewer is expected to recognize.
  • Explicit meaning- meaning expressed overtly, usually in language, and often near the film’s beginning or end.
  • Implicit Meaning – meaning left tacit, for the viewer to discover upon analysis or reflection.
  • Symptomatic Meaning – meaning which the film divulges, often “against its will”, by virtue of its historical or social context.


o   Personal preference need not be the sole basis for judging a film’s quality.

Principle of Film Form

Since film form is a system, there must be some principles that help create the relationships among the parts.

Similarity and Repetition

–          Helps us understand films

–          We must be able to recall and identify characters and settings each time they reappear.

–          We can observe repetitions from everything such as lines of dialogue, music, characters behavior, camera positions, and story action.


-Any significant repeated element in a film

Difference and Variation

–          A film can’t only rely on its repetition; there must also be changes or variations but small.

–          This breaks up the repetition (AAAA) and makes it more interesting (ABACBA)


–          Constitutes some patterning of similar and differing elements.

–          Progression moving from beginning through middle to end.

–          In The wizard of oz: there is a journey, a search, mystery, and segmentation (the plot is segmented.

Unity and Disunity

–          When all the relationships we perceive within a film are clear and economically interwoven, we say the film has unity.

–          Unity films are called tight because there seems to be no gaps in the formal relationships.

–          However, almost no film is so tight as to leave no ends dangling. Ex, in the wizard of oz, the witch refers to her having attacked Dorothy and her friends with insects, however, we never see them and it becomes puzzling. The witches like about the attack now lack motivation. More striking: we never find out what happens to Miss Gulch.

–          We ought to expect that even a unified film may still contain a few unintegrated elements or unanswered questions.

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

1 Comment

  1. Where would you say development begins in “the wizard of oz.” and why

    Also if you are aware of the film stagecoach,i am interested in finding out where development begins there as well to better my understanding of the film.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment