Film and the City: A thematic introduction to the critical analysis of film

Academic Year: 
Course Code: 
CHSP 5065
Course Description: 

The goal of this course is to introduce participating students to the basic vocabulary of the critical- and theoretical analysis of motion pictures. In order to create access points to the topic, the course will progress through the investigation of the theme of cinema and the city. By considering the audiovisual language and select theoretical aspects of film in the context of the city, student will develop skills transferrable to several disciplines related to visual studies. The course is structured into four parts, each lasting three weeks. In the first part of the course, students will familiarize themselves with the basic elements of film language (The city as composition). During the forthcoming parts (The city as identity, The city as nation, The city as memory), the group will focus on various theoretical models and analyse filmic texts that create meaning as identities, collectives and memories.


The city as composition:

During the sessions of the first few weeks, participants will familiarize themselves with the basic elements of the expressive language of cinema by considering a wide array of historical and contemporary images of real and imaginary cities.


Films: excerpts from The Last Laugh (Murnau, 1924); The Crowd (Vidor, 1928); Alphaville (Godard, 1965); Blade Runner (Scott 1982); The Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, 1997) and many others.


The city as identity:

-          how do cinematic images of the city contribute to the construction of class, race and gender?

Theoretical focus: feminist- and queer film theory, cultural studies and cinema

Films: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, 1974), City of God (Meirelles-Lund, 2002); Tangerine (Baker, 2015)


The city as nation:

-          how do cinematic images of the city contribute to the project of building the nation? 

Theoretical focus: postcolonial theory and cinema

Films: Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1966); Made in Hong Kong (Chan, 1997); George Washington (Green, 2001)


The city as memory:

-           how do cinematic images of the city contribute to the formation of collective memories?

Theoretical focus: memory studies, trauma studies and cinema

Films: Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953); Sun Alley (Haussman, 1999); Moscow Square (Török, 2001);

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will:

-          become familiar with the basic vocabulary of the language of cinema

-          cultivate critical thinking and writing skills

-          develop skills in the critical analysis of motion pictures

-          develop awareness about the social-cultural contexts of film theory

develop a general sense of the theoretically oriented investigations within film studies


Students will develop a research project throughout the semester through gradual stages:

  1. Portfolio including research question, methodology, hypothesis, bibliography, filmography (20%)
  2. Essay draft (30%)
  3. Final essay (50%)