Analysing non fiction films

As well as looking at ways in which fiction films (both short films and feature films) can be analysed, we think it is also important to look at approaches to analysing non fiction films.

Whilst many of the approaches will be similar (sound, framing etc) there are other issues to bear in mind.

Analysing non fiction films

Essay films

We will be looking at the ways storytelling can be created in a short documentary and we have chosen one of many possible examples. “Portrait day” is one of many documentaries, often called essay films, where there is no single protagonist to attract the attention of the audience.

This latter, is the well known recipe of the so called “character driven” story. That kind of documentary usually builds a narrative on the problems and life adventures of a specific person and the solutions he manages to find following many of the rules we find in fiction films.

Portrait day

So, what happens here? The story is built in quite a different way.
Watch the film and try to find:

  • The main sections of the film which structure the storyline.
  • How many are these sections and which is the role of each?
  • What is their approximate duration? Could you find some analogies?
  • Observe what kind of shots and materials are used for each one of them and what are the feelings they create.

In other words:

  • How does the film start and how does it end?
  • What happens in the film?
  • What do we know and what do we want to learn?
  • What does the title foresee? What expectations are created?
  • Who are the protagonists and what is their role?
  • What kind of sounds do we hear throughout the film and which is the relationship between them?
  • Do they support the story and how?
  • What is the role of the music, or natural sounds?

My Notepad

Use this notepad feature to write down answers and your thoughts to questions posed throughout this resource.

Open Notepad

Use the Tag option to insert the name of this section as a reference before typing your notes.

You can Copy, Download or Email yourself these notes for future reference.