Skip to main content

How to Watch a Movie: Part 4

By Michael Schilf · May 17, 2010

As we conclude this series (see Part One, Part Two, and Part Three), let’s take a look at some final key elements to be aware of when watching a film:

6) Lighting & Art Direction. Stark hard lighting. A single, swaying light bulb. A beam of moonlight piercing through a dungeon cell. Mood – either in a particular scene or as an entire film – is often determined by lighting and location. The way shadows fall, the actual types of sets used, and how images are revealed are essential to establishing atmosphere.

(7) Soundtrack. The hero and heroine rush into each other’s arms and embrace in a passionate kiss. Music SWELLS… and it pulls us right out of the moment. Not good! A good soundtrack is the one we really don’t notice – it never overwhelms or distracts. Music should be used to elevate a scene, and the best emotional heightener is sometimes no sound at all.

(8) Special (Visual) Effects. George Lucas said it best: “Special effects without a story is a pretty boring thing.” He’s right. Too bad he hasn’t listen to his own advice.