FLMS2100: Approaches to Film


Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts

eisen-film1280x957Module Code: FLMS2100

Module Title: Approaches to Film Part One – Film Theories

Module Outline

Seminar: Monday 9:15 – 12:15

Module Tutor: Dr. Paul Elliott




Module Description:

This module will guide students through many of the most pertinent and important critical frameworks within film studies. The first semester looks at the basic building blocks of contemporary film theory (psychoanalysis, Marxism, semiotics and so on) and relates them to a series of canonical films. The second semester looks at how film relates to politics and ethics and explores a range of different debates from Third Cinema to censorship. The module as a whole encourages students to engage with large discourses on a personal level and to appreciate how popular culture can be used as a point of moral, political and ethical negotiation for audiences around the world. This module aims to assert the importance of film in political and ethical debates and explores the vitality of a range of film production processes.


Intended Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of the module, students should be able to:

  1. identify a wide range of theoretical paradigms within Film Studies;
  2. discuss the major areas of film theory in the context of specific film texts;
  3. recognize how various theoretical approaches create a film’s meaning;
  4. apply theoretical paradigms from film studies to a variety of film texts;
  5. demonstrate how theories can be transformed into methodologies for further inquiry.


Attendance Policy:

 It is expected that you will attend all taught sessions, in the same way that attendance is expected in the workplace. Indeed regular attendance has a significant impact on student engagement, understanding and successful completion of University courses. Furthermore non-attendance will significantly affect your ability successfully to complete a module and may jeopardise your ability to undertake re-assessment in the event of failing a module.

It is your responsibility as a student, just as it would be if you were an employee, to ensure that you are punctual and that your attendance has been recorded on the register each week.

Should you, for some unavoidable reason, be unable to attend a scheduled session (for example if you are ill) then you must send an email to ihcastudentabsence@worc.ac.uk . Please include in your email  your name and student number, the module code and name, the date of the missed session, and your reason for missing it. You should make sure that you copy the module tutor into the email and also contact your module tutor to make arrangements to catch up on any work you have missed.

Notification must be received within 6 days of the date of the missed session.

Alternatively you can inform IHCA of your absence via the telephone. Please ring 01905 542015 (Shirley Adams) with the required details.

Students with two or more unexplained absences may be required to attend a tutorial/ interview with the module leader, course leader or head of division to discuss their progress.


Learning Contract:

 On this module you are expected to be courteous and attentive to your fellow classmates and to the module tutor. You are also expected to undertake the required reading each week and to view the film or films under question. Failure to do either of these things will severely impede your success on the module.

The use of mobile phones will not be tolerated in classes, lectures or screenings. Please turn off all phones before the lesson starts.

Please feel free to email me with any queries you have regarding the module, I will try to reply within 3 working days. My office hours will be posted on the door of my office, however I am always open to seeing students at other times if you make an appointment.   

Please Note: There are now no screenings for this module therefore you are required to have seen the film before the session. If you have problems obtaining the film please see the module tutor. 



There will be a reader that will contain all the main readings for the module, however you should also purchase the following:

Set Texts (You should purchase these books):

Braudy, L. & Cohen, M. (eds.) (2009) Film Theory & Criticism, 7th edition. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Essential Reading (You will need to photocopy or read sections of these books):

Lapsley, R. & Westlake, M. (2006) Film Theory: An Introduction. 2nd edition. Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Further Reading (You will find these books useful):

Andrew, J. D. (1976) The Major Film Theories. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Ayers, D. (2008) Literary Theory: A Reintroduction. Oxford, Blackwell.
Bordwell, D. & Carroll, N. (eds.) (1996) Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. Milwaukee WI, University of Wisconsin Press.
Bordwell, D. (1991) Making Meaning: Interference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
Buckland, W. (ed.) (2009) Film Theory and Contemporary Hollywood Movies. London, Routledge.
Cook, P. (ed.) (2007) The Cinema Book. 3rd edition. London, British Film Institute.
Habib, M.A. R. (2008) Modern Literary Criticism and Theory: A History. Oxford, Blackwell.
Jones, W.E &, Vice, S. (eds) (2011) Ethics and Cinema. Oxford, OUP.
Rivkin, J. & Ryan, M. (eds.) (2004) Literary Theory: An Introduction. 2nd edition. Oxford, Blackwell.
Rushton, R. & Bettinson, G. (2010) What is Film Theory? Maidenhead, Open University Press.
Stam, R. & Miller, T. (2000) Film Theory: An Introduction. Oxford, Blackwell.
Stam, R. & Miller, T. (eds.) (2000) Film and Theory: An Anthology. Oxford, Blackwell.
Teays, W. (2012). Seeing the Light: Exploring Ethics Through Movies. London; Wiley Blackwell.


Module Calendar (please note, subject to change):


Week Date Film
1. Early Cinema Theory   Films Screened in Class
Required Reading Benjamin, W. 1999. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in Illuminations, London: Pimlico, pp. 211-244.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Benjamin, W. 1999. The Arcades Project. Cambridge: University of Belknnap Press.

Charney, L and V. Schwartz (eds). 1995. Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life. California: University of Berkeley Press.

Denzin, N. 1995. The Cinematic Society. London; Sage.

Elsaesser (ed), Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative. London: BFI Publishing.

Frampton, D. 2006. Filmosophy. London: Wallflower.

Gorky, M. 1973. “A Review of the Lumiere Programme at the Nizhni-Novgorod” in J. Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film. London: Allen and Unwin.

Symons, S. 2011. “Walter Benjamin” in P. Livingston and C. Plantinga (eds), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film. London: Routledge.

Woolf, V. 1996. “The Cinema” in M. O’Prey (ed), The British Avant-garde: 1926 – 95. An Anthology of Writings. Luton: University Luton Press.

Week Date Film
2. Ideology   Rocky (John Alvidsen, 1976)
Required Reading Marx, K. 1978. from The German Ideology, in Robert C. Tucker (ed), The Marx-Engels Reader 2e. New York. W.W. Norton, pp.39-40.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Bennett, T. 1979. Formalism and Marxism. London. Methuen.

Freeden, M. 2003. Ideology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford. OUP.

Lapsley, R. and M. Westlake.1988. “Politics”, in Film Theory: An  Introduction. Manchester. Manchester University, pp.1-31.

Fiske, J. 1993. from “British Cultural Studies”, in R. Allen (ed) Channels of Discourse, Reassembled. London. Routledge, pp.284-295.

Gramsci, A. 1998. Prison Notebooks: A Selection. New York: Lawrence and Wishart.

Landy, M. 1994. Film, Politics and Gramsci. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Marx. K. 1993. Grundrisse. London: Penguin.

Williams, R. 2010. Keywords. London: Fontana.

Althusser, L. 2008. On Ideology. London: Vintage.

Wayne, M. 2005. Understanding Film: Marxist Perspectives. London: Pluto Press.


The Immigrant (Charles Chaplin, 1917)

Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)

The Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford, 1939)

Week Date Film
3. Semiotics   Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
Required Reading Hall, S. 1997. “The Work of Representation” in S. Hall, Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Barthes, R. 2009. Mythologies. London: Vintage.

Bellour, R. 2000. The Analysis of Film. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

Chandler, D. 2007. Semiotics; The Basics. London: Routledge.

de Saussure, F. [1913]2001. “From Course in General Linguistics”, in Leitch, V. et al. Eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. London. Norton, pp.956-976.

Deely, J. 1990. The Basics of Semiotics. Bloomington. University of Indiana.

Hall, S. 2012. This Means This, That Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics. London: Laurence King.

Hawkes, T. 1977. Structuralism and Semiotics.  London: Routledge.

Lapsley, R. & M. Westlake. 1988. “Semiotics”, in Film Theory: An Introduction. Manchester, Manchester University, pp.32-66.

Levi-Strauss, C. 1974. Structural Anthropology. London: Basic Books.

Stam, R., R. Burgoyne and S. Flitterman-Lewis. 1992. New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics. London; Routledge.


Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford, 1939)

Shane (George Stevens, 1953)

Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

Week Date Film
4. Psycho-analysis – 1: the Ego and the Id   Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
Required Reading Freud. S. 2003. Extracts from An Outline of Psychoanalysis. London. Penguin.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Freud, S. 1997. The Interpretation of Dreams. London: Penguin.

Jones, E. 1961. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. London: Pelican.

Kaplan, E.A. 1990. Psychoanalysis and Cinema. London: Routledge.

Lapsley, R. & M. Westlake.1988. “Psychoanalysis”, in Film Theory: An Introduction. Manchester. Manchester University, pp.67-104.

Lebeau, V. 2001. Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Play of Shadows. London. Wallflower Press.

Lowenstein, A. 2000. “Under the Skin Horrors: Social Realism and classlessness in Peeping Tom and the British New Wave”, in J. Ashby and A. Higson (eds). British Cinema: Past and Present. London: Routledge.

Sabbadini. A. 2001. “Watching Voyeurs: Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960)”, in Gabbard, G.O. Ed. Psychoanalysis and Film. London, Karnac Books, pp. 201-211.

Stafford-Clarke, D. 1967. What Freud Really Said. London: Pelican.

Storr, A. 2001. Freud: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wollheim, R. 1971. Freud. London: Fontana.


Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)

Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

Week Date Film
5. Psycho-

analysis – 2:

The Return of the Repressed

  Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
Required Reading  Wood. R. 1985.“An Introduction to the American Horror Film“, in B. Nichols (ed), Movies and Methods, Vol. II. Berkeley. University of California Press, pp.195-219.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Clover, C. 1993. Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. London: BFI.

Creed. B. The Monstrous-Femine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge.

Grant, B.K. 1996. The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Loughlin, G. 2004. Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema and Theology. London. Wiley Blackwell.

Schnieder, S.J. 2004. Horror Film and Psychoanalysis. Cambridge. CUP.

Sobchack, V. 2000. “Revenge of the Leach Woman: On the Dread of Aging in a Lofe Budget Horror“ in K. Gelder (ed), The Horror Reader, London: Routledge, pp. 336 – 345.

Tarratt. M. 1986. “Monsters from the Id“ in BK Grant (ed), Film Genre Reader.Austin. University of Texas press, pp.258-278.

Walker, J. 2013.“A Wilderrness of Horrors? British Horror Cinema in the New Millennium“, in Journal of British Cinema and Television, Volume 9, Number 3, pp. 436-456.

Waller, G. 2000.“Introduction to American Horrors (Extract)“, in K. Gelder (ed), The Horror Reader, London: Routledge, pp. 25-264.

Zizek, S. 2006. How to Read Lacan. London: Granta Books.


Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourner,1943)

Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

Week Date Film
6. Gender and Film   Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
Required Reading Kaplan, A.E. 1983. “Is the Gaze Male?” in Women and Film. London: Routledge, pp.23-35.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Benshoff, H and S. Griffin. 2009. “Women in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking” and “Masculinity in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking” in America on Film. London: Wiley Blackwell, pp.217-237 & pp.257-277.

Berger, J. 1972. Ways of Seeing – Episode 2, available online, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1GI8mNU5Sg

Berger, J.1990. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.

Chaudhuri, S. 2006. Feminist Film Theorists. London: Routledge.

Erens,P. 1990. Issues in Feminist Film Theory. Bloomington: University of Indiana.

Kaplan, A. E. 2000. Feminism and Film. Oxford: OUP.

Modeleski, T. 1988. The Women Who Knew Too Much. London: Routledge.

Mulvey, L. 1999. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, in Braudy, L. & M. Cohen. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. Oxford. OUP, pp.837 – 848.

Turim, M. 1985. “Gentlemen Consume Blondes” in Nichols, B. (ed), Movies and Methods. Berkeley. University of California, pp.369-378.


Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946)

The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)

Week Date Film
7.  Realism


  Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
Required Reading Bazin, A. 1967. “The Ontology of the Photographic Image”, in Gray, H. Ed. What is Cinema? Vol 1. Berkeley: University of California, pp.9-16.
Supplementary Viewing or Task Aitken, I. 2006. Realist Film Theory and Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Armstrong, R. 2005. Understanding Realism. London: BFI.

Bazin, A. 2011. Andre Bazin and Neo-Realism. London: Continuum.

Etherington-wright, C. and R. Doughty. 2011. “Auteur Theory”, in Understanding Film Theory. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 98-115.

Hallam, J. & M. Marshment. 2000. Realism and Popular Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Lapsley, R and M. Westlake. 1988. “Realism”, in Film Theory: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 156–180.

Lay, S. 2009. British Socialist Realism. London: Wallflower.

Leggott, J. 2008. Contemporary British Cinema. London: Wallflower.

Nochlin, L. 1975. Realism. London. Pelican.

Williams, C. 1980. Realism and Cinema: A Reader. London: BFI.


The Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)

Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)

Week Date Film
8. Authorship   Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)  
Required Reading


 Sarris, A. [1962]. 1999. “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962” in Braudy, L and M. Cohen (eds), Film Theory and Criticism 5th Edition. Oxford: OUP, pp. 515 – 518.

Truffaut, F. [1954] 2011. “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema” in Graham, P and G. Vincendeau (eds), The French New Wave: Critical Landmarks. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 39 – 64.


Supplementary Viewing and Reading  

Ames, E. 2012. Ferocious Reality: Documentary According to Werner Herzog. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bazin, A. [1957] 2011. “Les politiques des auteurs” in Graham, P and G. Vincendeau (eds), The French New Wave: Critical Landmarks. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.130 – 148.

Caughie, J. 1981. Theories of Authorship: A Reader. London: BFI.

Grant, B.K. 2008. Auteurs and Authorship: A Film Reader. London: Wiley Blackwell.

Herzog, W. and P. Cronin. 2002. Herzog on Herzog. London: Faber and Faber.

Lapsley, R. and M. Westlake. 1988. “Authorship” in Film Theory: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Paul, Sellors, C. 2010. Film Authorship: Auteurs and Other Myths. London: Wallflower.

Prager, B. 2007. The Cinema of Werner Herzog. New York : Columbia University Press.

Sarris, A. 1996. The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929 – 1968. New York: De Capo.

Wollen, P. 1998. “The Auteur Theory” in Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. London: BFI, pp. 50 – 78.


Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)

Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, 2007)

Into the Abyss (Werner Herzog, 2011)

Week Date Film
9. Queer Theory   Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999)  
Required Reading


 Barry, P. 2009. “Lesbian and Gay Criticism” in Beginning Theory, Manchester Manchester University Press, pp. 139 – 153
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Butler, J. 2006. Gender Trouble. London: Routledge.

Butler, J. 2011. Bodies That Matter. London; Routledge.

Foucault, M. 1998. The History of Sexuality. London: Penguin.

Halberstam, J. 1998. Female Masculinity. New York: Duke University Press.

Jagose, A. 1997. Queer Theory: An Introduction. New York: New York University Press.

MacCabe, C. 1998. Performance. London; BFI.

Prosser, J. 1998. Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality. New York; Columbia University Press.

Sullivan, N. 2003. A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.


Nighthawks (Ron Peck, 1978)

Prick Up Your Ears (Stephen Frears, 1987)

Week Date Film
10. Postmodern-ism   Kill Bill Vol.1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
Required Reading Jameson, F. 2009. “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”, in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998. London; Verso, pp.1-20.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Appignanesi, R. and C. Garratt. 2007. Introducing Postmodernism. London; Icon Books.

Baudrillard, J. 1993. “The Ecstasy of Communication”, in Foster, H.  Ed. Postmodern Culture. London. Pluto Press, pp.126-134.

Butler, C. 2002. Postmodernism. Oxford: OUP.

Degli-Esposti, C. 1998. Postmodern in Cinema. London: Berghahn.

Harvey, D. 1991. The Condition of Postmodernity. London: Wiley Blackwell

Jameson, F. 1991. Postmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham. Duke University Press.

Lyotard, J.F. 1984. The Postmodern Condition. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota.

Venturi, R., D. Scott-Brown, S. Izenouor. 1977. Learning from Las Vegas. New York; MIT Press.


Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

Week                    Date                           Film


  The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (Peter Greenaway, 1989)
Required Reading Sobchack, V. 2004. “What My Fingers Knew.” In Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and the Moving Image. Berkeley. University of California Press, pp.53-84.
Supplementary Viewing and Reading Barker, J. 2009. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience. Berkeley. University of California Press.

Elliott, P. 2012. Hitchcock and the Cinema of Sensations. London: IB Tauris.

Elsaesser, T. 2010. Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses. London. Routledge.

Jutte, R. 2005. A History of the Senses. London; Polity.

MacDougall, D. 2006. The Corporeal Image: Film, Ethnography and the Senses. Cambridge: Princeton.

Marks, L. 2000. The Skin of the Film. New York: Duke University Press.

Marks, L. 2002. Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media. Duke University Press

Stoller, P. 1997. Sensuous Scholarship. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Williams, S and G. Bendelow. 1998. The Lived Body. London; Routledge.



Every effort will be made to make the films available for you to watch. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have seen the texts being discussed. You can source many of the films on Netflix, Amazon Instant or You Tube, however there may be some DVD purchase necessary. In that instance, you will be informed well ahead of time.

 Information about how to access the films will be sent round via email in the week preceding the class.

 The DVD Library:

The DVD library for FLMS2100 – Approaches to Film is held in my office (BB191). All DVDs are available for a short term loan (1 day). You can view the film in the Pierson or on your own laptop but you must return the DVD on the day of the loan.


 Assignment One: Theory Portfolio

 You are expected to choose two clips of approximately five minutes in length from a film or films of your choice and then apply a different theoretical approach to each of them (i.e. one approach to each clip). You should identify what insights or meanings are manifest in using those approaches and how their application enhances your understand of the film. It is anticipated that each application will be approximately 750-words in length.

Length: 1500 words (2x 750)

Weighting:  25%



Assignment Two

With direct reference to appropriate readings, discuss how a film or films of your choice reflect the ideas of any one theory you have studied on the course. You should demonstrate an understanding of the theory you have chosen and how it relates to the film, a director, a genre or a national cinema you have chosen. You can outline the history of the theory and its development but you should not make this the main focus of your paper. Remember that this essay should be concerned with demonstrating your knowledge about film theory so make sure your text is relevant to the approach you are dealing with and choose a different film to one already studied.

Length: 1500 words

Weighting:  25%