Task 1 – Film Terms Glossary


For your first post, give definitions for each of the following film language terms.

This glossary that I am creating will be used all throughout this semester and will be a blog post that I will be constantly updating and referring to. All websites/books etc. that I have used for these film terms I will reference at the end in the appropriate Harvard style. Along with finding online sources, study material from lectures such as powerpoints were a useful research and learning tool.

  1. MISE EN SCENE: My own way of describing what “mise-en-scene” is would be simply, everything that the audience can see on screen during a scene. Through further research, I learned that the French phrase is known as “the arrangement of the scenery, props, etc. on the stage of a theatrical production or on the set of a film” (Preda, 2019) however it literally translates to “putting on stage”. From this research, I can confidently say that I know and understand the meaning of “mise-en-scéne” and understand that there are many elements to it in fact. These elements can include the composition of the shot, the production design, the lighting, costuming, hair and makeup, and the film’s texture.
  2. SHOT REVERSE SHOT: From my own knowledge, a shot-reverse-shot is a film technique to use best when you are wanting to show two characters having a conversation. To do this, one character is shown looking at another character (often off-screen), and then the other character is shown looking back at the first character. These are often done through over the shoulder shot and they can be dirty (where the other subjects shoulder is shown out of focus) and clean (no shoulder is shown). When these shots are edited together, it gives the audience a sense of continuous action.
  3. PAN/TRACK/ZOOM: A pan is often used to follow action such as a character moving from one spot to another. Panning means swiveling a video camera horizontally from a fixed position. Panning shots can also be used to establish locations, slowly revealing information about a place as we take it in. A tracking shot is any shot where the camera follows backward, forward or moves alongside the subject being recorded. The camera is then pushed along the track while the scene is being filmed or moved manually when using a handheld rig. A tracking shot is specifically meant to follow someone or something along as they move through the scene A zoom is taken with a lens that has a variable focal length, a zoom shot is one that permits the cinematographer to change the lens’ focal length – and thus the apparent size of the subject within the frame – without moving the camera.
  4. PSYCHOANALYSIS: A school of academic thought that evokes the concepts of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Since films had the ability to tell a story using techniques such as superimposition, and slow motion, the Surrealists saw this as mimicking dreams.
  5. STRUCTURE: Narrative structure is about story and plot: the content of a story and the form used to tell the story. Often, a three-act structure is the most common within storytelling – another is Freytag’s pyramid. Within feature films, a nine-act structure is a common way for writers. Dramatic structure is the structure of a dramatic work such as a play or film. Many scholars have analyzed dramatic structure, beginning with Aristotle in his Poetics.
  6. THE GAZE: The “gaze” is a term that describes how viewers engage with visual media. Originating in film theory and criticism in the 1970s, the gaze refers to how we look at visual representations. These include advertisements, television programs, and cinema. In feminist theory, the “male gaze” is the act of viewing women where they are represented as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer
  7. AUDIENCE: The audience can be described as the people who are watching the film or who the film is targeting their film at and cater to that specific audience.
  8. REPRESENTATION: How films present gender, age, ethnicity, national and regional identity, social issues, etc. to an audience. Film has the power to shape the audience’s knowledge and understanding from how they are represented. 
  9. MONTAGE: Montage is a film editing technique in which a series of short shots are sequenced to condense space, time, and information. The term has been used in various contexts. In French the word “montage” applied to cinema simply denotes editing. Soviet montage theory is often referred to when discussing montage. I recently watched the new film “Parasite” and there is a fantastic 5 minute 60 shot montage which helps to carry the film along and develop the characters.
  10. MODERNIST FILM: Modernist drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating works of art. Modernist writers like Virginia Woolf deconstructed the very workings of language, rather than using language to describe the world. Modernist photographers explore the specific qualities of their medium – the frame, composition, light, image, and depth of field, moving away from the imitation of realistic painting. Modernism was a cultural movement that advocated for the rejection of the previous conventions. Along with this it also celebrates ideological and technical progress.
  11. AVANT-GARDE: Known as new and experimental ideas and methods in art, music, or literature.
  12. KINO-EYE: This is a film technique developed in post-revolutionary Russia by Dziga Vertov. It was also the name of the movement that was defined by this technique. Vertov’s means of capturing what he believed to be ‘inaccessible to the human eye’; that is, Kino-Eye films would not attempt to imitate how the human eye saw things. Rejects theatre rejects literature and captures things you wouldn’t otherwise see.
  13. NON-NARRATIVE: Terms such as “absolute film”, “cinéma pur”, “true cinema” and “integral cinema” have all been used to name specific approaches associated with specific avant-garde groups making non-narrative films that aimed to create a purer experience of the distinctive qualities of film – such as movement, rhythm and changing visual compositions. Not made for mass entertainment, non-narrative film is an aesthetic of film that does not narrate. It is usually a form of art film or experimental film.
  14. CINEMA PUR: An avant-garde film movement of French filmmakers, who “wanted to return the medium to its elemental origins” of “vision and movement.” It declared cinema to be its own independent art form that should not borrow from literature or stage. ”Pure Cinema” consisted of non-story, non-character films that conveyed abstract emotional experiences through unique cinematic devices such as camera movement and camera angles, close-ups, dolly shots, lens distortions, sound-visual relationships, split-screen imagery, super-impositions, time-lapse, slow motion, trick shots, stop-action, montage (the Kuleshov effect, flexible montage of time and space), rhythm through exact repetition or dynamic cutting and visual composition.
  15. SURREALIST FILM: Surrealism was an important avant-garde movement of the 1920s and 30s, which ran counter to many of the (subsequent) tenets of Modernism – in particular in its attempts to pictorially represent (dream states).
  16. ABSTRACT FILM: Non-narrative, contain no acting and do not attempt to reference reality or concrete subjects. They rely on the unique qualities of motion, rhythm, light and composition inherent in the technical medium of cinema to create emotional experiences.
  17. ANTI-NARRATIVE: A narrative (as of a play or novel) that deliberately avoids the typical conventions of the narrative, such as a coherent plot and resolution.
  18. DECONSTRUCTION: A method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.


Preda, C., 2019. Mise En Scène: The Key Elements. [online] Careers In Film | Film Schools & Colleges. Available at: <https://www.careersinfilm.com/mise-en-scene/> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

Moura, G., 2011. Camera Moves. [online] Elementsofcinema.com. Available at: <http://www.elementsofcinema.com/cinematography/camera-moves.html> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

En.wikipedia.org. 2019. Psychoanalytic Film Theory. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoanalytic_film_theory> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

Siegel, D., 2018. The Nine-Act Structure Of Feature Films. [online] Medium. Available at: <https://medium.com/@pullnews/the-nine-act-structure-of-feature-films-b47a33b673a5> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

SAMPSON, R., 2015. Film Theory 101 – Laura Mulvey: The Male Gaze Theory | Film Inquiry. [online] Film Inquiry. Available at: <https://www.filminquiry.com/film-theory-basics-laura-mulvey-male-gaze-theory/> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

Marcus, L., 2016. Cinema And Modernism. [online] The British Library. Available at: <https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/cinema-and-modernism> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

Dictionary.cambridge.org. n.d. THE AVANT-GARDE | Meaning In The Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Available at: <https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/avant-garde> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

Encyclopedia Britannica. n.d. Dziga Vertov | Soviet Director. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dziga-Vertov#ref187617> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Non-Narrative Film. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-narrative_film> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

Experimental Cinema. n.d. Cinéma Pur | Experimental Cinema Wiki. [online] Available at: <https://expcinema.org/site/en/wiki/article/cin%C3%A9ma-pur> [Accessed 17 April 2020].

Powerpoints provided by the Screen and Film School via Student Central

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