Explore the text resources provided for each chapter.

Compositional interpretations: examples

The Open University's Open Arts Archive hosts a broad range of material on the fine arts, architecture and design. As well as materials introducing you to some of the major periods of in the history of Western art, it has materials on non-Western arts and an especially good collection of podcasts from Open University Study Days on various topics related to fine art.  Several of these use compositional interpretation.

You might like to take a look at clips from the various films that the chapter mentions; you can find them here. 

Ocean's Eleven


The Player

The Incredible Hulk

Or alternatively, access the videos by clicking on the left hand side.

Summary of Monaco's descriptive vocabulary

James Monaco's schema for analysing the composition of film images is narrated in his book How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, Multimedia (Monaco, 2009).  Here is a summary of his terms.

The mise-en-scène can be understood in terms of its:

  • frame:
    • screen ratio.
    • screen frame: open or closed.
    • screen planes: frame plane, geographical plane and depth plane.
    • multiple images.
    • superimpositions.
  • shots:
    • shot distance: extreme long shot, long shot, full, three-quarters, medium, head and shoulders, close-up shot.
    • shot focus: deep or shallow, sharp or soft.
    • shot angle: angle of approach, angle of elevation, angle of roll.
    • point of view: character, third person, establishing, reverse angle.
    • pans, tilts, zooms and rolls, when the camera remains in one position.
    • tracking and crane shots, when the camera itself moves.

The montage of a moving image can be described with reference to its:

  • cuts:
  • type of cut: unmarked, fade, dissolve, iris, jump. The Open University's iTunesU podcasts 'The Final Cut' have an editor discussing how cuts work. You can access iTunesU via the iTunes Store – it's on the main menu list.
  • rhythm.

The sounds of moving images can be described by considering their:

  • type: music, environmental sound, speech.
  • relation to the image: source, parallel, contrapuntal.

Now try out the exercise for this chapter by clicking on the link on the left.