In our excerpt from Roland Barthes’ S/Z, the author makes the case for a particular kind of interpretation. Barthes’ approach stresses the need to use interpretation to uncover the multiple meanings presented by a text or – for us – a film. In order to access the “plurality” (or we can say, “ambiguity”) of a given text he directs us to identify both denotative and connotative meanings, especially the way the latter works to “[corrupt] the purity of communication” by opening the film up for contemplation by the reader (9).
In light of these comments, using the film A Quite Place by John Krasinski and put Barthes’ theory into practice by noting the ways in which one or two scenes generate multiple perspectives, ambiguity, and/or contradictory readings in service of a larger goal (in other words, show that the film is not simply incoherent).
In doing so, we also want to take to heart Susan Sontag’s insistence that we pay special attention to form or film style in our critical work. Your essay should be guided by a central thesis, supported by examples from your chosen film. Specifically, your essay will need to explore the aesthetic properties of one film, citing specific techniques or stylistic choices in your analysis (such as sound, editing, mise-en-scene, or cinematography).
Try to focus your analysis on a few exemplary scenes or sequences from the film(s) which will elucidate or support your argument (in Barthes’ words, “star the text”). While this is not meant to be a research project – this is primarily a film analysis paper – it may be useful to review any available literature (peer-reviewed journal articles or books) that might shed light on your chosen film (or perhaps the film’s director, genre, stars, historical period, medium such as live-action, animated, etc.).