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How to Find the Tone & Mood of a Film?


As any film analysis course shows, understanding the film concepts of tone and mood allows viewers to accurately describe the events, characters and plot points of a movie. Whereas tone defines the exchange of the characters within the movie, the mood defines how the viewer feels toward the plot and characters as a whole. When analyzing films, every part of the production plays a role in setting up a scene, from lighting to weather. As you watch the film, analyze characters objectively and look for the plot points.

Write down any predictions of the film beforehand. Look at movie poster or DVD cover. Read the synopsis or view the trailer. Analyze the title for clues about the film's plot and setting. Write down your theories before you view the film.

Watch the film with a notepad and pen ready to take notes. Label your notes by scene, such as "opening" or "scene by the Lake" to place your memory of the film when you review your notes later.

Study the opening scene for music and setting. In the first sequence of a film, you usually see wide angles that place the film, such as when a film's setting is in a large city or countryside. The music may be lighthearted or suspenseful. Take note of any lighting choices or informative text.

View the scenes of the film with a critical eye. For every scene, take notes on lighting, music and dialogue. Analyze the major points of the dialogue, such as goals and challenges for each character. In some films, even the weather or Mother Nature take on a personality, such as the tornadoes in "Twister" or the ocean in "The Perfect Storm."

Analyze specific plot points or items in the film that were of particular importance. A plot point is a significant event that changes the entire script, such as a death, an affair or apocalyptic quality. A plot point might also surround an object in the film, such as the video tape in "The Ring" or the necklace in "The Titanic." These items were significantly important to the script. In your notes, define how these plot points or objects changed the script or character's attitudes.

Watch the ending of the film closely. Look for resolutions to earlier questions. Take note of the environment in the final scene. Listen to the music and watch how the lighting changes. Ask yourself questions about how each character feels by the end of the movie compared to the beginning and write down a few thoughts.

Read over your notes and identify common emotions among the characters. Happy, sad, indifferent, angry, lonely and psychotic are a few different attitudes to consider. The tone of a film is largely defined by the main character's attitude, which is exemplified by the music, dialogue and lighting that encompasses each scene in which he appears.

Compare how the film started to the ending of the filming. The mood depends on the atmosphere and prevailing feeling that the viewer gathers from a film. Look at your preliminary notes and your expectations of the film and compare these to your notes from the conclusion.

Choose a mood that represents how you felt based on the plot, characters and morals of the film. Some words that often describe mood are idealistic, romantic, fantastical, gloomy, realistic or pessimistic.

Items you will need
Notepad
Pen
References
  • "Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings"; Leo Braudy; 2004
  • "Studying Contemporary American Film: A Guide to Movie Analysis"; Thomas Elsaesser; 2002
  • "Film Analysis: A Norton Reader"; R.L. Rutsky; 2005
About the Author

C.K. Adams has worked in the newspaper and publishing field since 2003. Specializing in literature, education, crafts and science, she contributes to the University of Florida's fiction collective and "Tea Magazine." Adams earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida.