Critical analysis of a film or an episode of TV programme that engages with science

You need to engage with a film text that engages with science. ‘Film text’ here is deliberately broad in scope – it can refer to Feature Films, Documentaries, TV Shows, Adverts or YouTube videos. What engagement with science means is similarly quite open – it could be that film has scientists/medics/engineers as characters, uses scientific imagery, or concerns a scientific issue, like medical treatment or climate change. What you choose is up to you, but something you need to be sure about is the length of the narrative you’re dealing with, particularly, is you film stand-alone, or part of a longer narrative (e.g. a TV episode in a series with longer narrative arcs)? For lots of TV shows, like Black Mirror or CSI, episodes are generally self-contained, which means that they have to reach a resolution by the end of the episode, so you can treat it as a single case, whereas if you want to look at a show like Call the Midwife, you could focus on a single episode, but you need to keep in mind where the episode sits in the narrative arc of the series.

If you want to do a comparison/contrast, make sure there is a clear rationale for doing so, and a clear similarity between film texts so you can focus on a single line of difference, e.g. climate change in a documentary and animation, or two different topics in the same show/film.

A critical reading sits somewhere between a description and an essay. So, while you need to have an argument, you’re not writing an essay about film in general, or the communication of science, using
the film as a case study. Instead, you just to need to do a close reading of the film, paying attention to techniques employed to make the film, what’s on screen, and the stories that the film tells, and see if you can make links between how the film is made, and the story that it tells (if you were writing a dissertation, this would be the work you would do on a case study before you incorporated it into your argument). You don’t need to make any general claims about film or science here. A good critical reading will pay attention to the production detail of the film (camera shots, lighting), writing (characterisation, dialogue, plot), as well as the film as a whole (how does the writing and production work together to create meaning for the audience?), and provide evidence for how you have developed your reading – i.e. transcriptions of the dialogue, description of screen action (shot-types, framing), and if you want to, screen shots. If you’re really interested in knowing the theory behind this, this approach develops out of hermeneutics and the strategy of ‘Practical Criticism’ of literary texts developed at Cambridge.