Dialogue as action, whatever the language: 'CODA'

Much of the dialogue within CODA is spoken through sign language and not verbally. Sign language is based on feeling and physical movement. The most poignant moment comes when Ruby and her father are sitting on the tailgate of the family truck after the school concert. Frank asks Ruby to sing. Frank’s ‘dialogue’ is sign language and his ‘listening’ to Ruby sing is feeling, also with his hands touching her neck to feel her voice. The spoken dialogue in the scene are the song lyrics which carry the emotional subtext about Ruby’s love for her family. The blend of verbal and signed dialogue is unique to the story. It comes directly from the scenes and the characters.



Heder, Sian. 2021. CODA [Film]

Dialogue as Action: Portraying dementia in 'The Father'

Anthony: “I feel as if I’m losing all my leaves, one after another.”  (The Father 2020)

Dialogue within The Father performs a unique function. It is through the film's dialogue, that we assume everyday pieces of life are happening in reality, only to be shown that they are not. We are put within Anthony’s mind, experience his confusion, and Anthony’s final speech twists the emotional knife within a film that has been constructed to confuse. Anthony remembers his mother and suddenly wants to go home, as tears overwhelm him, and he says “I feel as if I am losing all my leaves, one after another.” This is a great example of how a single poetic line of dialogue placed at the end of a film can bring the narrative to a powerful and emotional climax.



Zeller, Florian. 2020. The Father [Film]

Implied Readership: Memory and Time in ‘Arrival’

As Louise stands outside a secluded lake house remembering her daughter’s short life, we witness the birth, life, and death of a young girl. Villeneuvre knows we will deconstruct this sequence and assume it is a flashback. The scene is immediately followed by Louise at work, seemingly mourning the death of her daughter, and the meaning we attach to her is derived from the opening sequence. The entire film hinges on the juxtaposition of these two scenes and the way in which we read them. In considering the implied reader, Villeneuvre misdirects the audience and sets up the narrative for the final twist, in which the flashbacks are in fact premonitions.



Villeneuve, Denis. 2016. Arrival [Film]

Deep structure: Structuring the Tone in 'Arracht'

Arracht is an Irish language drama about a fisherman whose life is plunged into darkness following the arrival of the potato blight and a violent stranger. Each act serves a particular function. Through its tragic tone, act one sets up Colmán as a person who loses everything. The narrative jumps forward two years to the peak of the famine’s devastation as, in act two, Colmán finds the strength to keep going in taking care of Kitty, a vulnerable orphan. Although not quite a revenge tragedy, the story ends with vengeance, as act three brings the story to its bloody denouement, and we are left asking ‘Will Colmán and Kitty survive the famine?’



Ó Súilleabháin, Tomás. 2021. Arracht [Film]

Active Questions: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier…Who is Spy?

The main question driving Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is “Who is the spy at the top of the Circus?” and we watch knowing the puzzle will be solved and traitor revealed. Driven by the active question “Who is the mole?”, Act one sets out the pieces of the puzzle and introduces George Smiley. Driven by the active question “Will Smiley uncover the mole?” act two is woven round a series of flashbacks and shady manoeuvres within the Circus. Smiley roots out the mole, and, driven by the act three active question “Will Smiley catch the mole?”, he sets a trap, confronts Hayden and is reinstated in the Circus as Control.



Alfredson, Tomas. 2011. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy [Film]

Audience identification with character: Empathising with the ‘Other’ in ‘The Shape of Water’

Del Toro’s Amphibian Man is the emotional centre of the story. Initially presented as the archetypal B-movie monster, lashing out at its captors, he is shaped into the romantic lead alongside Elisa, the first who recognises his humanity and refers to him as ‘him’. While a reptilian creature is not something an audience can relate to, the outsider who finds love and takes action is clearly identifiable. His natural curiosity, underdog vulnerability and love for Elisa endear us to him, until we see the soul beneath the scales of this strangely human character and empathise with the loneliness of those born different.



Del Toro, Guillermo. 2017. The Shape of Water [Film]

Character Analysis: Lee Chandler’s tragic burden in 'Manchester by the Sea'

As soon as Lee Chandler sets foot in Manchester it becomes clear he has a past that made him notorious. Seething with rage at himself and the world, Lee performs his role as guardian for his dead brother’s son in spite of the unbearable burden of inner coldness and emptiness. Lee’s conflict is internal. The flashbacks slowly reveal the devasting backstory surrounding the deaths of his children. The tragic character’s action are consistent with the irreparable personal loss he is suffering. In the end, Lee leaves his nephew with his brother’s friend. The burden of guilt leaving him unable to move on.



Lonergan, Kenneth. 2016. Manchester by the Sea [Film]

Analysing theme and tone: A meditation on womanhood in ‘Proxima’

A personal drama with the ‘desire for validation’ theme, Proxima explores issues of womanhood, family and separation. Sarah has to prove her competence in the male-dominated world of space flight, where her motherhood is seen as a weakness by male colleagues. The dramatic tone drives Sarah’s journey through the narrative, as she struggles to care for and nurture her daughter while undergoing a punishing astronaut training schedule. Mother and daughter grow physically and emotionally apart, only to reconnect on the day of the launch. Reminding us that for women like Sarah, balancing two lives can be an exhausting experience that takes its toll.



Winocour, Alice. 2020. Proxima [Film].

Deconstructing genre: Subverting the domestic drama in ‘Lady Macbeth’

Lady Macbeth subverts genre by infusing the classic period drama with elements of the thriller. Trapped in a loveless marriage and confined to a gloomy house, Katherine rebels against her position in the family as the demure, submissive wife. Her affair with Sebastian shifting the story from one of validation to the morality of individuals. Driven by her refusal to be broken, Katherine becomes a lethal, unrepentant killer, eliminating everyone who comes in her way as mistress of the house. The thriller elements lift the film above a typical domestic drama, turning it into a brutal meditation on the limits of power and position.



Oldroyd, William. 2016. Lady Macbeth [Film]

The encoding and decoding of meaning in visual texts: The nightmare duality of black and white in ‘Black Swan’

The opening dream sequence establishes the surreal style of the film and hints at Nina’s internal conflict, embodied by the white and the black swans she strives to express in her dancing. Nina’s hallucinations take the form of her painful transformation into the black swan, as she pulls black feathers from her body. In the night club she pulls a black top over her white top, consciously choosing to relinquish her innocence. Nina literally destroys herself through the desire to be perfect. The duality of black and white demonstrates how colour can be used to portray the theme and tragic tone.



Aronofsky, Darren. 2010. Black Swan [Film]