Establishing Theme


Select a movie from AFI’s 10 Top 10 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. lists and explain how three cinematic techniques and/or design elements have helped establish a major theme in that film. Note: While you are allowed to choose a film that does not come from the AFI lists, you are strongly encouraged to email your professor to receive approval before doing so.In 800 to 1200 wordsDescribe a major theme of the movie you have selected using evidence from the movie itself as well as course resources and other scholarly sources to support your position.Identify at least three techniques (cinematography, lighting, acting style, or direction) and/or design elements (set design, costuming, or hair and makeup), and explain how these techniques and/or design elements contribute to the establishment of the theme. Reference particular scenes or sequences in your explanations.State your opinion regarding the mise en scène, includingHow the elements work together.How congruent the design elements are with the theme of the movie.Whether or not other techniques would be as effective (Explain your reasoning).Note: Remember that a theme is an overarching idea that recurs throughout the plot of a film. It is the distilled essence of what the film is about, the main design which the specific scenes and actions lead a viewer to understand.Your paper should be organized around a thesis statement that focuses on how the elements of your chosen feature-length film both establish and maintain one of its major themes. Review the Week Three sample paper, which provides an example of a well-developed analysis as well as insight on composition.The paper must be 800 to 1200 words in length and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..You must use at least two scholarly sources other than the textbook to support your claims. Refer to the ENG225 Research Guide in the Ashford University Library for guidance and to locate your sources. Cite your sources (including the feature-length film) within the text of your paper and on the reference page. For information regarding APA, including samples and tutorials, visit the Ashford Writing Center.The Movie will be “Rocky”(1977)


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Running head: Power
Purpose: Use this modeled example of the Week 3 Written Assignment to explore the
elements that make this an exemplary submission. Hover over the number or scroll to the end
of the text to read about what the student has done well in this assignment.
Money & Power in Goodfellas
A Film Student
ENG 225: Introduction to Film
Professor Director
Stardate 2259.55
Money & Power in Goodfellas
Martin Scorsese’s film Goodfellas (1990) is a gangster drama that shows the audience
what it is like to be a part of the Mafia. This film is mainly told from the point of view of Henry
Hill, played by Ray Liotta, who knew as a child that he wanted to be a part of the crime family.
This film shows Henry Hill’s “thirst for and rise to power,” which is its major theme
(Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014, Ch. 4.2, para. 12). The movie Goodfellas shows the power that
comes with money, the power of choice, and the power of persuasion, all of which are
established through cinematography, acting, costuming, and design.
With money comes power. This is shown in “The Long Take” scene in which Henry Hill
and his date are walking into the Copacabana nightclub. Scorcese uses a continuous tracking shot
to show Henry gladhanding the nightclub staff the resulting respect he is given, not only by the
staff of the nightclub, but the other patrons inside. This cinematographic technique portrays
Henry Hill as a man of importance. The camera stays low, making him look tall, and stays with
him through the back entrance, a hallway, the kitchen, and into the dining room where he is
given his own table in front of everyone else. Also, a bottle of wine is sent over to him from
another table in the club, to show as a sign of respect. The color in this clip is desaturated to
appear more realistic, so that the audience feels they are right there with the actors, getting the
VIP access that comes with the rise in power. Another point to make in this scene is how it
shows the flashy car, fancy suits, and money being thrown around like it’s a normal way of life.
This is Scorcese’s way of demonstrating that these things are essential elements of the gangsters’
lives, (Castellitto, 1998. P.3). The power theme is established in many visual layers; attention is
drawn to money exchanging hands, to material items, and, because money buys both material
items and respect, the viewer understands this to mean gaining authority over others. Moving up
the social class, even in this mob culture gives Henry a power of his own.
Throughout Goodfellas, Scorcese chooses to use the color red to symbolize death,
violence, and the anger that the characters portray in the film. For example in the beginning
(2010) scene, Henry and his crew are going to kill and dispose of Billy Bats body. There is a red
hue from the brake lights on the mobsters’ faces. This color effect communicates to viewers that
these men have chosen a different way of life. The camera angle showing Billy Bats in the trunk
of the car and the gangsters’ standing above, looking down on him, can be interpreted as the
control, the power, they have over him. It is literally the power of life and death. A different,
more unhinged power is amplified by the use of red light in the “Funny How?” scene in which
Tommy (Joe Pesci) threatens Henry, the restaurant manager, and the waiter. Here, the red
lighting casts a threatening pall over the light-hearted atmosphere, and signals a more violent
turn. The use of the color red and the camera angles, as well as the props of guns and knives, tie
into the power theme in this movie. If this scene had been shot in natural lighting, with the
characters holding balloons, the audience would not have gotten the correct feel for the
characters or scene.
The last way power is used as a theme in this film, is through the act of persuasion. The
characters persuade us as an audience to believe they were the actual people that they were
playing in the film through specific acting styles. For example, Ray Liotta uses method acting as
a way to inhabit his character in the scene where he pistol whips Karen’s next door neighbor.
According to IMDb (n.d.), Liotta’s mother passed away during filming and he uses that emotion
to help him show rage in the scene (p. 1). His embrace of this acting style helps show his
authority over others. Another example is how Henry Hill and the other gangsters in Jimmy’s
crew, have their own ways of using their power to get others to follow their demands. For
example, after the big heist on John F. Kennedy International Airport, Jimmy (Robert De Niro)
distributes the money to his guys and tells them not to spend it. Jimmy only wants to keep the
police’s attention away from them in regards to the crime. Some of the men don’t listen to his
commands. They spend money on luxuries, like a pink car and a fur coat, which makes them
look too flashy. Jimmy has the couple killed in return for their disloyalty to him. Even though he
was a gangster himself, Jimmy “appeared to be a greater threat to other gangsters, than lawabiding citizens,”(Goodykoontz, & Jacobs, 2014, Ch. 4.2, para. 12). This was a definite way to
convince the others not to spend their money. The mise en scene showing the luxury pink car and
the way the wife and husband are dressed fancy in the “He’d rather whack ‘em” clip, shows that
the couple had money, but they did not have the ultimate power like Jimmy, to make the call that
they should die.
In conclusion, Martin Scorcese’s film, Goodfellas (1990), gives us a look into the life of
mobsters. When watching this film, one can see the theme of power portrayed throughout it. The
use of continuity editing increases the audience’s awareness of the characters and their
surroundings in the film and how they are given a certain authority over others because of the
lifestyle they live. With the red color hues and camera angles, the viewer can see how the
mobsters earn power by taking it from others. Adding in props, like guns and fancy clothes,
along with the actors’ style of acting, help enhance the audiences’ perception of how much
power these characters in the film, truly hold.
Barthesian. (2009, March 11). The long take: Goodfellas [Video file]. Retrieved from

Castellitto, G. P. (1998). Imagism and Martin Scorsese: Images suspended and
extended. Literature Film Quarterly, 26(1), 23
Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.) [Electronic
version]. Retrieved from
IMBd. (2016). Goodfellas Trivia. Retrieved From:
Kanqa2007’s channel. (2010, December 14). Goodfellas (the beginning). [Video file]. Retrieved
ScarFail. (2011, February 1). Goodfellas (1990)- “he’d rather whack ‘em.”[Video file]. Retrieved
Winkler, Irwin. (Producer). & Scorcese, Martin. (Director). (1990). Goodfellas. [Motion
Picture]. United States: Warner Brothers.
1. The author clearly presents the thesis for the paper, explaining how a discussion of the various required
elements will establish theme.
2. This is a great way to show the immediate effect of cinematography in a film. The way the camera treats a
character tells the viewer how we should perceive that character. Here, the author not only notes the specific
cinematographic technique, but describes what that technique does to establish the major themes of the film.
3. This very astute observation identifies the actions and objects captured on camera and interprets their
meaning accurately as it corresponds to and constructs the film’s theme. It’s as simple as noting what appears
on camera (the mise en scène), how the camera treats it (cinematography), and what it suggests about the story
4. Color and hue, whether created by light or filters on the camera’s lens, has a very palpable effect on how
we perceive a scene and how a director might signal what’s to come. This is a very strong use of examples and
analysis to show exactly how color contributes to the film’s theme.
5. Using specific examples establishes the support necessary for the claims the author has made.
6. This conclusion does a great job of reflecting the thesis statement, and reiterating the major points of each
paragraph as relates to the overall theme of money and power. A great model for a conclusion is to rephrase
the thesis, address each paragraph, and tie these points together in a summary statement about the topic of the
Ashford University | ENG225 WEEK 03
The week 3 written assignment is an important continuation in our analysis of film. In understanding a film’s
theme, we are getting to the core of what that film is about. Analyzing a film of your choice, you’ll identify that film’s
primary theme and the elements that work to establish it throughout the film. Make sure to read through the
guidelines carefully, noting all the different required elements, and take a look ahead at the rubric so you’ll know
exactly how your work will be assessed.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you work on your paper. It is important to explain theme in your
introduction using your own words and clearly state the film’s theme in your thesis statement. You will identify at
least three techniques– cinematography, lighting, acting style or direction, and/or design elements, set design,
costuming, or hair and makeup and explain how these techniques and/or design elements contribute to the
establishment of theme. Be sure to reference particular scenes or sequences in your explanations and describe
how these techniques are being used in those scenes and what they do to establish theme.
In analyzing the film Mise En Scene, you’ll want to describe how the things that appear on screen work to
establish theme and how those design elements are consistent with the theme. Note– remember that a theme is
an overarching idea that recurs throughout the plot of the film. It is the distilled essence of what the film is about,
the main design which the specific scenes and actions lead a viewer to understand. Students often confuse theme
with genre. The theme is not the genre. For instance, a Western and a fantasy can both have a theme of good
versus evil.
Here are a few more tips to remember. See the sample paper we’ve uploaded in the assignment prompt. This is a
model of good student work, what your professors are looking for and the type of comments we will make. Also,
keep in mind that the titles of films should be italicized. Click into the Ashford library English 225 study guide. It’s a
portal dedicated to the kinds of articles, essays, and books that will be the most helpful resources as you work on
your written assignment.
Try to budget your time so that you can take advantage of the various resources offered by the Ashford Writing
Center to ensure that your paper is written and polished. The week 3 assignment is a chance to develop your
analytical skills and your understanding of the concepts introduced during our first three weeks. Give yourself an
opportunity to succeed by preparing yourself thoroughly and working diligently to complete the paper.

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