The Language of Film:

Character

 

 

Characters—The individuals who populate narrative and non-narrative films. As you begin an analysis of characters, you should ask yourself the following questions:

 

    1. Do the characters seem realistic? Are they meant to seem realistic?
    2. Are they defined by their clothes, their conversation, or something else?
    3. If they are not realistic, why not, and why are they meant to seem strange or fantastic?
    4. Do the characters seem to fit the setting of the story?
    5. Does the film focus mainly on one or two characters or on many?
    6. Which character is primary in the narrative? Is s/he heroic? An anti-hero? Tragic hero or comic protagonist?
    7. What roles do the secondary characters play in illuminating the film’s larger themes, conflicts, ideas, or critiques? Consider, for example, the characters Francis Slaughtery and Niccolai in Spike Lee’s film 25th Hour. What role do they play in illuminating or “shadowing” the moral dilemmas of the main character, Monty Brogan (i.e., his vacuous and hollowing pursuit of money that leaves people devoid of higher spiritual and moral meaning)? Do they embody a larger critique, perhaps, of the “American dream”?
    8. Do the characters change, and if so, in what ways?
    9. What values do the characters seem to represent: What do they say about such matters as independence, sexuality, morality, political belief?
    10. What kinds of different people and/or groups are represented (gays, American Indians, blacks, southerners/northerners, etc)? Are these groups represented in a stereotypical, biased fashion? (You’ll need to consider these sorts of questions when examining the mirror montage scene in Lee’s 25th Hour.)