Two parts on movie analysis

| February 4, 2016

Two parts on movie analysis

This exam consists of two parts– a short answer and a long essay question (see prompts and further instructions below).
Please upload both responses as a single Word document or PDF via TurnItIn/Ted.

Citations and Formatting

You must submit original work and identify your sources. Improper or unattributed sources for content or language will not be tolerated. Your source material should be coming directly from the assigned readings, and not from online or print bibliographic sources unless I have provided them. If you are unsure at any moment about whether a source is permissible, please feel free to consult with me via email. When in doubt, please also consult the UCSD Academic Integrity Policy:

All responses must be set in 12-point font and should strictly follow the required lengths. If possible, please use a font with serifs (like the one on this page), as they are easier to read. Outline format will not be accepted as a response.

Absolutely proofread and edit your submissions. These texts must be submitted as polished as possible; exams will be graded down for grammatical errors and misspellings. Please use your word processing program’s spellcheck functions.



Please discuss three films shown in lecture or section (Weeks 1-9, not Week 10) that changed your view of cinema or the history of cinema, and explain why it changed your view, and exactly how the filmmaker accomplished this (subject matter, formal innovations, rejection of cinematic conventions, narrative approaches). Be as specific as possible with your answers (if formal innovations or narrative approaches, for example, which ones?), and refer to relevant readings. Homework films cannot be addressed in this question.

SHORT ANSWER Instructions:

Length: 600-700 words, simple citations. For the Short Answer portion of the exam, it will be sufficient for you to identify direct quotations and indirect statements from the readings assigned to the course by identifying the page number, and naming the author and the title of their text within the sentence.

Short Answer responses will be graded primarily with regard to breadth of knowledge; ability to concisely synthesize content from disparate moments in film history; and engagement with the reading and the content discussed in lecture. Your answer should contain at least 3-4 different references to the assigned course readings. Whenever possible, you must identify and refer to specific filmmakers and films addressed in lecture or section.


In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran decreed a fatwa of death against Mumbai-born, British author Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses (1988), a novel of “magical realism,” which controversially drew from aspects of the Muslim faith. Upon interviewing Rushdie in 1995—while the author was still under police protection due to ongoing assassination attempts—Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg thought about the possibility of another kind of decree against a designer of virtual-reality games. His resulting 1999 film, eXistenZ, explores the multi-dimensionality of virtual worlds and considers the political, sexual, and spiritual implications of this radical, and potentially questionable, reimagining of reality. Cronenberg, who is fascinated by the relationship between technology and the body, offers a number of hypotheses in eXistenZ of how the human/computer interface might take shape in the near future, and a few of these ideas are amazingly prescient for the late-1990s, from the naming, style, and use of various devices in the film. Please develop an essay, which considers Cronenberg’s address of virtual reality in as many inventive ways as you can, and discuss it in relation to the apparatus theory of cinema (cinematographic apparatus) and the phantasmagoria, defining these concepts and assessing their compatibility to the idea of virtual reality and gaming. Additionally, please address in what way eXistenZ differs from Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris in its handling of the relationship between reality and illusion. Potential themes you may also want to address (to a lesser extent) in eXistenZ are constructions of race and gender; sexuality; automatism; (inter)subjectivity; spectatorship; media; and time. Please note, in order to fully meet the evaluation criteria for the exam, you must include at least three close readings of shots and/or sequences of the film (devoting at least 2 paragraphs each) that demonstrate your understanding of the relevant film terms and substantiate your interpretive points. This may require taking notes and re-watching the film (or sections of it) several times.

LONG ESSAY Instructions:

Length: minimum 6-7 pages long, double-spaced, full bibliographic citations. Apply a standard system of citation, either MLA or Chicago to the Long Essay portion of the exam. If you have trouble adopting either of these systems, please feel free to consult with me. To learn more about the UCSD Academic Integrity Policy, please visit:

This essay should clearly demonstrate a sustained engagement with eXistenZ, which will begin streaming on Geisel Media Reserves (UCSD IP addresses or via UCSD VPN) on Thursday, Dec 3rd and is also already available on Netflix. Your essay should have a central thesis supported by a discussion of the film’s specific formal elements, as well as 3-4 different references to the assigned course readings on the syllabus with full bibliographic citations. You will be evaluated on the originality of your ideas; the clarity of verbal expression; the development of a coherent central argument; as well as your engagement with the assigned readings from the entire quarter. The essay should be informed by the film’s formal details and development of narrative. Be sure to focalize at least three times (across a couple paragraphs each) to particular elements or sequences of the film, in which you closely describe and analyze the filmmaker’s use of cinematic conventions (framing, recording speeds, sound, editing, etc.) and consider what their significance might be. In reference to other films shown in class, please draw comparisons that will convince your reader of the larger argument you wish to make about the film.

The following background articles on David Cronenberg maybe of interest to you after having watched the film; however, your essay will be evaluated on your ability to tie your analysis of the film to at least 3-4 course readings from the syllabus, not from this list:

Richard von Busack, “Pod Man Out,” Metro (April 22-28, 1999): [online resource]

Steve Burgess, “David Cronenberg,” (Nov 30, 1999): [online resource]

Cronenberg’s interview with Rushdie
David Cronenberg, “The Enemy of the People and the Media” [Interview with Salman Rushdie], Shift 3.4 (June-July 1995): [online resource]

Joshua Rothkopf, “Ready Player One: Why “eXistenZ” Is a Gamer-Movie Masterpiece,” (May 28, 2015): [online resource]

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