Often times, reading a play-text once or watching a film once is not enough because we tend to miss some of the details or patterns we would not have noticed otherwise. My first reading or watching is relatively faster and focused on appreciating the bigger picture and understanding the message. At most, I will write down the main idea of the passage at hand and definitions of any words I am unfamiliar with. On the other hand, my second reading or watching is intended to capture the subtleties and ways in which the message is conveyed. This is also where most of my annotations occur.
I do not take a singular approach when it comes to both the second reading of a play-text and the second watching of a film. This is because, although, the meaning of a play-text can be self-contained, the meaning of a film cannot be. While a film provides a visual medium that gives life to the images conveyed by the text, it does not visualize the words themselves. Watching the film alone poses serious challenges in recognizing literary devices and patterns in speech that would not be missed otherwise. In fact, even words themselves can be overlooked given the already overwhelming Shakespearian English and distractions at large. A comprehensive study of a film, then, is one that is supplemented by a comparison between the film adaptation and the original source material. A comparative study such as this allows us to keep up with the dialogue and creates an opportunity for us to recognize how the film manipulates the original work. An adaptation also presents many additional elements in the visual and auditory medium that are open for exploration and interpretation such as music and film editing.
During my close reading of a text, after having recognized the main idea, I first seek out structural elements such as the number of lines, the types of line breaks, and the length of lines. Structure is important not only because it produces a rhyme scheme for how the text should be read but it also organizes ideas and themes and directs our attention to them. As I move away from the structure, I move towards understanding linguistic features, which reveal the arrangement of words such diction, parallelism, and alliteration. These linguistic features are important because they set the tone of the passage and contribute to our surface level understanding of the text. On the other hand, semantic elements, such as metaphors and similes, contribute to the deeper and implied meaning of the text. Finally, cultural elements, such as allegories and allusions, help to establish the setting of the passage. In general, every time I come across any of these elements in a passage, I always make a conscious attempt to explain their possible function(s). That being said, I think it is important to keep in mind that the process of close reading is not a passive one where the text-play is saturated with meaning and elements of specific functions hoping to be found but rather we are active readers that create meaning in what we read. A well-supported meaning or function is, then, one that is based on evidence found within the confines of the text-play.
While we create meaning from our readings of a play-text, I think film forces upon us one specific meaning. In doing so, the director of a film makes many deliberative creative choices that are open for study. Hence, while watching an adaptation, I focus on four technical elements of filmmaking: camera, film editing, music, and acting. The perspective the camera provides is a creative choice by the director that thereby influences the audience’s viewing experience. The camera can represent the perspective of an existing character in the play or of a superficial character. The camera can also pan between perspectives or maintain a single perspective. It can even zoom in or zoom out to provide a small or large perspective, respectively. Consequently, only a thorough understanding of this technical element can reveal the great power that is bestowed upon the camera in directing our attention to certain characters, events, or objects more than others and in emphasizing one specific interpretation of the text. The element of film editing is also worthy of study because it is indicative how the film departs from the original text. Film editing can manipulate how much of the original dialogue is retained and how the scenes are arranged. Films, for example, will omit entire lines due to time restraints or irrelevance, adjust lines for a modern audience, and rearrange scenes as flashbacks to generate thrill. These choices in film editing by the director also support a specific interpretation of the text. The element of music really helps set the tone and mood for this interpretation. I will generally make a brief note of how characteristics of the music achieve this. Last but not least, acting is the one of the most important technical elements of filmmaking. The performance given by an actor or actress can really determine how strongly we connect with the character. Seeking to understand the type of language used, such as heightened or naturalistic, can partly demonstrate the believability and competency of the actor or actress. Many additional factors such as props, costumes, gestures, and facial expressions can contribute to the overall performance as well. Ultimately, an examination of all these elements of filmmaking allows for a comprehensive understanding of the film. While film may provide a specific interpretation of the original text, it is important to be mindful that there is no right interpretation. Hence, a successful close reading is one that is validated by evidence found within the boundaries of the text-play or film.