What I expected to be a fictional story centred around a protagonist’s love for film actually turned out to be 200-odd page visual essay looking at various themes surrounding film. From the way the body is represented in film (anyone who studied Laura Mulvey’s male gaze will have flashbacks in this chapter) to the use of architecture or language in film, this book explores multiple aspects of the world’s favourite and most talked about films as well as a few movies you might not have heard of.
Film has been a big part of my life for many years, from growing up watching sci-fi films with my Dad at weekends to sharing and expanding my knowledge with my film-mad boyfriend (who still berates me for not wanting to watch The Wrestler nor 10+ hours of Lord of the Rings). As a result, I was a big fan of this graphic novel, desperately pouring over each panel carefully and trying to absorb all the arguments.
I think anyone with some love or knowledge for film would enjoy Filmish, as well as anyone who has studied/studying film or media or just anyone wanting to understand more about how film is constructed. As someone who studied media from GCSE to degree level, myself and my boyfriend (who did a degree in TV Production) really enjoyed the richness and analysis of Ross’ arguments, using theories from our dissertations.
I felt the book is enjoyable for how current it remains to be since its publication in 2015. It discusses both some of the failings of film in recent years (for example, there is a section about Disney’s representation of gender, age, disability and ethnicity) as well as giving some insight into why audiences react in certain ways to gore or death, for example. Combined with clear illustrations depicting well-known scenes in everyone’s most loved and hated films, there is something for everyone’s interests in this book (I loved the amount of analysis on gender representation in film!).
The chapter structure of Filmish does well to break down the analysis without making it becoming too overwhelming, however, I feel one of my main criticisms of this book was that the chapters near the end of Filmish feel far less put together and concrete than the first chapters. The arguments become less complex and at times, the analysis doesn’t feel balanced either looking at films from face value rather than delving deeper, or alternatively, looking a little bit too deeply perhaps and proving a point using a small gesture in a 30 second clip in one film.
Overall, this book does a superb job of giving access to film theory through the form of a graphic novel, providing some interesting, thought-provoking arguments and providing fundamental insight into film. I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest particularly in film and graphic novels – it is a great book to share with fellow film lovers and I especially enjoyed trying to work out which film each panel was depicting with my boyfriend.
Everyone will take away something from this book, whether its a new film recommendation or two, or simply an understanding of how their favourite film is constructed.
I give it a 4 out of 5