2018-2019 - IB Film Studies II - Comparative Study: Overview & Opening Activity

  • Overview & Opening Activity
  • Research Reminders
  • Researching Your Topic
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IB Film Studies II

IB Film Studies II - Comparative Study

Students at SL and HL carry out research into chosen area of film focus, identifying and comparing two films from within that area and presenting their discoveries as a recorded multimedia comparative study. The two films have to be from different cultures/countries OR different time periods.

Film Movements  (French New Wave, German Expressionism, Iranian New Wave, etc.)

Film Genre & Film Style  (Film Noir, Romantic Comedy, Science Fiction, Western, etc.)

Film Theory (Auteur, Feminist, Marxist, Formalism, etc.)

The Comparative Study cannot simply be comparing the plots of the films.  There must be a focus such as : Economic, Geographical, Historical, Institutional, Technological, Political, Social, etc. 

Focused Free Write

Think about the films that have stirred your mind and emotions over the last half year. Which films captivated you? What topics or films remained with you long after you viewed them? Create a list of films then take a few minutes to reflect on what you notice about your preferences. What do you notice about these films? Is there a pattern to your viewing preferences or not? How would you describe your film tastes to someone else? Take a few minutes to respond in a focused free-write.

S ​ o What?

Today you will begin shaping your topic for the Comparative Study. Where will you begin your exploration? Talk to the peopl e at your table about the following:

  • Share your film tastes and viewing preferences. 
  • Connect your preferences to the IB Film Comparative Study assignment; discuss your goals for today's class period. 
  • Next: Research Reminders >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 24, 2024 7:38 AM
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Film is a powerful and stimulating art form and practice.

The Diploma Programme (DP) film course aims to develop students as proficient interpreters and makers of film texts. Through the study and analysis of film texts, and through practical exercises in film production, the film course develops students’ critical abilities and their appreciation of artistic, cultural, historical and global perspectives in film. Students examine film concepts, theories, practices and ideas from multiple perspectives, challenging their own viewpoints and biases in order to understand and value those of others. DP film students experiment with film and multimedia technology, acquiring the skills and creative competencies required to successfully communicate through the language of the medium. They develop an artistic voice and learn how to express personal perspectives through film. The film course emphasizes the importance of working collaboratively. It focuses on the international and intercultural dynamic that triggers and sustains contemporary film, while fostering in students an appreciation of the development of film across time, space and culture. DP film students are challenged to understand alternative views, to respect and appreciate the diverse cultures that exist within film, and to have open and critical minds. At the core of the DP film course lies the need for creative exploration and innovation. Students are challenged to acquire and develop critical thinking, reflective analysis and the imaginative synthesis that is achieved through practical engagement in the art, craft and study of film.

Key features of the curriculum model

To fully prepare students for the demands of the assessment tasks, teachers should ensure that their planning addresses each of the syllabus activities outlined below, the content and focus of which is not prescribed.

 Key features of the assessment model

  • Available at standard (SL) and higher levels (HL)
  • The minimum prescribed number of hours is 150 for SL and 240 for HL
  • Students are assessed both externally and internally

Learn more about film in a DP workshop for teachers. 

Film subject brief

Subject briefs are short two-page documents providing an outline of the course. Read the standard level (SL) and/or higher level (HL) subject brief below. 

comparative essay ib film

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IB Film EE examples

Filter exemplars, how is gender represented in halloween (1978) and scream (1996) through the application of male gaze theory, psychoanalytic theory, and final girl theory, how does jordan peele use the macro and micro elements of film language to subvert traditional horror tropes and create his unique filmmaking style in his films get out (2017) and us (2019), want to get full marks for your ee allow us to review it for you 🎯, to what extent do the films parasite (2019) and joker (2019) portray social-class conflict and the lower class’ struggles, to what extent did the stereotypical representation of arabs and muslims evolve in hollywood cinema from pre to post-9/11, to what extent were independent thai filmmakers successful in depicting their political perspectives of thai politics through the film references: “the cemetery of splendor (2015)” by apichatpong weerasethakul and “by the time it gets dark (2016)” by anocha suwichakornpong, fast track your coursework with mark schemes moderated by ib examiners. upgrade now 🚀, how are teen females represented in the teen-based films clueless and mean girls, with reference to feminist theory, how does traditional japanese culture amplify the themes of love, nature and greed in keyanime films, to what extent does the analysis of gasterbaiter serbian documentaries made in the last ten years in the xx and the beginning ten years of the xxi centennial with the use of visual anthropology accurately depict the many aspects of the guest workers' life, how does bong joon-ho utilize cinematic technique to highlight and critique class inequality, how do the films: the shining (1980), the blair witch project (1999), and a quiet place (2018), effectively utilise techniques of horror filmmaking in order to elicit fear from the audience, ¿hasta qué punto se puede categorizar el cine colombiano que aborda el tema del narcotráfico como perteneciente al género gángster, robert eggers’ take on the psychological horror genre of film.



Your Compass in Literature and General Paper.

  • Sep 15, 2023

IB Lang Lit SL/HL Paper 2 Comparative Essay: Journey

A critical commentary responding to a IB Lang Lit Paper 2 prompt comparing Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House on their use or presentation of journey/s.

comparative essay ib film

The Question: Journey

Referring to two works you have studied, discuss how the writers portray the significance of a journey..

Some questions will have philosophical quotes to open the question , functioning as a frame for your thinking and interpretation of the literary/dramatic texts you choose to compare. Luckily (or perhaps unluckily), this question does not have such a feature . This means you will need to frame the topic/motif word, "journey", yourself.

Identify specific instances or moments and/or motifs/symbols in the literary texts for a sharper , more targeted comparison .

Ensure that the question/prompt/topic you choose should be quite clearly or easily seen/noticed in the texts of your choice.

Of course, this could be after allowing yourself some time to reframe/slightly re-define the topic . For instance, a journey is an act of travelling , it includes a starting point and a destination , or multiple destinations . It takes you from place/space/state to place/space/state . It involves some forms of movement or even displacement . To do so, agency is often required . You could examine both physical/literal journeys/movements and spiritual/metaphorical ones. So feel free (of course with restraint and discretion), to redefine or reframe the prompt/concept word such that it allows more space and applicability to your texts . However, do exercise discretion when doing so. Ensure that you are not distorting the topic or the prompt into something unrecognisable!

Do be acutely sensitive to the similarities or differences in literary form and structure of the texts you have studied. Even if they are of similar form (prose, drama, poetry), there are often differences or nuances to their styles , and the socio-historical and literary contexts in which the texts have been produced, shaped and situated .

The Essay for IB Lang Lit Paper 2

The characters in Death of a Salesman (henceforth Salesman ) by Arthur Miller and A Doll’s House (henceforth Doll) by Henrik Ibsen undertake various journeys of great significance. On the surface, these journeys symbolise immense promise, fundamentally altering the course of characters’ lives toward fortune and success. However, this potential is deeply deceptive. For both Willy Loman and Nora Helmer, these journeys represent their deepest insecurities and fears as well, embodying their greatest failings in the eyes of society. At the end of the two texts, both characters embark on final journeys to leave their lives behind definitively. While Willy’s last journey into death is a culmination of his empty life of failure and broken dreams, Nora’s departure represents a fresh beginning for her, journeying away from her old life of restriction and dependence toward a new future of freedom.

Both Salesman and Doll have significant journeys at their core, travelling to faraway lands in pursuit of fortune and salvation. In Salesman , Miller employs Willy’s older brother Ben’s journey to Africa, where he made his fortune discovering diamond mines, as a potent symbol of the American Dream. When Ben first appears to Willy, Miller’s stage directions describe him as “a stolid man, in his sixties, with a moustache and an authoritative air”, painting a striking portrait of his confident stature and presence. Indeed, he is “utterly certain of his destiny, and there is an aura of far places about him” – his commanding, well-travelled presence embodies respect, power, and wealth to Willy, wholly encapsulating his ultimate conception of consummate success. Indeed, Ben’s journey into the jungle with its diamonds is a repeated motif throughout Salesman . Existing as a figment of Willy’s imagination, Ben and his journey symbolise the American Dream, feeding into the pipe dream of rags-to-riches success that Willy has chased his whole life. Willy’s belief that, “the jungle is dark but full of diamonds” demonstrates his unwavering faith and hope in an exotic journey to lead him towards the glittering promise of precious diamonds, delivering him the fortune and fulfilment that he desperately desires.

In Ibsen’s work, it is the Helmers’ journey to Italy to cure Torvald’s illness that forms the foundation of their life of bliss and luxury thereafter, serving as a central symbol of Nora’s love and commitment to her role as Torvald’s wife and their happy life together. Nora explains to Mrs Linde, “It was to me that the doctors came and said that [Torvald’s] life was in danger, and that the only thing to save him was to live in the south.” Indeed, the life-threatening stakes of the journey are evident, underscored by the absolute “only” suggesting its sheer importance for Torvald’s survival. As such, she tells Mrs Linde that “I too have something to be proud and glad of. It was I who saved Torvald’s life.” Her repetition of the personal pronoun emphasises her role and agency in saving her husband, evincing the magnitude of her happiness and sense of achievement in her efforts. Indeed, the journey is Nora’s greatest triumph. Just as Ben’s journey is a symbol of the riches and success that Willy dreams of, the Helmers’ journey is likewise a symbol for Nora of their good fortune, single-handedly saving her beloved and ensuring the future of their “beautiful happy home”.

However, these journeys harbour deeper, darker significances as well. These journeys serve as portentous symbols of betrayal and deceit in the texts, burdening the characters with their heavy, leaden weight. In Salesman , while both Willy’s father’s journey to Alaska and Ben’s journey to Africa represent their pursuit of great riches and success, they are also painful symbols of the betrayal and abandonment he suffers. As Willy reminisces, “Dad left when I was such a baby and I never had a chance to talk to him and I still feel– kind of temporary about myself” – the polysyndeton adds a plaintive, child-like quality to his speech, emphasised by his forlorn admission of his feelings of “temporar[iness]”, demonstrating his deep sense of hurt and betrayal from his father’s journey to Alaska. Similarly, Willy “longingly” pleads “Can’t you stay a few days” as Ben moves to leave the scene, desperately trying to get Ben to remain with him. For Willy, these expeditions are traumatic reminders of his father’s and brother’s betrayals of him, leaving him behind to fend for himself in the dust, revealing the dual significance of their journeys.

For Doll , it is Nora’s act of deceit and subterfuge that forms the core of the Helmers’ journey to Italy. Not only was her forgery to borrow the money for the trip a criminal act, but her deception of doing so behind Torvald’s back represents a massive transgression against the societal expectations of female obedience and financial dependence. As such, the significance of her betrayal and deceit lies in her desperate attempts to conceal her disgraceful secret, lest it ruin the Helmers’ happiness and reputation it had brought about. In criticising Krogstad’s own act of forgery, Torvald unknowingly comments on his wife’s own situation, saying, “A fog of lies like that in a household, and it spreads disease and infection to every part of it. Every breath the children take in that kind of house is reeking of evil germs.” Ibsen employs the metaphor of infection to describe perceived moral bankruptcy, proliferating and eating away at all in its vicinity. Powerfully, he even adopts the idea of an all-consuming “fog” that envelopes everyone in its shroud, invasively entering the “breath” of children and thoroughly corrupting them. The Helmers’ journey to Italy is one such act of deceit, suggesting that in Nora’s greatest act of love and salvation lies a symbol of her deepest disgrace and betrayal of society’s conventions and expectations of her.

Damningly, the two playwrights also demonstrate the ultimate hollowness of the fortunes promised by these journeys. In Salesman , Miller deflates the symbol of the American Dream with the sharp pin prick of reality, exposing the beguiling riches and fortune of exotic journeys as empty promises. When Willy asks Linda about the “diamond watch fob” that Ben brought back from Africa for him, Linda reminds him that he “pawned it… for Biff’s radio correspondence course.” The symbolic riches of Ben’s journey to Africa are undermined by the harsh reality of the Lomans’ poverty, exposing the hollowness of the lofty fortune and success that Ben’s journey promised. Moreover, Willy’s own journeys as a salesman are a far cry from the exciting, fortune-filled adventures of Ben’s expedition, with his dull, dreary travels earning him a paltry income that barely supports his family. When Willy initially recounts his business journey to Linda, he proudly declares that he made “five hundred gross in Providence and seven hundred gross in Boston”. Yet, these inflated boasts are quickly punctured as Linda works out his actual earnings of a meagre “seven dollars and some pennies”, only worsened by the overwhelming cumulative list of mounting debts in “…nine-sixty for the washing machine… for the vacuum cleaner there’s three and a half due on the fifteenth. Then the roof, you got twenty-one dollars remaining”. Far from the alluring promise of wealth and adventures embodied by the “diamonds” , Willy’s own journeys merely offer the mundane reality of broken household appliances and indigent poverty, exposing the drab truth belying the glittering journey towards the American Dream.

Likewise, Ibsen demonstrates the inherent hollowness of the blissful family life gleaned from the Helmers’ journey. Just as Willy realises that the promise of Ben’s epic journey is a mere pipe dream, it becomes evident that the apparent good fortune of love and happiness brought about by the Helmers’ trip is a lie, with their marriage built primarily on Torvald’s desire for respect, control, and reputation, rather than any genuine feeling. Upon discovering Nora’s secret, Torvald’s reaction is not one of gratitude but instead of deep reproach and fury, exposing his preoccupation with social approval above all else. He tells Nora, “The thing must be hushed up at all costs”, only able to refer to her act of selfless sacrifice obliquely as “the thing”, and even demanding continued secrecy around the truth of their journey to the extent of the absolute in “at all costs”, demonstrating the intensity of his shame and emasculated humiliation. Cruelly, he declares, “All we can do is save the bits and pieces from the wreck, preserve appearances…”. The ideal life of a loving husband and happy family crumbles as Torvald reveals his true colours, callously referring to Nora’s greatest act of love as a disastrous “wreck”, leaving behind the ruined remnants of “bits and pieces” from their former, blissful façade. Instead, he is focused on the maintenance of “appearances”, suggesting his prioritisation of his social image over any true affection or love for Nora. As such, Ibsen demonstrates the superficiality of their love, exposing their joyful domestic life together, made possible by their trip to Italy, to be lacking in true happiness and only possessing frivolous, foolish “merry”.

Ultimately, both plays end with their respective protagonists’ departure from their old lives. For Salesman , Willy takes his car and commits suicide, embarking on a tragic final journey into the “dark jungle” of death. In the Requiem, Linda tells Willy, “I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there’ll be nobody home”. Despite the fulfilment of one of the Loman’s life goals, the “diamonds” reaped are completely hollow, without any happiness, family, or meaning behind it. We are confronted with the inherent meaninglessness of the various journeys of Willy’s life, as well as the ultimate emptiness of his final journey into death, demonstrating the yawning chasm between reality and the grand symbolism of Ben’s journey and the American Dream. In the closing moments of Salesman , the stage is filled with the enchanting “music of the flute”, alluding to the tantalising journey into the wilderness that eluded Willy all his life. Even in death, he is haunted by the glimmering potential of what could have been, leading away towards riches and success just out of reach.

Conversely, Nora’s flight is much more empowering and hopeful. While Willy’s death is merely the final meaningless journey of a long life of meaningless journeys, Nora’s departure stands in contrast to the Helmers’ trip that catalyses the play. The woman who embarked on that initial journey, naïve and wholly self-effacing in the face of her husband’s needs, is different from the woman who leaves her husband at the end of the play, independent and free from the restrictions of his patronising iron fist of control. The play ends with “the sound of a door shutting”, with its resounding note of finality ringing out across the stage in a decisive end to her old life of dependence and captivity.

While both plays employ journeys as a glimmering symbol of reward, promising great fortune and fulfilment, Miller and Ibsen recognise the deceptive quality of these false promises. In time, these journeys come to harbour darker significances of deceit and betrayal for the characters, with their apparent promises of happiness and riches exposed to be hollow illusions. At the end of each play, both protagonists embark on final journeys to leave their old lives behind. While Willy’s final journey into death encapsulates a lifetime hopelessly spent chasing dreams just out of reach, Ibsen illuminates a brighter, hopeful future for Nora as she begins her new life.

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IB Film Studies

2018 – 20, research sources for your comparative video essay.

In your final video essay, which compares our two films you need to show that you have done some research.

From IB Film Specification:

‘Each student carries out broad research, using both primary and secondary sources , in order to investigate possible areas of film focus and films for comparison from within the areas of film focus, using materials from a range of sources , including original films, critiques, publications and other media .’

In the assessed coursework you should do this research entirely independently and should aim to have between 5-8 sources. These sources will be made up of a combination of:

  • Your two chosen focus films
  • Books on your film focus or chosen films
  • Critics Reviews
  • Magazine and Newspaper Articles
  • Video Essays
  • Websites & Blogs

For this practice unit we have provided some research materials that we would like you to quote in your video essay. We are also going to go to the library later this week to find book!

In pairs divide and conquer one of these resources, which will be allocated to you.

Find 1-3 quote(s) from the source, which you think are useful in developing your understanding…

  • …the context of the film movement
  • …the genre (Gothic horror)
  • …the cinematic style (micro features) of our films

You should also generate a full Harvard reference for your specific source.

Put both the quote and the Harvard reference into this slideshow for the whole class to access when we put together our video essays.

Class Research

1) media magazine articles.

Read this article on horror monsters .

Read this article on Horror Genre & Vampire as Metaphor.

Read this article on The Vampire as established in Nosferatu

2) Crash Course on German Expressionism

3) Film IQ – History of Horror

4) Academic Journals

We subscribe to a huge library or academic articles, books and reviews.

You can access the resources here (see below for user names and passwords)

Here are three articles which I found on Film Vampires:

  • A Century of Vampires
  • Warm Blooded – True Blood & Let The Right One In.
  • Here is an article on Let The Right One In.
  • Themes in Let The Right One In of Exclusion and Isolation

Roger Ebert on Let The Right One In

Decent Films on Nosferatu

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  1. PDF IB Film Assessment Cheat Sheet

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  2. Planning & Structuring The Comparative Study

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  3. Preparing your comparative essay script

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  23. Research Sources for your Comparative Video Essay

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