Comparative Study Worksheet 2020-21

“Film scripts for sale in Soho! #newyork #newyorkcity #nyc #movies” by Nat Ireland is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


A guide to planning, researching, and creating your Film Comparative Study

Steps and Tasks

  1. Brainstorm possible films for the task. You must select TWO films from contrasting cultural contexts.
  2. Brainstorm and justify at least three different areas of FILM FOCUS for your two chosen films.
  3. Brainstorm and justify at least two different CULTURAL CONTEXTS for your two chosen films.
  4. Consolidate your ideas and develop at least three different RESEARCH QUESTION topics for your study.
  5. Finalize your choices and select your RESEARCH QUESTION. Choose two films for comparison.
  6. Develop the main arguments you will make about your topic.
  7. Collect evidence from the films that support your argument.
  8. Research secondary sources for information that supports your argument.
  9. Write your Narration and plan the audio-visual components of your video essay.
  10. Recordassemble, and edit your Comparative Study Video Essay.
  11. Create a Works Cited document (separately) once your Comparative Study is finished.

Guidance for Your Work

“Simple formative analysis of film elements, no matter how precise or insightful, won’t cut it which is why the research question needs to be crafted in such a way that it provides scope for theoretical and socio-historic exploration. It’s basically an EE in disguise but focusing on two very different textual sources.”

Comparative Study Task Components

For this assessment task, each student identifiesselects, and researches each of the following task components.

  1. TASK 1: One area of film focus.
  2. TASK 2: Two films for comparison from within the chosen area of film focus, one of which originates from a contrasting time (historical) or space (geographical) to the personal context of the student, and the other film identified for comparison must arise from a contrasting cultural context to the first film. Students are required to select films they have not previously studied in depth. The selected films cannot come from the prescribed list of film texts provided for the textual analysis assessment task and, once selected, the films cannot be used by the student in any other assessment task for the DP film course or the extended essay.
  3. TASK 3: A clearly defined topic for a recorded multimedia comparative study, which links both the selected films and the identified area of film focus. Each student should invest time in researchingdeveloping, and honing their topic (which in most cases is likely to be expressed in the form of a research question) to ensure it is clear, focused and concise, in order to provide them with the maximum potential for success in this task. The topic should seek to enrich the student’s understanding of the chosen area of film focus and should avoid a plot-driven approach to the comparison.

The assessment criteria for this task requires students to provide a strong justification for the choice of task components as part of the recorded multimedia comparative study. This includes the student’s justification for how films arise from contrasting cultural contexts.

1. FILM Choices List

How much time did you spend:  1.5 hrs

Which films are you considering for your final Comparative Study? List as many as you wish below as part of an initial brainstorm. Remember that you must select ​​TWO​​ films from contrasting cultural contexts for this task.e.g. CITIZEN KANE Year, Country, and Director of the film.e.g. 1941, USA, Dir: Orson Welles
Joker 2019, USA, Dir: Todd Phillips
Shutter Island 2010, USA, Dir: Martin Scorsese
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975, USA, Dir: Miloš Forman

2. Areas of FILM FOCUS

How much time did you spend:  30 min

Film Focus Possibility – identify the broad focus area and then add specifics (e.g. “THEORY – Auteur theory” or “GENRE – Horror”). Develop at least THREE options…you can create more by adding more rows. Justification for this Film Focus. Be as specific as possible.
GENRE- Psychological Thriller Both of my chosen films focus on mental health patients and how that impacts their lives. They go on an action-packed and suspenseful adventure that makes them thrillers.
GENRE- Psychological Both films are a psychological study of the main character. they show how mental health care back then destroyed and deteriorated people who didn’t even require it.
STYLE- Narrative, discovering corruption in a system meant to aid Both films follow a lower class mental patient. They are both struggling simply to survive the horrible treatment of the people around them. When they realize the extent of the corruption and mistreatment of mental health patients, how will they react?

Mac: stays back to help,  Arthur: topple the system


How much time did you spend:  15 min

For this assessment task, “cultural context” involves consideration of some of the following factors, some of which may be blended (such as socioeconomic factors).

  • Economic, Geographical, Historical, Institutional, Political, Social, Technological
Identify at least TWO Cultural Context possibilities for your chosen films.
Justification for this Cultural Context. Be as specific as possible.
Historical One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was released in 1975 and is one of the most well-known anti-establishment films made. His experiences living in Czechoslovakia during the Soviet Union invasion are echoed in this film.

, Joker in 1981.  In 1980 President Carter passed the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which was then repealed in 1981. Mental health scientists were angry at the backward motion of their field, and there were huge budget cuts in mental health systems. There were very different cultural contexts of the films, and yet both felt under served by the institution

Social In the 1980s people had accepted that they just needed adequate treatment and medication.

4. RESEARCH QUESTION Possibilities

How much time did you spend:  45 min

Consolidate your thoughts above and develop at least ​THREE​​ different research question possibilities. More are possible by adding additional rows to the table below. FYI these will be shared with the full class for discussion of strengths and weaknesses.

Your Chosen Area of Film Focus Topic for Comparative Study (written as a research question)
GENRE- Psychological Thriller How does the fall of a character change their identity?
GENRE- Psychological Thriller How does an unreliable narrator shape the audience’s understanding of the reveal of the antihero?
GENRE- Narrative: character study How does poor mental health care shape the creation of the antihero?

5. Final Decisions

How much time did you spend:  10 min

Using your topic options in the table above, select ​ONE​​ to be your final topic for this Comparative Study task. NOTE: There are examples from the IB of what this should look like below this table.

Your Chosen Area of Film Focus Film 1 Film 2 Contrasting Cultural Context Topic for Comparative Study practice task (written as a research question)
Narrative character study Joker One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Historical How does poor mental health care shape the creation of the antihero

6. Developing Your Topic

How much time did you spend:  30 min

Develop 3-5 main arguments that can be made about your topic based on your research question and chosen film focus. Brainstorm how you could support these arguments within your video essay.
Exposure to violence sparks major change and solidifies the deterioration of identity Arthur: wall street men

Mac: billy suicide

Understanding the reality of their situation and their place in the world Arthur: cop car (he is not as unnoticed as he believes)

Mac: voluntary patients (he is not as free as he believes)

Create scenarios as a cognitive break (coping mechanisms) Arthur: Sophie, importance of relationships

Mac: boat trip, desire to be “normal”

Desire to defend their honor and show the path of principle, corrupted rectitude Arthur: Murray Show / Sophie

Mac: sink thing / cheswick & billy

lack of mental health care Arthur: budget cuts

Mac: Nurse Ratched

7. Selecting Supporting Evidence (Primary)

How much time did you spend:  8 hrs

Identify at least 15 scenes from your chosen films that will help support the arguments you have outlined above. Screen clip a frame from each scene below. Write notes about how this scene helps support your argument. (These notes will help form your voice-over narration.)
 – Arthur’s lack of mental health care came from budget cuts and a bad therapist.

– Arthur needs mental healthcare. So much of his fall could have been prevented through good therapy and medication.  However, due to his passive therapist and a round of budget cuts, the city brings the Joker upon itself.

– This is the beginning of Arthur’s transformation into the Joker. The last thing tethering him to normal life has let go, so now he has nothing holding him back from descending into madness  (maybe delete this part)

nurse ratched sucks
 – establish dancing as true self expression, violence creates the “anti” piece (they are getting justice wrong)

– when Arthur kills the wall street men, it isn’t only because of his mental illness, it started as self defense. However when we see him just moments after he killed them, he is not panicking or regretting his decision, but rather dancing.

– what’s important here is not specifically the violence, but how he reacts to it. He says later in regard to the killing “I thought it would bother me but it really hasn’t” which shows that he is beginning to become the antihero and the violence is only solidifying that. If he had been arrested, gotten treatment or therapy after that killing, the creation of the Joker could have been entirely prevented.

– This ties in with his thirst for justice upon those who’ve done him wrong. He knows those men were bad people, so he doesn’t feel bad.

Billy suicide scene – Mac’s real struggle with mental health is not what put him in the ward, it is that he can’t help but try to save the other men in there with him. He truly does want what’s best for them.

– When Billy kills himself because of Ratched’s abuse, Mac can’t leave without avenging him in a way. He and Chief could have made it out, but he wanted Billy to have a fun night and he couldn’t let Ratched get away with ow she treated patients. His defense of other patients was him ultimate downfall.

– Because Mac wasn’t actually mentally ill, he didn’t find himself imagining a different reality as a coping mechanism like Arthur, he just did what he wanted.

– Mac’s cognitive break from the treatment at the hospital was to actually change reality, he just broke out and took everyone with him on a boating trip.

– This scene really shows Mac as the antihero. He isn’t supposed to be doing what he is doing, but you can tell the patients needed it very badly. He is doing the right thing, just in the wrong way.

– One of the things that Arthur’s mental illness caused was it’s creation of his relationship with Sophie. In Arthur’s mind he is the hero, and the hero always has a love interest, so he made one up for himself. Arthur could not handle the loneliness and isolation of his life, so he invented their relationship to keep him company. She was the character who saw him through his hardest times, she was his final lifeline when everyone else left him. When he found out their whole relationship was fake it was devastating.

– The loss of their relationship is the final straw for Arthur. It is like proof to him that there is no one left that cares about him, and he truly is alone in his journey. He is no longer the bad guy with a soft spot, he has gone full dark.

Sink scene – Mac has a strong desire to do what he believes needs to be done, he can’t sit back and watch as something bad goes on when there is a simple solution. This shows in Mac getting the other patients to have fun and it shows in how he handles conflict while in the ward.

– When in the therapy session, none of the other patients will vote to watch the world series out of fear of Nurse Ratched, which angers Mac on the principle of their honor. He wants them to stand up for what they believe in.

– This is one of the biggest showing of the “hero” showing in Mac’s antihero, he is trying to show the other patients how to have confidence, and that they don’t have to take abuse from Ratched. While this is a very desirable trait, it is his undoing in the ward, as him constantly doing what he believes is best for the patients puts him in constant conflict with authorities.

– Mac knew he wouldn’t be able to lift the sink but he wanted to show the other patients that it was important to at least try

 – Arthur’s main trauma comes from the horrible treatment he has endured from society his whole life. Once he breaks through and realizes his strength, he want to prove that nobody is less than due to mental illness. He will go to any length to show the way people are treated by society, and he is tired of enduring, he want it to change. When Murray makes fun of him for the breakdown he has while on stage, he is once again being made fun of for his insecurity (which came from abuse and being made fun of) and he refuses to take any more abuse from those who will never understand his life. He decides instead to show them his strength. Arthur’s is not a utilitarian justice, but rather personal justice. He is avenging himself.

– Unlike Mac, Arthur’s reach for justice does not destroy him, it creates him. It is his final push into the Joker. Arthur’s thirst for justice is not virtuous, it is proud,  stubborn, vengeful. It is chaos. Joker thrives in the mess he has made, and he is born of chaos.

– This scene shows once again how much society is to blame for the creation of Joker. (what do you get). Had there been compassion and acceptance from those around him, or even from the people meant to treat him, he would have ended up in a very different place. Society has been pushing on Arthur his whole life and he finally decided to push back.

 – At the end of each film, we see how each character’s mental health treatment has failed them to the fullest extent. In Mac’s case he was an anti who found his place as a hero to people who needed protection, but he could never do it well enough. In Arthur’s case he was a normal person failed by the system, he was happier being the Joker than being stuck in the drudge of society. In these cases, we cannot blame the antihero for his fall.
 – The inadequacy of Joker’s mental health care is perfectly reflected by his arrival into the antihero. He gets pulled out of the car and put on the hood, where gains consciousness and dances in front of his cheering  followers. This scene shows how he is loved and accepted when he embraces who he is. Society forced him to be someone he wasn’t, he had to stifle his laughs, paint on a smile and pretend he was okay. Now that he has completed his identity change, he is free to be himself. And now, with a painted on smile that is truly his own, free of the lies and deception of his past, he completes his transformation into the Joker on a broken cop car.
voluntary patients
 – This scene shows Arthur’s thirst for justice and his violent tendencies. He has found out how abusive his mother was to him, which he knows is the root of all his mental problems. Not only is he wanting revenge, but he also needs someone to take it out on.

– This scene doesn’t show his fall as a result of his poor mental health care, but how he is angry that he had them in the first place. He knows he would have a very different life today if he didn’t have his mental issues and it’s his mother’s fault he has them. The violence stems from violence inflicted on him as a child

Teddy and Arthur are victims. The difference is that Teddy surrendered, and Arthur fought back

*Add more rows as needed.

8. Selecting Supporting Evidence (Secondary)

How much time did you spend:  1 hr

Identify at least 3-5 secondary sources (articles, books, websites, video essays, etc.) which provide information that help support your arguments being made. In this column include the specific source citations. Summarize the detailed information from the secondary source that you can use in this column. (You can copy+paste if they are from online sources.)
Shutter Island: Why Perspective is Everything  – Teddy is a victim

– The audience wants to align with Teddy because he is portrayed as a good person

– Teddy’s world is clearly off, his perception of reality is not completely accurate

– nonexistent water glass during interviews

– water signifies the truth about what happened to his family

– slowly stripped from what makes him who he is (fun, clothes, attitude, fake self)

Why Do Critics Hate Joker?  – it is the story of Arthur’s fall. he started out as a genuinely good person who was beaten down by society

– some background knowledge and context

Joker and Daydreams  – Arthur is defined by societal norms pushed on him, not his own thoughts and identity

– even though Sophie is an illusion, she is only present when he tries chasing his dreams she represents the wider world and how he wishes it would see him

– Arthur dies with his mother, and now an honest man is born. the loss isn’t painful, it is liberating, now the gap between himself and the world he’s in has widened, and he can build a new identity for himself

– when Arthur kills his mother, the curtains are tight but it is light inside

– Arthur has nothing in his life to return to, no context. Arthur can’t trust or process any memories anymore because of his severe trauma

– at the very end with his therapist, he doesn’t try to make others uncomfortable at his own expense but rather hold joy in for himself. contrary to his past self

– common theme is honesty, Arthur spends a lot of the film shrouded in falseness and lies and finally breaks free at the end

Why Shutter Island Broke Me  – Teddy’s death was an abstract form of suicide

– trying to chase down the truth while also actively running from it

– teddy is neither a hero nor a villain

– his crime was not because he was evil, but he took out all his repressed anger and violence onto someone who took everything away from him

*Add more rows as needed.

9. Writing Your Narration

  • Set a timer
  • How much time did you spend:  ? 

Using the information, scene choices, and external sources you have compiled in steps 6-8, you will now write your voiceover narration and match it up to your chosen visual examples.

Length (</= 10 Minutes)

  • For the final Comparative Study, your narration should be no longer than 10 minutes in length.

Remember that you need to:

  • COMPARE and CONTRAST your two chosen film using the arguments and evidence you identified in parts 6-8, above
  • Begin your narration with a detailed justification for the chosen cultural contrast
  • Use an equal balance of the two selected films.
  • Write in a third-person voice to construct your argument (similar in tone to your Extended Essay and other
    comparative analytical work you have written in Film class).
  • Identify where any WRITTEN TEXT will appear on the screen and highlight this (to reference during the
    creation/editing stage)
Which Visual Evidence/Scenes line up to this part of the narration? Voiceover Narration Ideas

Formatting Guidelines

Screenshot from

10. Assembling the Comparative Study

  • Set a timer
  • How much time did you spend:  ? 

Now you will collect all media resources needed for the task and construct your video essay.


  • Import the digital copy of your chosen films into editing software
  • Identify and extract chosen scenes and clips
  • Place and edit clips into a rough timeline for your video essay
  • Record audio narration (both partners should participate in narrating this practice task)
    into an audio file using recording equipment (Zoom recorders, iPhone, DSLR Rode video
    mic, etc.)
  • Import your recorded narration audio file into your project timeline
  • Assemble, edit and fine-tune clips and narration until your video essay takes shape
  • Create and add any required textual information in the timeline (including black slate at the start)
  • Audio mixing of narration and movie clips (adjust levels so that narration and movie sounds complement each other)
  • Export the final video essay movie file
    • Upload Unlisted draft to YouTube for peer review

11. Create Works Cited

  • Set a timer
  • How much time did you spend:  ? 
  • Create Works Cited list separately (Google Doc)

Examples of Possible Task Components

Area of film focus Film 1 Film 2 A possible topic for comparative study
Film movement: German Expressionism The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Edward Scissorhands (1990) How and with what effect are specific film elements of German expressionism used within a chosen contemporary film?
Film movement: French New Wave Breathless (1960) Badlands (1973) The influence of the French New Wave on New Hollywood’s use of innovative film elements in its representation of youth and violence.
Film genre and film style: Black comedy No. 3 (1997) The Big Lebowski (1998) To what extent do “black comedy” films differ according to cultural context?
Film theory: Soviet Montage Battleship Potemkin (1925) Koyaanisqatsi (1982) To what extent are specific features of Soviet montage theory faithfully employed in a contemporary experimental film?

External Assessment Criteria SL and HL

Peer Review Checklist


TASK COMPONENTS (ACTION) Notes / Suggestions
__ Assemble Findings
__ Develop a personal and critically reflective perspective
__ Identify and gather appropriate audio-visual material to support the study
__ Justify the chosen topic and selected films
__ Make sure that the text is in a formal academic register (can be in the 1st person)
__ The balance between visual and spoken elements
__ Make clear reference to your sources as on-screen citations (text on-screen)
__ Make sure the primary weight of evidence for the study from the two chosen films
__ Make sure each film is given equal consideration
__ Make sure film language information is communicated clearly throughout (avoid “to be” verbs – make statements like “blah is this.”)
__ Make sure information is communicated logically rooted in film language
__ Have another student highlight the WHAT WHY HOW in your draft screenplay
__ Recorded voice and edited commentary numerous times until happy with the material
__ Make sure your name and the school’s name ARE NOT IN THE ESSAY
__ Make sure to have 10-second title card with:1. Area of film focus

2. Titles of the two films for comparison

3. The chosen topic

__ Include breaks in your recorded commentary to enable other audio-visual material included in the study to be clearly heard (if needed)
__ Make sure film clip length matches points being made
__ Make sure still images have citations on-screen if you have them
__ Make sure text on-screen is legible and spelled correctly
__ Make sure information is communicated audibly (levels are good for all sound)
__ Make sure information is communicated visually appropriate manner
__ Make sure background music is from Creative Commons and is cited
__ Make sure edits are clean
__ Make sure the presentation is 10 minutes maximum, including title card and credits
__ Make sure two films are listed in sources

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