Essay 2: A Rhetorical Analysis of The Neighbors’ Window

            This essay is to be a researched essay citing the primary source and one to two secondary sources. The secondary sources need not address the film directly, but may be used to support points throughout the essay. The film to be analyzed is The Neighbors’ Window (2019) written and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Marshall Curry. A thematic and/or purpose driven (traditional three point thesis/five paragraph essay) analysis would be a wise approach for this essay. The Neighbors’ Window is a short film of about 20 minutes and can be found here:

http://www.theneighborswindow.com/ >. Rhetorical analysis is discussed in chapter 14, but I am providing some additional information that may be helpful.

Visual Rhetoric: Analyzing Film

A film or any other visual document communicates primarily through images or the interaction of image and, sometimes, text. Just as writers choose their words and organize their thoughts based on any number of rhetorical considerations, film producers think no differently, taking care to ensure that their productions are visually appealing and rhetorically effective.

The goal of any rhetorical analysis is to demonstrate an understanding of how the piece communicates its messages and meanings. One way of looking at this process is breaking the piece down into parts. By understanding how the different parts work, one can offer insights as to the overall persuasive strategies of the piece. Often writers are not looking to place a value judgment on the piece, and if there is an implicit or implied argument, writers do not have to take a side.

It is worth asking then: is rhetorical analysis of film any different than this basic description? The answer is both yes and no. Sometimes an interplay of words and images are encountered, which may complicate the number of rhetorical devices in play. Rhetorical analysis of film must be given the same rigorous attention as any textual work. In today’s visually-dominated culture, many people have already internalized techniques involved with visual communication. Writing a rhetorical analysis is often a process of merely finding the language to communicate this knowledge. Other times, looking at a document from a rhetorical design perspective will allow it to be viewed in new and interesting ways.

Just as with a synopsis or poetry analysis, the audience is offered a “reading” of the visual document which should be clear, concise, and informative. Do not only give a re-telling of what the images look like (this would be the equivalent of stopping at plot summary if analyzing a novel). Offer examples, explain the rhetorical strategies at work, and keep focused on how the film communicates visually.

Elements of Rhetorical Situations

There is no singular rhetorical situation that applies to all instances of communication. Rather, all human efforts to communicate occur within innumerable individual rhetorical situations that are particular to those specific moments of communication. An awareness of rhetorical situations can help in both composition and analysis. In the textbook Writing Today, Johnson-Sheehan and Paine recommend, “Before you start writing any text, you should first gain an understanding of your rhetorical situation” (12). Once the writer knows how to identify and analyze the elements of rhetorical situations, he or she will be better able to produce writing that meets the audience’s needs, fit the specific setting he or she writes in, and conveys his or her intended message and purpose.

Each individual rhetorical situation shares five basic elements with all other rhetorical situations:

  • A text (i.e., an actual instance or piece of communication)
  • An author (i.e., someone who uses communication)
  • An audience (i.e., a recipient of communication)
  • Purposes (i.e., the varied reasons both authors and audiences communicate)
  • A setting (i.e., the time, place, and environment surrounding a moment of communication)

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