Mise-en-scéne readings

Auteur theory

In class, I mentioned "auteur theory" as an important moment in the development of film studies and also that the structure of this course, around the works of three directors, is an example of the influence of that theory.

  • Here you can read an overview of the history of auteur theory in the United States.
  • This (pdf) is film critic Andrew Sarris' influential account of the theory, and here is a reflection on his influence following his death in 2012.
  • Finally, you can watch a video discussion of auteur theory by University of Nebraska Lincoln professor, Wheeler Winston Dixon.

These resources are also collected on the course Storify page



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Hope Sneddon

The video discussion by Dixon was helpful to further my understanding on the auteur theory. I now see how over time it was realized that the primary creator of a film was the director. It is significant not only for those in film studies to be familiar with this concept but those of us in this course as well because we will be following the work of 3 directors and how their visions guided the films.

Josh Noble

I liked the article by Brody, especially the quote by Wes Anderson. I hadn't heard of Andrew Sarris which both the articles addressed. The Auteur Theory is something I have subscribed to without knowing it's origin, so I found our discussion in class and these articles to be very interesting.

Amy Elder

I found both the video by Dixon and the article by Natiello to be very helpful in furthering my understanding of auteur theory. It made me understand why every movie I hear of today is usually described as a movie by this director and this film production company. I like that the theory has expanded to cover more people than just the director because that director gets help with his vision. It will be interesting to see each of the directors' "signatures" that we study this term.

Lily Miller

Auteur theory is interesting because I never really gave much thought to the workings of the film industry. In film history, the creations weren't necessarily the directors, but an actor's for instance. This changed to a film being further categorized by a director. Directors visions became their signature and unified the film making processes.

Anna Markee

After reading the articles and watching the video, there were several aspects of the making of the auteur theory that I found interesting. First, I found it interesting that after American made films were released when WWII ended, American film was regarded above French film, even in a time of nationalism in France. This left me wondering if the American films were better than the French films... and if they were, how so and why? Another thing that I found interesting was the fact that the Auteur Theory was at first rejected by the public because they felt it didn't hand out well deserved credit to the actors, photographers, etc. I can understand these thoughts, but I think that if you look deeper it is relevant that the director is the main person to be credited for the film. Without the directors vision and direction, the actors, photographers, and all of the other numerous people involved in the making of the film would have never been a part of the film to begin with.

Karl Amspacher

Since the autuers that we are following in class have a longer film list then what we are covering in class, I have been watching them with interest on Netflix. Jim Jarmusch has several films available, and so far I have made it through Ghost Dog.

Michael Bayley

After going over the 3 links about auteur theory, I got a better understanding of it. The director is the main focus of this theory because it is all about them and their point of view. Professor Dixon in the video from U. of Nebraska explained it much better in a short summarized fashion. The writing piece by Natiello also mentioned that directors still learned just as much as when they taught too or spoke their mind about what they were picturing for their film idea. I thought this theory was much older, but I guess filmmaking has not been around as long as I have thought.

Lucas Ashland

I never gave it much thought as to what factors influence the outcome of film the most. According to Auteur theory, the director has the most impact since he is the one who has the final say as to what details will and will not be included into the movie.

Before learning about Auteur theory, I assumed that writers had the most influence on the film, but I also realized that the director had a lot of power too. I never gave it much thought as to who had the MOST power. That is, unless it was an extremely particular and obsessive-compulsive directors like Wes Anderson or Alfred Hitchcock who certainly make distinctive films. Thinking about it further, it makes sense that the director would have more influence over the movie since he/she can make last minute changes at any point in time to the script and ultimately ignore what is in the script if he choses to.

It makes me wonder how much auteur theory, which became extremely popular in the 1960s, can be applied to the blockbuster movies of 2013. A lot of what goes into a movie today can be controlled by the funders and adversing money that is being put toward a movie. Perhaps the mark of a good director in today's world is one who can still accomplish his vision of the movie despite multiple outside pressures who try to influence the movie.


Before giving it much thought I really thought that the main drive behind any creativity was through the writers, but then again it is how the directors can image the picture within the description of the writing. I know that movies are a team effort to make with lots of people helping to make the film a complete picture. You mentioned in class that film in other countries are much longer than films in the United States and that it is more of a social event where people talk about the film as its unfolding. Here the typical event is one where people are very silent during the film, maybe the sound of people snacking on popcorn. I would love it sit in on one of those long films and be apart of the discussion of the Auteur Theory. I want to also look into the notebooks of cinema and see how the Auteur Theory was something so new during that time.

Steven Springer

While there are some distinct director styles that really do embody style specific to their own work, auteur theory seems to put emphasis on the visual cues that directors create. I think many directors can be directly tied to their writing and types of stories which they choose to tell. The Coen Brothers, for example, don't necessarily do anything cinematography wise that clearly says "THIS IS A COEN BROTHERS MOVIE," but have tendencies to create geographically specific stories that are stylized through dialogue. (Fargo, Raising Arizona) They are also regularly labeled as "noir" type films, speaking to the atmosphere and humor which they employ the most.

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