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

Student Work

Neil’s Post

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 you spent: 15 minutes
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
Seven 1995, USA, Dir: David Fincher
Parasite 2019, Korea, Bong Joon-ho
  • 1917: 2019, England/USA, Sam Mendes
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: 2016, USA, David Yates
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: 2014, USA, James Gunn
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: 2019, USA, Jon Watts
  • Avengers: Endgame: 2019, USA, Jon Russo, Anthony Russo
  • Zodiac: 2007, USA, David Fincher

2. Areas of FILM FOCUS

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 – Thriller/Suspense (psychological) Story-driven instead of action-driven, both films are of this genre, and I really like how deep and complicated these films can be.
THEORY – Freudian theory In Joker, Arthur was abused as a child, and we see newspaper articles talking about how his mother neglected him. This may be why he seeks out recognition throughout the entire film. In Seven, John Doe also had a bad childhood, with his mom beating him, and headaches as a result of shock treatment. When he was a grown man, he found his wife cheating on him. He never had children, because his wife was unable, and for that reason, he never touched her. In his teen years, John goes back to his childhood house and finds his mother was burning his belongings and is telling him he will go to hell for his sins. John found a key and left her as she caught fire and burned to death, using the key on a box that contained a book of the seven deadly sins, and then started his crimes. This shows his crimes could stem from his abuse as a child.
THEORY – Marxism The economic gap in Joker between people like Bruce Wayne’s family who get tons of recognition and have much wealth, and people like Arthur who are left without counseling and medication due to budget cuts.  When Arthur kills the host of a talk show, he becomes a symbol, a face for violent protests with signs like “kill the rich.”
  • THEME – Recognition: John Doe in Seven wants recognition, from people and from God, for this “good work” he is doing punishing people for their sins. In Joker, the entire film is about Arthur trying to gain recognition.
  • THEME – Reality in mental health: In Joker, we are seeing Arthur’s story, so in a way, he is the narrator because we are seeing what he is seeing/experiencing. It is an unreliable narrative, and throughout the movie, we find out some things we see aren’t real, and we are left at the end to question, with no “real” or “right” answer, which parts of what we saw were real and which weren’t. In Seven, John Doe is under the delusion that it’s his job, given to him by God, to punish people for their sins. We as the audience know what is real, and John is obviously under a delusion. But, we as the audience also only know what the detectives know; we don’t know John’s plans, and we are left to reel at the discovery with the detectives at the end.


  • How much time did you spend: 40 minutes

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.
Seven: More complicated crime film which wasn’t common Silence of the Lambs, a psychological horror film, came out in 1991 and was one of the few thrillers to ever receive the best picture oscar. Before, in the 1980s, crime films were more about mute, emotionless killers.
Joker: More polarized political climate in America With Trump as president, there is a lot more polarization politically, and fewer people are willing to compromise. This had led to a higher rate of hate crimes under his presidency, and other things such as Obamacare trying to be taken away. A reflection of our real world can be seen in Arthur’s medication and therapist being taken away due to budget cuts, and violent protesters in the streets, very radical with their violence and signs like “kill the rich.”
  • Joker: Mental health issues less stigmatized: A film like Joker may not have been as well accepted by audiences if it had come out any earlier, and we can partially see this in the critics. A lot of critics think that some young white males may come away from the film seeing Arthur as the protagonist, and think violence is okay. Despite some past films being just like Joker in their depictions, with no spikes in violence or radical teenagers coming away from them, and Joker not picturing Arthur as victorious, people, mostly critics, were shocked by this movie. (Why Do Critics Hate Joker? Video Essay)

4. RESEARCH QUESTION Possibilities

  • How much time did you spend: 5 minutes

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: Thriller/Suspense (psychological) How has time impacted this genre?
Theme: Reality in mental health How do these two films depict reality in mental health?
Theory: Freudian theory How do these two films showcase the Freudian theory?

Setting: How does the setting in these two cities affect the story?

5. Final Decisions

  • How much time did you spend: 10 minutes

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)
Genre: psychological thriller Seven (1995) Joker (2019) 20+ years apart How has the psychological thriller genre changed over the years with the times?

6. Developing Your Topic

  • How much time did you spend: 25 minutes
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.
drugs use over the years-joker, how both films frame drugs?
politically tense time-3 strikes your out, sex scandals, unjust imprisonment of black people, rioting after Rodney king, an all-white jury acquitted all policeman Compare how politics affects different films, Seven less political than Joker, Rodney King shows not everyone punished by the law (connection to Seven), Joker riots show politically tense time, a reflection of the 90s and now
serial killers in 1990s, seven, hate crimes/violence in 2019, joker Compare how different films use/frame violence
blame simply on John Doe but the whole story told with Arthur Compare how different films frame mental health. Arthur was abandoned by the system, erratic, John Doe methodical, both films ended in them killing someone but different forms of mental illness

7. Selecting Supporting Evidence (Primary)

  • How much time did you spend: 2 hours 30 minutes
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.)
Man fed until he dies, for gluttony John Doe wants to punish people in a way he feels appropriate for their sins, not by the justice system, see seven scene below
Scene where rioters in the street, laying Arthur on the top of the broken police car, worshiping him

Scene of protesters rioting

Reflect the politically tense time that we have today, we are polarized sides pitted against each other. In Joker, the protesters are radical, signs like “kill the rich” instead of trying to redistribute wealth.
Goes with the seven scene above, car scene, same as below

Seven – Scene – Creating expectation for the climax (Youtube)

John Doe clearly doesn’t completely believe in the fairness of our justice system, since he says the detectives should be thanking him for killing a lawyer who “dedicated his life to lying with every breath he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the street.” There was distrust of the justice system after an incident in 1991 (detailed below) with Rodney King being beaten on camera by police and the judges acquitting all the officers.
Seven car scene, John talking about the lawyer John Doe in Seven does not necessarily have a political agenda, politics are not really mentioned throughout the film, besides when he talks about the lawyer letting criminals go free.
Scene of protesters rioting


Arthur in Joker also doesn’t really have a political agenda. Politics are a lot more present in the film, as Arthur sparks an entire political movement resulting in riots and violence, but we see throughout the film that he doesn’t really care. He doesn’t try to spread awareness when he’s on the tv show or with other people, he is just seeking recognition. He wants to be seen, to be recognized. (wisecrack video below)
Arthur kills three guys in the subway | Joker [UltraHD, HDR]

Scene of the sin sloth

Both films have the same result, John Doe and Arthur killing, but they get there different ways. Arthur is more rash in his actions, for example, he doesn’t plan to kill those men on the subway, while John is methodical and calculating, as is shown by the fact he’s had the man being punished for sloth tied down for a year. They have different types of mental illnesses, where Arthur is irrational and erratic in his actions, uncontrollable, unpredictable, while John is delusional in a different way, un-empathetic (to say the least), but cold and calculating, even toying with the police (box head scene). It is clear he knows what he is doing, and can do it well.
Arthur kills three guys in the subway | Joker [UltraHD, HDR]

Joker Kills Murray Scene – JOKER (2019) 4K Movie Clip

Joker shows Arthur killing people, when he kills the three men on the subway and when he kills Murray. This has a different, but arguably just as effective, effect as Seven, because it showcases Arthur’s erratic-ness. When he kills the people on the subway, it’s clear he didn’t plan it, and we as the audience are shocked, it comes as a surprise, just as him killing Murray happens in a second with no warning.
Scene from one of the murders, scene of man crying describing the lust murder Seven shows the results of John Doe’s murders, or has someone describe them, but does not show John Doe actually killing anyone. This allows the film to get it across to the audience these horrific murders, and all the psychology behind them, but without being a “slasher” film or succumbing to gore for no good reason.
Near the end of the film, when Arthur kills Murray

Joker Kills Murray Scene – JOKER (2019) 4K Movie Clip

Arthur uses violence to get a point across by making the ‘joke’ “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I’ll tell you, what you f*cking deserve!” And then kills Murray on air. He uses this violence that is literally broadcast to spread his message about the broken system.
John Doe in the back of the police car talking with the detectives, saying people need to be forced to see. “You can’t tap people on the shoulder anymore, you have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you’ll notice you have their strict attention.”

Seven – Scene – Creating expectation for the climax (Youtube)

In both films, violence is a way to get a point across. John Doe wants to punish people for their sins, and he wants people to know about his crimes so they can hopefully see the error of their sins, or be scared. He also says “Who I am doesn’t matter” and “I’m not special. I have never been exceptional. This is though, what I’m doing.” This contrasts with Arthur since throughout the entirety of Joker, we see that Arthur just wants to be recognized. John doesn’t care about personal recognition, just about recognition of the work he is doing.
Arthur realizing his relationship with the girl next door wasn’t real Again, we can sympathize with him. Since we see his perspective throughout the film, we don’t know what is real either, and we can put ourselves in his shoes and imagine how hard it is to be abandoned, un-medicated, lonely.
Arthur on the train before he kills the three men, them making fun of him for uncontrollably laughing

Arthur kills three guys in the subway | Joker [UltraHD, HDR]

We see what Arthur has to deal with, he’s being made fun of, they take his stuff, beat him up.
Mills about to kill John Doe John Doe does not care about his life, he believes he deserves to die, and we as an audience are also made not to care, he’s less humanized than Arthur which takes on the stance of the time
John Doe in the back of the police cruiser, near the end of the movie, leading the detectives out to a field, they are talking about who John is and why he does what he does

Seven – Scene – Creating expectation for the climax (Youtube)

John clearly never got medication, and is mentally ill, delusional, but the blame is placed solely on him. We are not made to consider his backstory much, even though he had a rough childhood/life (fanwiki). He himself says who he is is of no consequence, as said above. Also, it is important to note he is more human than previous films killers (cultural context: Silence of the Lambs, a psychological horror film, came out in 1991 and was one of the few thrillers to ever receive the best picture oscar. Before, in the 1980s, crime films were more about mute, emotionless killers). This shows more humanization than before, but nothing compared to what we have now, like what is shown in Joker.
Arthur talking to his therapist (for the last time) learning that he will be losing her and his medication due to budget cuts Humanizes him, leads us to sympathize with him more, blames the system instead of him, shows a more modern take on mental health.

8. Selecting Supporting Evidence (Secondary)

  • How much time did you spend: 15 minutes
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.)
Wikipedia – Rodney King “Rodney Glen King (April 2, 1965 – June 17, 2012) was an American author and activist who was a victim of police brutality by the Los Angeles Police Department. On March 3, 1991, King was beaten by LAPD officers after a high-speed chase during his arrest for drunk driving on I-210. A civilian, George Holliday, filmed the incident from his nearby balcony and sent the footage to local news station KTLA.[2]:85 The footage showed an unarmed King on the ground being beaten after initially evading arrest. The incident was covered by news media around the world and caused a public furor. At a press conference, announcing the four officers involved would be disciplined, and three would face criminal charges, Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates said: “We believe the officers used excessive force taking him into custody. In our review, we find that officers struck him with batons between fifty-three and fifty-six times.”… he (Rodney) spoke to reporters from his wheelchair, with his injuries evident: a broken right leg in a cast, his face badly cut and swollen, bruises on his body, and a burn area to his chest where he had been jolted with a 50,000-volt stun gun…Four officers were eventually tried on charges of use of excessive force. Of these, three were acquitted, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on one charge for the fourth.”
How Arthur is just seeking recognition throughout the film and does not care about the political movement he has sparked.
How Seven keeps from showing John Doe committing the murders, and how this is an amazing asset to the story telling and film. Silence of the Lambs, a psychological horror film, came out in 1991 and was one of the few thrillers to ever receive the best picture oscar. Before, in the 1980s, crime films were more about mute, emotionless killers.

*Add more rows as needed.

9. Writing Your Narration

  • How much time did you spend: 1 hour 30 minutes and counting

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 (from the IB)

Area of film focus Film 1 Film 2 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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