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Writing an AS-level film essay

In the run-up to the first of the new AS French exams you might find this resource useful. It is a sample resource from and includes a model essay I wrote for Les 400 Coups. The mark scheme extracts are from AQA, but I daresay this would be useful for teachers working with Pearson or Eduqas. Note that this is my personal guidance, not official material from AQA.

Writing an AS-level essay on film or literature

What do the examiners want?

Essay length: for guidance - about 250 words

AQA mark scheme

Content (20 marks)
Top marks: Very good critical response to the question set. Knowledge of the text or film is consistently accurate and detailed. Students consistently use appropriate evidence to justify their points of view, develop arguments and draw conclusions based on their understanding of the text or film
Quality of language (15 marks)
Top marks: The language produced is generally accurate, but there are some minor errors. The student shows a generally good grasp of grammar and is often able to manipulate complex language accurately. The student uses a good range of vocabulary appropriate to the context and the task.

General approach

Choosing the best title
Make sure you opt for the title which allows you to make the most content points with some detailed analysis.

You have over an hour to write your essay. Allow 5 minutes for planning and 5 minutes for checking. You should have time for a rough draft. The essay is not long.

5 minutes: Note down the key points you wish to make in your essay. Write them down with examples.

Make each key point stand out in separate paragraphs. Imagine the examiner looking for good content and ticking it in the margin.
You can get a high mark with 250 words, but you would be advised to write more provided it is relevant. Do not waste words on an introduction and lengthy conclusion. Use the bullet points for guidance – they are there to help you. Focus on concise and relevant content, avoid ‘telling the story’, make a point, justify it with reference to the text or film, then move on. Aim to cover a minimum of five main points. Don’t repeat yourself or include anything irrelevant. Don’t keep referring to the title – you cannot waste words.

Do a systematic check of spelling and grammar. Is it all relevant?

Make every sentence interesting, but do not waste words on learned formulae which add little to the content. The challenge is to be clear and concise.

Example essay title based on the film Les 400 Coups

Faites le portrait d’Antoine. Dans quelle mesure est-ce qu’on peut justifier son comportement ? Vous pouvez utiliser les points suivants :

· comment il est physiquement
· comment est son tempérament
· un événement important dans sa vie d’adolescent
· une scène qui illustre bien son caractère.


Phys appearance not so impt. Key: justify his behaviour? 1. Focus on family background, neglect, 2. mischievous, impulsive character, consequences of acts 3. poor education,  4. petty crime; theft of typewriter  5. Flight from detention centre

Example essay

Antoine Doinel vit dans un minuscule appartement à Paris. Nous le voyons s’occuper souvent de lui-même, descendre la poubelle, préparer le feu pour ses parents qui lui prêtent peu d’attention. A part une soirée passée ensemble au cinéma, les rapports entre l’enfant et les parents manquent d’affection. C’est surtout une mère attentive dont Antoine a besoin.

Abandonné, Antoine est un enfant espiègle. Nous le voyons faire l’école buissonnière, mentir aux professeurs et aux parents et même recourir au vol pour subvenir à ses besoins. La nuit où il erre dans les rues de Paris, obligé de voler du lait pour ne pas avoir faim, il est difficile de ne pas avoir de la sympathie pour ce garçon négligé.

Il n’est pas sans talent. Il adore lire les livres de Balzac et garde même un petit autel pour lui. Malheureusement, sa réputation à l’école est telle que, quand il fait un excellent devoir, le professeur est sûr qu’il a dû tricher. L’école autoritaire et sans imagination de cette époque n’encourageait pas des enfants comme Antoine.

Mais on ne peut pas nier qu’Antoine est impulsif, ne pense pas aux conséquences de ses actes et fait des choses non seulement immorales mais illégales. Le vol de la machine à écrire en est un exemple. Si ses parents avaient pu vraiment s’intéresser à lui on a l’impression qu’il se serait mieux comporté.

Dans l’entretien au foyer pour les jeunes délinquants nous voyons un enfant plutôt amoral qu’immoral. Un innocent qui aurait pu réussir avec des parents ou une éducation différents. A la fin, la vision de la mer offre d’autres possibilités pour l’avenir. Rien ne justifie son comportement, mais il est facile à comprendre.

280 words


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