Story telling tools in film juxtapositions in film our paper sample

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Juxtapositions in cinema

The simple definition of juxtaposition is the act of placing things side-by-side (Vesterman, 1995). In cinema this is usually done in order to create a deeper sense of suspense, particularly when using two different opposing or contrasting element in the film. The intension of using juxtaposition in a film is to draw the attention of the viewers to the differences or similarities between elements (Vesterman, 1995, p. 6).

A perfect example is when juxtaposition is used in terms of formal elements. For instance, the use of violent mark-making to an area having some organized shadings. This can also be attained in an area of crumbly detail against something gently handled. Commonly, when juxtaposition is used in this way it is commonly referred to as imagery or concepts (Pomerance, 2006).

The importance of juxtaposition in a film`s storyline

The use of juxtaposition in films helps in adding depth to any form of a storyline. It creates contrast, one of the fundamentals of dichotomy, boldness, and subtlety (Vesterman, 1995). In other words, juxtaposition enables people to take two apparently irreconcilable things and link them in a way that highlight them to an even greater advantage. Additionally, juxtaposition gives the viewers a charming scoundrel such as Clockwork orange by Stanley Kubrick: The scene where Alex Delarge played by Malcolm McDowell attacks the writer in his home and tortured him and his wife while singing ‘dancing in the rain’ and obsessively loved antiheroes such as the Phantom of the Opera (Vesterman, 1995, pp. 56-59).

Juxtaposition offers an endlessly fascinating process that permits people to deepen their characters. This helps in bringing the originality, memorability and intensity of a film. Other benefits of using juxtaposition in a film is that it helps in making a clear variation of two objects and learn from those objects, it help in revision, reviewing and adjustment of a point; and lastly it helps in making a correction from a comparison among other benefits (Wilson-Tagoe, 1998).

Many filmmakers use juxtapositions to bring about emotional effects. For instance, Shakespeare uses juxtaposition to show the differences that appear between Romeo`s and Mercutio`s emotions of love in his well-known idealistic epic “Romeo and Juliet.” For Romeo, he uses words to express pure love whereas those that are used for Mercutio mainly express bodily impulses and sensual gratification. The juxtaposition in this film has actually been used skillfully to bring about the contrasting personalities.

Another importance of juxtaposition in films is to depict visual ideas. For example, a couple where the wife is too short and the husband is very tall represent juxtapose of contrast. Similarly, the use of a song “What a wonderful world” by Michael Moore in the war scene brings about a contrasting and situational juxtaposition.

Finally, juxtaposition in most films is used in tracing characters. Charlie Chaplin`s famous character has occasionally been framed out to represent juxtaposition of contrast. It evidently reveals hilarity when a billionaire picks up a candy on the highway and starts to eat it.

Comparison of juxtaposition and other storytelling tools

There are numerous devices used in film`s storyline to make it livelier. As discussed above, juxtaposition is one of these tools that helps in creating suspense and add depth in a story. Apart from juxtaposition, there is foreshadowing, which occur when a filmmaker suggests future events or outcomes in a story. Just like juxtaposition, foreshadowing usually take various forms and can be attained by the use of changing notches of subtlety.  Nonetheless, if the results or the outcomes are intentionally and plainly exposed early in the story, such information does not establish foreshadowing (Pomerance, 2006).

A good example of foreshadowing is well revealed in the “Awakening”, the scene where Edna finally learns how to swim foreshadows the ending where she commits suicide by swimming to her death. When we close read the swimming scene, we see that Edna wanted to swim far out, “where no woman had swum before.” The danger of this journey is foreshadowed by Edna’s moment of terror at thought of not being able to regain the shore (a metaphor of social conventions and gender norms in Chopin’s time). At the end of the story, Edna recalls this scene, and this time continues swimming out, unafraid now, even though her strength will fail her.

Irony is another storytelling tool that is used where an event happens unexpectedly (Vesterman, 1995, p. 45). This event is usually mocking or absurd opposition to what is appropriate or expected. A good example of irony happens in the Harper Lee`s book-To Kill a Mockingbird when Boo Radley, who at the beginning had ironically been a suspicion and fear object to Jem and Scout saved them.

Another storytelling tool is symbolism. This entails the use of images or objects to represent an idea abstractedly. This tool is commonly misrepresented, especially when describing a relationship that is frequently metaphorical than symbolic. Therefore, a symbol should be something visible or tangible and the symbolized idea must be universal or abstract (Wilson-Tagoe, 1998).

According to (Martin, 2012), characterization is used by many authors in storytelling to convey to all the readers a personality character, physical attribute, value, and life history. Atticus in the “To Kill a Mockingbird” book by Harper Lee is characterized as an honorable man, constantly doing what is right and conveying impeccable right values to his children.

There is also what is commonly referred to as figurative language, which involves the use of language where the anticipated meaning varies from the real meaning of the words used (Pomerance, 2006). There are other numerous techniques that can be used in storytelling for it to be called figurative language. These include simile, personification, metaphors, oxymoron, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and verbal irony among others. Other tools that are commonly used in storytelling include foil, imagery, mood, repetition, protagonist, setting, theme, tone, and tragedy among other tools.

Types of juxtapositions and how they are used

Literally, there are two major types of juxtapositions that are commonly used in film  (Vesterman, 1995). These include random juxtaposition and literary juxtaposition. When literary juxtapositions are used in films they are presented as an arrangement of two or more opposing characters, ideas, or objects. This is done side-by-side or even in a similar narratives to create effects (Vesterman, 1995, p. 8).

Random juxtapositions are used to bring about the relationship between more than two ideas or subjects in parallel. This is done by placing and comparing them  (Pomerance, 2006). They are very essential juxtapositions, especially when it comes to stimulating crazy and creative ideas that are away from the stereotype. In other words, random juxtapositions are used to create a new experience to start off new ideas. It brings the attitude of being open to the outside influences. When using random juxtaposition in film one cannot look at something in a new way but can look at it the old way (Vesterman, 1995, p. 14).

There are other types of juxtapositions that are also used in filmmaking. These include radical juxtaposition, ironic juxtaposition and pastiche juxtaposition.

How juxtaposition are usually done

In films, especially along the storytelling, juxtapositions are used in order to create or further the plot of the story (Hagebölling, 2004). They also provide a sense of context, especially on the events that take place. For example, the romantic Romeo and the impulsive Tybalt in Shakespeare are juxtaposed so that they can create more natural interactions.  The recklessness of Tybalt caused an ultimate and duel murder of Mercutio and this in turn prompted Romeo to defend the honor of Mercutio (Pomerance, 2006, p. 67).

In filmmaking, pictures and music are used to bring about suspense and images that most viewers will never forget (Hagebölling, 2004). For example, the song “Singing in the Rain” is played in “A Clockwork Orange Film” to feature violent rape. The contrast made between the cheery song and the ominous images brings about a very unforgettable image to most viewers.

Most filmmakers also like using juxtapositions on the level of a plot-mash together with intercut and plots from one to the other and back again. For example, each episode in the film “Lost” uses this format of juxtaposition. In this film, having the Present Day Island A-storyline and the Flashback B-storyline portrays key background details concerning the protagonist story of the Island. The A and B storyline loop back and forth on each other, commenting on the psychology and the origin of the characters.

Another way on how juxtaposition is used in films is by placing together two intrinsically contrary witness and characters that triggers soar (Bolton, 2009). Neil Simon in “The Odd Couple” uses this format of juxtaposition. He uses soft-spoken, neat-freak, and soft-hearted Felix Ungar and his burly, brusque, sloppy very best friend Oscar Madison in an indistinguishable place in their lives and they have to share a common space to live.

Shakespeare is another good master when it comes to the use of juxtaposition in film, especially in the characters. For instance, in the “Othello” Moor General falls in love with the white who was an upper-class. This represented societal inter-relation that is dramatized to a heartbreaking result. Another film that used juxtaposition of incongruous environment and character is the “Fish out of Water”. The reason why filmmakers maximize their potential on dramatic and comedic narratives by placing action or characters in unexpected environments is to make the film more exciting (Wilson-Tagoe, 1998).

The effects of juxtaposition on the audience

Juxtapositions play an important role in today`s films. Most often, it is used as a tool of provoking hilarity. The aim is usually to dam audience with superficially incongruous and even conflicting imagery that queries objective meaning and draw responsiveness to the qualities of every section of a film. Normally, juxtapositions spread beyond direct positioning of words next to each other in a more specific sense to subdue connections between elements and highlight differences. This helps in creating puzzlement to the audience (Vesterman, 1995).

Most filmmakers use juxtapositions in form of images to give the audience or the viewers a great alertness idea. Basically, they inflect images in the film to create contrast thus gaining viewers` alertness. Based on this effect of juxtaposition, a filmmaker always has a chance to convey whatever he/she wants to the audiences. Sometimes “juxtapositions are used in films to create tension, humor, suspense, character, or even bringing about a rhetorical effect to the film viewers” (Wilson-Tagoe, 1998, p. 44). This is actually achieved after crafting and arranging the use of image carefully to bring a more powerful audience`s response. For instance, in 1972 film “The Godfather,” a baby was baptized while violent scenes were being shown at the same time. This brings about a range of reactions including sadness and emotions.

Filmmaker Michael Moore in the film “Fahrenheit 9/11” uses scenes of war and violence while playing a song “What a Wonderful World” in the background. The intention of Michael Moore was to evoke anger or frustration emotions within the audience or viewers of the film. According to (Bowman, 2010) highlights, the whole idea in the use of juxtapositions in film is usually to create powerful imagery thus bringing audience along the storyline of the film.

Films where juxtaposition has been used

In films, juxtapositions are mainly used to define situations that are contrasting (Martin, 2012). For instance, if someone is being killed, and it happens that a happy tune is been played in the film, then that is juxtaposition. A good example of a film that features juxtaposition quite effectively is the “Sea of Love” a thriller film of 1989 featuring Al Pacino. It features juxtaposition from the beginning.

1.      Juxtaposition in the introductory scene

The movie begins with pan shot of the city, a lovely jazz music, notwithstanding the introductory scene portraying a horrific night life with prostitutes. However the jazz music is used as juxtapose to contrast the horrible night life. As the film continues and some classic hits start to play from the record system, some sexual noises are heard coming from the room before slow sprawling shots enter the bedroom. Here juxtaposition is used again to reveal that a man was being tortured before being killed.

2.      Juxtaposition within the film “Sea of Love”

From what happens in the beginning of the film in terms of juxtaposition, the audience are aware that the film`s song is actually going to reveal a juxtaposing theme in the entire film. A neighbor noticed a corpse and left her house to knock on the door in what should be a casual “can you please turn that music down” only to find a murdered body in the house. Frank Keller, one of the main characters revealed by Pacino, frequently listened to the music and occasionally had it playing in his head, especially when he thought of sorrow and loss in his life. The officers sung the song at the party table in an event that Frank had started to realize his losses in life, his dismal future and age.

3.      Juxtaposition portrayed in the film`s characters

After Frank Keller reveals a scheme that was to be used in capturing the lipstick killer, he eventually came across a femme fatale dressed girl. The lady that Ellen Barkin portrayed had a femme fatale look in her eyes. This lady looked like she was the killer. However, juxtaposition was revealed when they realized that the lady was a suffering mother because her ex-lover had declined to be a father. This juxtaposition is a perfect one because she dressed as a femme fatale, yet she was truly a working mother.

This film is a perfect example when it comes to revealing the best examples of juxtaposition. Actually, it uses juxtaposition flawlessly throughout, especially in key points of the film. Majority of the juxtapositions use classic song and the title of the film “Sea of Love.”

Fahrenheit 9/11 is another film that uses juxtaposition in many ways. In the film some elements of juxtaposition are used. One example is when Michael Moore plays the song ‘What a Wonderful World” yet he was playing war and violence scenes. In the Romeo and Juliet film, there is a wide usage of good juxtapositions in terms of contrast. For instance, the youth and the old age, servants and nobles, the love-sick Romeo and fiery Tybalt, the old nurse and young Juliet, the passion of Romeo and Juliet`s wit and finally the raucous public feast and the private whispers of the lovers among other examples.

In the Gattaca film, there is juxtaposition between Jerome’s death and Vincent blasting off into space. What happens in the film is that in a medium shot, when Jerome pushes the button to start the fire, the film cuts to the spaceship blasting off from different angles. Then it cuts to a close up of Vincent opening his eyes on board the spaceship. This juxtaposition shows how both Jerome and Vincent both won what they wanted in the end. Vincent got into space and Jerome finally won ‘gold’, there’s an insert shot of Jerome’s medal, turned from silver to gold in the fire, and became free of his burden of perfection. This film will touch the heart of many audiences, make them cheer for the main character, and show how anyone can be a winner if they try.

Famous film directors that often use juxtaposition in filmmaking

Nicholas Roeg

He is a well-established British director and is well known for his film “Performance” that was completed in 1968 and released in 1970. He combined the appeal of superstar Mick Jagger, rock music, sex, and drugs. Most of his films are built on polar contrasts. A good example in the film “Performance” he automatically moves the audience by showing the opening and closing of doors and drawers to relate events in different places and times (Martin, 2012). Most of his contrast in films usually has a thematic role. In another film “Walkabout” he used contrast when the urban children were initially seen swimming together in a pool near a body of natural water. Their clothes were contrasted using the snake’s belts of the natives. He used contrast throughout in the entire film.

Tim Burton

He is well-known for his amazing juxtaposed films like the “Beetlejuice” and the “Edward Scissorhands.” He has continuously used juxtaposition in form of visual stylization and fantasy. Most of his film work mirrors the mass culture of the post-World War II.  Mirroring other scenarios and texts according to Linda Hutcheon`s “Theory of Parody” has given him a way of justifying his film work. Burton in the film “Vincent” used a combination of 2D and 3D methods to bring about a spatial separation and define areas of screen space. This helped him in reinforcing the binary juxtapositions in the entire film.

Sergei Eisenstein

For a long time this film director has been known as “the father of montage editing theory.” He is one of the best and important filmmakers in Soviet. Most of his films he has used juxtapositions to bring about a third meaning from two different images. A good example is “The Battleship Potemkin” where he used a lot of juxtapositions to demonstrate his theories on montage editing.

Other most celebrated filmmaker, especially when it comes to the use of different types of juxtapositions in their films include Charlie Chaplin, Luis Bunuel, Terrence Malick, Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard, Kenji Mizoguchi, John Ford, and Takashi Miike among other directors.

Stage of film’s production where juxtapositions are usually introduced

Film normally uses juxtaposed texts on film footage that is already edited (Vesterman, 1995). Both the opening and closing of a film usually credit some feature footages with some companies` names and key crew and cast. Most often, juxtapositions, especially the texts can be used in any part of the film. They are most effective “when used in scenes that give additional text details concerning the time frame or the location of the specific names, the story, and descriptions that aid the audiences or viewers to understand better what is happing in the film`s storyline” (Bowman, 2010, p. 79).

The process of juxtaposition in a film

Juxtaposition in a film usually begins by getting the necessary program for editing the movie. This helps in creating a new film project (Bowman, 2010). Once this is done, video footage is then imported from the project window to the Editing Timeline. The next step involves selecting the part of the film footage usually on the editing timeline that needs to be juxtaposed either using an image or a text. Based on the type of editing program that a filmmaker is using, one should select the Make Titles also called Text Option or Credits. This is done manually by typing the required texts on the selected film footage (Vesterman, 1995).

The next step requires creativity because it involves adjusting the time duration and the attributes of the text based on the filmmaker`s preferences. Most often than not, the attributes include the size, the font name and the color. It is also necessary to choose the best part or location that one needs the juxtaposed texts to occur in the screen. If need be, one can also add extra effects on the film such as transitions and animations on the text. As a filmmaker, one should always remember that all these options vary from one video-editing program to the other (Smith, 2001).

The final stage involves rendering the film in order to finalize the juxtaposition of the video and text among other effects that may be added when editing the film. Once this is done, the final part is to actually export the juxtaposed and edited film in the preferred video file format. Some of the commonly used formats include AVI,MOV, WMV, and MP4 among other formats (Martin, 2012).


Bolton, M. S. (2009). Mosaic of Juxtaposition:The Narrative Strategy of William S. Burroughs. New York: ProQuest.

Bowman, B. (2010). Its Juxtaposition. London: iUniverse.

Hagebölling, H. (2004). Interactive Dramaturgies:New Approaches in Multimedia Content and Design. New York: Springer.

Martin, D. R. (2012). Juxtaposed: Finding Sanctuary on the Outside. Berlin: Christopher Matthews Publish.

Pomerance, M. (2006). Cinema and Modernity. London: Rutgers University Press.

Smith, T. (2001). Impossible Presence: Surface and Screen in the Photogenic Era. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Vesterman, W. (1995). Juxtapositions:Connections and Contrasts. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wilson-Tagoe, N. (1998). Historical Thought and Literary Representation in West Indian Literature. Chicago: James Currey Publishers.

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