The Phenomenological Response

This response method acknowledges that each of us has a subjective independent response while watching a film. We laugh, we cry, we get invloved in the characters and storylines. These are all complex response reactions that one can have while watching a film.

When you jump in a thriller, laugh in a comedy, cry in a drama, these are all complex responses that make the experiential nature of movie-going so fascinating. This is called our ‘phenomenological” response to viewing a film, it engages us with the film, and there are filmmaking techniques employed to elicit this response —  jump cutting, the slow reveal and the music soundtrack — are all techniques employed to get a bodily response when watching a film.

The simple rules below enable groups to first discuss these responses without judgement and allow the experience to be discussed in a group setting.

Use the steps below to give you a framework for beginning to analyse film together in a group.


Talk about your responses to the following questions

“Gut” response: How did watching the film affect you—your body, your feelings and your thoughts?

“Storyline” response: How do you make sense of, and/or experience the way the story was told through film; it’s use of characters, images, sounds, music, etc?

“Values” response: How do you make sense of, and/or experience the values and the important significant ideas that appear to be portrayed in the film?


After the film, as you feel led, talk about your “gut”, “storyline” and “values” response with the group. This will help to start people talking about their experience of watching the film.

Remember we all tend to see and experience things differently. Watching a film is a subjective experience. There are many interpretations that can be discussed.

There are no right or wrong answers, just diverse responses and insights.

Groups can then move to discuss questions from the guides listed in the Discussion Guides section of this website. New discussion guides are added every few weeks.


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