Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department

Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures



Faculty Mentor Department

Modern and Classical Languages

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Robert Tuck

Faculty Reader(s)

Dr. Eliot Graham, Dr. Rachel Gross


Pan's Labyrinth, Waking Life, Inception, Encoding and Decoding messages, experimental film, interdisciplinary studies

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Critical and Cultural Studies | Film and Media Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Visual Studies


The purpose of this study was to understand how film viewers contextualize on-screen alternate realities with their personal perspectives, and if that is accurately represented by scholarly film critique. I then compared my findings with filmmaker interviews, which discuss their reasons for including specific imagery, symbols, and characters to evoke certain emotions or reactions from their audiences. My project aspired to offer a method that might redefine how viewers reflect on films and to open a discussion to gather data from audiences before assuming their reactions in film critique. I was always fascinated by the power of cinema, particularly how absurd scenes stuck in my mind for years afterward and changed my perspectives on life. This project developed as I wanted to discover whether other viewers had similar reactions, or if they interpret the films completely different than I would have analyzed myself. I hosted a three-part film series of Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and Richard Linklater’s Waking Life (2001) at the University of Montana in November 2017 and February 2018. Participants who attended the separate events took part in a forty minute discussion immediately after the film, as a form of my qualitative research. The discussion consisted of a set of open-ended questions to determine specific film aspects that were most important to the participants. I hypothesized that the viewers would find the most absurd or grotesque scenes to be most vividly memorable, but to compensate for the alienating nature of the alternate reality, they would subconsciously gravitate toward scenes depicting a positive human exchange or connection by overcoming negative struggles. I based my concept on the logic that the viewer has more firsthand experiences of human relationships rather than absurd dreamscapes and depicted character imaginations.

Honors College Research Project




© Copyright 2018 Courtney Wunderwald