(born 1950) is a film theorist
and author whose research interests include the close formal analysis of films, the history of film styles, and "quality television
", a genre akin to art film
. She wrote two scholarly books in the 1980s which used an analytical technique called neoformalism
. As well, she has co-authored two widely-used film studies textbooks.
1970s and 1980s
Thompson earned a master's degree in film studies
at the University of Iowa
(1973) and a Ph.D. in film studies at Wisconsin.
She has held teaching positions at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Iowa, Indiana University, the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Stockholm.
In 1979, she co-wrote a prominent film textbooks: Film Art: An Introduction with David Bordwell, her husband. Film Art, currently in its eighth edition (2006), was originally published in 1979 and has become a standard in the field of film aesthetics. To date, it has been translated into seven languages.
Thompson predominantly relies on an analytical method drawn from Russian Formalism known as neoformalism. This method formed the basis for her dissertation, which subsequently became her first scholarly book, titled Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible: A Neoformalist Analysis. Neoformalism is also the basis for her later book, Breaking the Glass Armor.
1990s and 2000s
In 1994, she co-wrote another textbook with Bordwell, Film History
. In early 2001 she did a series of lectures at Oxford University. She holds an honorary fellowship in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thompson argues that a small number of television shows stand out as quality television
shows, due to their use of "...a quality pedigree
, a large ensemble cast
, a series memory, creation of a new genre
through recombination of older ones, self-consciousness, and pronounced tendencies toward the controversial and the realistic . She claims that television shows such as Twin Peaks
, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, The Sopranos
, and The Simpsons
exhibit traits also found in art films
, such as psychological realism, narrative complexity, and ambiguous plotlines.
She notes that David Lynch's Twin Peaks television series have "...a loosening of causality, a greater emphasis on psychological or anecdotal realism, violations of classical clarity of space and time, explicit authorial comment, and ambiguity." She compares Lynch's film Blue Velvet and the television series Twin Peaks and "...asks whether there can be an "art television" comparable to the more familiar "art cinema."
As well, she points out that series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, and The Simpsons "...have altered long-standing notions of closure and single authorship", which means that "...television has wrought its own changes in traditional narrative form." She states that The Simpsons, use a "...flurry of cultural references, intentionally inconsistent characterization, and considerable self-reflexivity about television conventions and the status of the programme as a television show."
Lord of the Rings
In the mid-2000s, Thompson's interest in Hollywood norms led her to write a book about the popular fantasy trilogy the Lord of the Rings
. Entitled, The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood
and published by the University of California Press, this books "...examine[s] the larger phenomenon of this hugely successful franchise, examining the film’s making but also its marketing via the Internet, its merchandising (particularly DVDs and video games), and its impact on world cinema."
- Thompson, Kristin (1981). Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible: A Neoformalist Analysis. Princeton Univ Press.
- Thompson, Kristin (1988). Breaking the Glass Armor. Princeton Univ Press.
- Bordwell, David; Kristin Thompson (2006). Film Art: An Introduction. Eighth edition, New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Bordwell, David; Kristin Thompson (1994 (2002)). Film History: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.
The Frodo Franchise
The Frodo Franchise
' is an important work of independent scholarship. It is based on the author's own research, which included interviews with many of the artists,writers,and business people who participated in the making of The Lord of the Rings
motion pictures. It is a nonfiction book. Many people who were involved in the making of the film assisted with Kristin Thompson's research by providing the information and materials to her. This is a behind-the-scenes examination by author Kristin Thompson
of The Lord of the Rings
as a contemporary cinema phenomenon. It explores in depth the effect the making of this film had on New Zealand as a whole and is still having.