Before taking this class, I felt as though I had seen if not heard about almost every movie out there. Thankfully, I am not as small minded about the film industry as I had been. This course has given me a new appreciation for the making and analyzing of films. I had not realized how much work went into the entire behind the scenes stuff, but now I will probably end up watching that part of the DVD extras. I was also under the impression that there would be more critiquing of films and their success. I am much happier that instead we broke down the elements of movie making and got to explore what added or took away from the overall feeling of the film. I am also grateful as this class encouraged me to watch movies I would not have seen otherwise, including all of the foreign films and a few of the silent films.
My least favorite movie would have to be Mephisto. I know a lot of people would disagree with this and I can understand why, but personally I did not find it enjoyable. Partially because the movie was only comprehensible through subtitles as I would write a tweet and miss vital parts of the plot, I found it hard to follow. The ending was brilliant though.
It is hard to choose a favorite movie because there were several that we watched that I really enjoyed. I would have to pick either Hugo or Spirited Away. I adore kid movies and especially after seeing how much time and work went into the making of these – I appreciate them that much more.
This class was most enjoyable and if I could I would definitely take it again.
Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo is a warm-hearted story about an orphan boy who discovers his purpose in life. The audience empathizes with Hugo from the start because it is learned quickly that he has lost both of his parents and is single handedly running the clocks in a train station at such a young age. It is made known how lonely he is until he meets a young girl that wants to have an adventure. Soon enough, the two become friends bonding over the fact that neither have parents. I think this was put into the film, as most children’s movies include deaths of parents, to give hope to young people that have lost their parents. It also teaches the lesson to never give up on your dreams and that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. There are many clocks and gears in the movie to represent time and the idea that many people are needed to make things possible. The key that Isabelle has to make the robot work is symbolic for the idea that her friendship is what was missing in Hugo’s life. This also holds true for Melies as the robot is his missing piece of what he believes to be a failed movie making career. Hugo is a classic kid movie because everyone, even the cold hearted characters, get what they want in the end and even more. Even though Hugo and Isabelle lost their parents, now they have each other. The animation kept the movie interesting as well because it meshed a fantasy world with a real world. This emphasized the message in the story that movies illustrate dreams on a screen. It also attempts to prove the idea that happy endings only occur in movies wrong, even though this is, in fact, just a movie.
Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Spirted Away is an extremely unique film that focuses on a deeper understanding of life through the eyes of a young girl trapped in a ghost world. The audience gets to see a scared little girl named Chihiro who originally clings to her mother’s side in fear, transform into someone so brave she is willing to face sorceresses and take on the supernatural world in a fight for what she loves. The animation allows the filmmaker’s room for ghostlike occurrences throughout the movie without need of special effects or stunts. This is why I believe the film is so likeable. The cartoon aspect of it also appeals to the target audience of young boys and girls and allows them to experience the spirit town in the same way that Chihiro did through imagination.
There were many themes throughout the film but the one that stuck out the most was that love binds people together through connections too deep to be understood completely. It also illustrates that although children are deemed inexperienced and naïve, they sometimes need to remind adults what life is about. Chihiro, although afraid, never gives up on saving her parents or Haku throughout the movie. She accidently invites a “no-face” spirit into the bathhouse, refuses his gold because she doesn’t need it and unintentionally causes trouble, but owns up to it as soon as she realizes what she’s done. She also sticks up for this spirit after he had caused so much destruction because she sees through his mistakes. There is a parallelism between Yubabba and Chihiro that teaches a valuable lesson as well. Yubabba steals from her sister and does not recognize when her baby is turned into a rat because she does not understand what real love is. Chihiro on the other hand, reaches out to help everyone she encounters, especially Haku and her parents. In the end she wins because her bond between her and Haku and her bond between her and her parents overcome the greed and wicked ways of Yubabba.
As humans, we are addicted to the rush of controlled fear. This is why amusement parks and haunted houses are so successful financially. We get the experience of being frightened while deep down knowing that we are perfectly safe. This is also the reason why horror has become such an intriguing genre in the film industry. The objectives of the movies that fall under the horror genre are to be scary or creepy. Generally, a horror is deemed successful if the viewers find themselves uncomfortable even after the movie has ended.
While watching Kurosawa’s Pulse I did not jump out of my seat, which is a feeling I usually expect from horror movies. It felt like more of a suspense film as I anticipated what would happen next but I never felt genuinely scared. It was thought provoking though as the fear registered in my mind when I thought how I would have felt if this had happened to me. That is what made this particular horror movie unique, the scary events took place in a relatable backstory.
Seeing the American take on Pulse, I can easily point out cultural differences. For example, the plot is spelled out to the viewers toward the end, which gave me the impression that the original was much more artsy in that it required the audience to think and interpret the plot themselves. There were also more gory props and “jumpy” moments which are the elements of horror that I am accustomed to. This movie made me realize how similar American horror movies are, down to the plots, the lighting, the characters’ interactions and the sound. I actually did not find this movie terrible, however when compared to Kurosawa’s version it is clear that the original had a lot more going for it to make it a better movie.
The film Blade Runner was definitely one of the more interesting movies of this semester, despite it being a movie of the film noir genre. It most definitely fell under the film noir genre though, which was proven through the many downfalls of each character throughout the movie. The first victim was Rachel, whom, although she ends up living to see the end of the movie, found out that she was a replicant and that all of her beloved memories were implanted into her brain. Another character who held true to the cliché that no good deed goes unpunished was Sebastian. He helped Pris, who seemed to be a hooker but was actually a replicant. This resulted in him watching a man’s skull crushed until he died and then was killed himself by Pris’s other replicant friend Roy. The audience does not have to feel sorry for Sebastian too long as Pris is soon avenged by the blade runner himself, Deckard. No one can catch a break though – soon after Pris’s death Deckard has his fingers broken and is fearfully chased down by Roy. The fight ends when Roy dies as replicants are only allowed four years to live. The idea spoken by Tyrell, the creator of the replicants, which made this life-span justifiable, was that “the candles that burn twice as bright burn half as long”. This can be applied to real life as well although it is a rather depressing way to think.
This movie was very cynical and melodramatic with every scene bringing a new sort of dismay to the characters in it. However, the futuristic setting and complexity of the plot made it very interesting and enjoyable to watch. I definitely think that iRobot was based off of this movie because there were a lot of similarities with the story line and the setting.
The Western genre is a popular one that has become known to most movie-watchers throughout the years. Although there was no tumbleweed in sight, Django and Sukiyaki Western Django shared many aspects of the Western genre throughout their plots.
I noticed that the shots in a Western are very distinct. To raise the suspense, there will be an establishing shot – usually vacant with houses or stores on the sides – that switches to a close-up of each character’s eyes just before a showdown. The music also gets heavier and louder during these violent scenes where fights are always over money and occur no longer than five minutes apart from each other. The deaths are uncountable and gunshots become background noise.
In Django, there was a fight scene where we saw the opponent from each character’s perspective. The filming was shaky but it put the audience in the shoes of the character giving it a feeling of realism. However, in Sukiyaki Western Django, realism was seldom. There was a lot of emphasis on movement as whooshing noises played every time a character swung a sword or so much as turned their head. Comedic exaggeration was present as one person got shot in the stomach and the bullet made a very large, unrealistic hole in the middle of his torso.
Between the two movies culture had a huge hand in the way the plot was carried out. However, the concept of both movies was the same. Different groups would fight each other until there wasn’t anyone left to fight. Both versions of Django the character managed to stylishly get themselves out of the toughest situations. In Django he accurately shoots a man without hands; in Sukiyaki Western Django he whistles for a horse and then escapes by jumping on it out of a window. The message is clear; it is impossible to defeat Django.
The scene that stood out for me the most in Mephisto was the one in which Hendrik professes his love for Barbara. This scene is undoubtedly under a minute but it proves very important to the rest of the film. The reason it stood out to me is because it is very unique compared to the rest of the film and shows a different side of Hendrik.
The lighting is natural as the two are walking in the forest on a bright day. This forest is only shown several times throughout the film which makes it stick out compared to the stage or home scenes. Hendrik is walking backwards, facing Barbara, as he tells her that he loves her. This shows that he does not know where he is going, which he also expresses verbally stating that he is an actor and has trouble distinguishing between his characters and who he really is. It also shows that he is fighting for her attention as she is walking forwards. He then falls to the ground and wraps his arms around her waist, giving her authority and showing that he loves her so much that he will gravel for her. The sound in this scene is also natural. There is not any music playing – it is just the sounds of birds in the forest.
This scene is important to the rest of the film because it shows the amount of hope and promise the couple had before all of their problems began. There is not any sign of turmoil in this part of the movie because the trouble has not struck in Berlin yet. It shows that Hendrik genuinely loved Barbara before everything went wrong. It also makes the audience feel sympathy for her when she has to leave him and also when he sleeps with Juliette. There is no other scene of real romance like this one which is what makes it so memorable.
Sound and music played a big part in A Clockwork Orange. It added suspense, manipulated sense of time, and created a feeling of irony in certain scenes.
The song “Singin’ in the Rain” was very significant for obvious reasons. It was the song Alex sang right before he raped the old man’s wife. It showed just how crazy he was and how he felt absolutely no hesitation or remorse for the sexual crime he was about to commit. It also proved important later in the movie when Alex returned to the old man’s house. Lucky for Alex, the old man did not recognize him until he obliviously sang that song in the bathtub. Sound is connected to memory which makes it very useful in the movie making world.
I found it interesting that every time Alex had an internal monologue there was soft music in the background. This sound was, in a sense, extra-diagetic as it was only information available to the voice in Alex’s head and the audience. However, when Alex was having a conversation with his friends there was no music played at all. This put emphasis on the conversation and added some suspense.
Further proving that sound is connected to memory, after Alex received the treatment for counteracting his acts of sex and violence he was no longer able to listen to Beethoven’s 9th symphony. This is important because it is something that used to bring him joy and now it caused him thoughts of suicide. It proved how effective the treatment was because clearly he could not pretend to hate something he loved.
I did not realize how important sound is to a movie until viewing A Clockwork Orange. The director carefully planned what and when to play music or to have silence which is what made the movie so intriguing.
I chose the scene “The Lost Diadem” from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to focus on editing. I picked this scene partially because I love the movie, and also because it was the first one that came to mind while going over the elements of editing. Since it is a more recent film with a very high budget, the filmmakers had a lot more to work with than most other films.
Something that makes this scene so memorable is the way it smoothly transitions from Harry and Luna’s conversation, to the battle beginning outside the castle, to Voldemort beginning his attack, and then back to the castle where Harry tries to speak with Rowena. The rhythmic relation between these scenes manipulates space as it shows that the two different conversations take place far apart from each other. It gives the opportunity for an establishing shot, which is vital to this scene because it is right before the battle occurs and the audience can see Hogwart’s protection from Voldemort’s point of view. This very effectively creates the relationship between the outside and the inside of the castle. It also controls the story time because it shows two unrelated events occurring in the same scene. The way that there are faint “booms” and sparks in the background of Harry and Rowena’s conversation connects the two shots as well.
Focusing on the shots where Harry is speaking with Rowena, there are a lot of elements of editing that make what would be a boring scene, much more enjoyable to watch. Since Rowena is a ghost, she moves quickly and freely in and out of the hallway the two characters are in. Not only does this create for many different camera angles, but it emphasizes Harry’s desperation as he briskly follows her and begs for her help.
By taking a closer look at editing I was able to appreciate this movie even more. It is not just the plot and characters of a movie that are important, but how they are presented as well.
Contempt was a very interesting film that played on various elements of mise-en-scene and cinematography.
A prominent element of mise-en-scene that was used was the type of acting. The scene that stood out for me the most in this respect was when the couple was having a conversation from two different rooms in the house – Camille was trying on her wig and Paul was in the bathroom. This scene had such natural acting in it as anyone that has shared a home with someone can relate to those through-the-wall conversations. The camera movement played a large role in this too as the couple is seldom seen together, but most of their dialogue is said with the focus on each character. The acting was also important in this scene as Camille’s nonchalant answers build up Paul’s frustration, causing him to lash out at her later.
Cinematography was played on with the speed of motion in the scene where the couple goes to the theater. There is loud music as the performer sings and people dance. Then, suddenly, the music and singing stops and the camera immediately switches to the audience members – Camille, Paul, the translator, and the director – as lines are exchanged. This was most likely done to emphasize how chaotic the American director’s ideas for the Odyssey were becoming. It also draws attention to the couple’s tension as not long after these switches take place, Paul is badgering Camille asking her why she despises him. The framing in this scene was also just as important as the lovers did not sit directly next to each other in the audience. They sat with the aisle in between them, causing the focus to be on either one or the other. This draws on the new separation that they were feeling. It should also be noticed that Paul sat next to the American director as if to show why Camille would not be sitting next to him.
This movie was very interesting and taught me a lot about mise-en-scene and cinematography.