28 – The Road

The Road is an post apocalyptic film that centres on a father and son desperately trying to survive the apocalypse. The film is directed by John Hillcoat and was released in 2009. We watched this film as part of film club after school which is why I saw it because normally I tend to avoid these types of films. It was because of this that I had little enthusiasm to watch the film, however after watching it I actually enjoyed the film. The story was very compelling and kept me gripped to the screen throughout.

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The acting throughout the film was superb. In the film the father is played by Viggo Mortensen and the child was played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. The acting feels very natural and enforces the realism that is shown throughout the rest of the film. In preparation for this post I read up about the film on IMBD and in the trivia section it says that both Mortenson and Smit-Mcphee did some obscure things in order to prepare for the roles, including eating crickets together. Mortenson even deliberately starved himself and would sleep in the same clothes at night, this lead to him once being thrown out of a store as the owners thought he was homeless. It was with this dedication and great acting on their behalf that their performance is entirely convincing.

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The film visually looks brilliant which pays credit to the cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe. Every shot has a saturated look which reflects the doomed situation the characters appear to be in. Also there are many wide shots in the film that help to hint at the desolation that has happened to the earth and even though the film never mentions what happened to the earth to cause the apocalypse many of these shots depicting wide scale destruction help the audience to piece together what might have happened.

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Overall the film is not the for the faint hearted as there are bleak themes of death, cannibalism and cataclysm. The problem I have is that I suppose I am a bit faint hearted. However the film is so well made in the sense of visuals and acting that it is still a compelling and engaging film to watch and I did enjoy watching it.

22 – This Is England ’86 (Shane Meadows, 2010) “We’re going to do a montage”

This is a textual analysis post looking at This Is England ’86, the tv series directed by Shane Meadows, in particular we are looking at a 3/4 minute montage in episode 4 that starts at 14:18 and ends at 18:00. In this montage there are a few different plots that are being shown, there is the realisation that Trev has been raped and how she is confronting Lol about the events, Milky and Woody arranging another wedding and Shaun and Combo preparing to visit Combo’s mother.

Camera work:

There are numerous close up shots that act as reaction shots at the start of the montage. This portrays the characters emotions very effectively as all the movements on their face are very easy to see and therefore you can see the pain they are in. These close ups tend to feature more between Lol and Trev where the tone is much more tense, whereas there are more wide shots and mid shots with Milky and Woody where the tone is more comical and light hearted.

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The wide shots of Woody and Milky on the scooters helps to establish the setting of the series as the areas they drive through are run down residential areas. This then helps the audience to understand where the characters live and what kind of class the characters might belong to. Knowing this helps the audience to understand the mind set of the characters in a more in depth way.

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In the shots of Shaun nearer the beginning of the montage he is shown on his own in a mid shot. Visually this makes him look isolated and alone which ties into the ongoing theme of Shaun being quite a lonely character throughout the start of the series at least and emphasises his emotions as he is the focus of the shots.

Sound design:

There is very prominent non diegetic music (not to dissimilar than the above clip) that really establishes the tone of the scene. It is part of a composed score for the series and is played on piano. It stimulates a depressing and sad impression onto the audience. There is dialogue in the scene as well but when it is between Lol and Trev it is muted so the audience has to guess what is being said. As she is explaining she has been raped it makes the scene more dramatic as the exact words she is saying isn’t known but the audience obviously know what has been said. Also the effect of this scene is perhaps reminiscent of the silence that may come in the immediate aftermath of an explosion in other films. This would make sense as the revelation is quite dramatic and in that way is metaphorically like an explosion.

There is a lack of diagetic sound, which is possibly to focus the attention onto the score which is the main driver for the tone of the scene and the dialogue within the scene as well.

Mise-en-scene:

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The colour palette of the montage seems fairly saturated. This reflects the poverty of the area and the difficulties the characters have with progressing through life which therefore gives the film a bleak outlook, also it may represent the dark nature of the themes and the plot throughout the series.

When Mike is in Kel’s room there are posters on the wall which establishes her youth and therefore her vulnerability to the audience as Mike is known to be a dangerous. Kel also has white bedsheets and the colour white can often connote innocence which further further shows the danger that she could potentially be in and how she might not be able to defend herself.

Editing:

There is no particular character who is given the most screen time in this montage, this helps to show there is no one main character within the series and its focus is therefore balanced between its ensemble cast. Also this helps keep the tone with equal amounts of humour and darker tones.

The cross cutting between all the more humorous sections and the darker parts is important as Woody and Milky are trying to arrange another wedding for Woody and Lol and they both appear very optimistic about achieving that, however whenever the montage cuts back to Lol and Trev the audience is reminded of the impending failure that the wedding will likely be as Lol will be in no state to go get married. This forms part of the tragedy that underlies the whole montage.

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8 – Harry Potter

Recent news came out that there was plans for J K Rowling to write a screenplay for Warner Bros for a new film set in the Harry Potter universe that was neither a prequel or a sequel to Potter but simply another story. The story will follow Newt Scamander who wrote a hogwarts textbook Magical Beasts and where to find them and will show him in New York 70 years before the events of harry potter and how he wrote the book. With this news I thought I would analyse the film series and talk about the changes between the films.

During the summer holidays I found a box set of the first 6 Harry Potter films in a discount DVD store for 12 pound which seemed good value for a set of six films so decided to buy it. Over the last few weeks I have been watching the first few films.

Since starting media in year 10 I haven’t actually watched any of the series so this is the first time I have watched them after learning how to analyse films and understand choices that may have been made in the film. The series is particular is quite interesting as it has 8 films which is longer than most other film series and because of this there have been changes throughout the films. Even the critical role of the director has changed throughout the films and the changes are evident within the films from the tone of the film even to the set and costume design. Also this is my 8th blog post and there are 8 films so it seemed appropriate.

So I started with Philosophers Stone which I don’t think I’ve actually watched for over 4 years but was always a childhood favourite of mine. The last time I saw this my voice had not yet broken and I was roughly 12 years old which is the same as the protagonist Harry Potter and I quickly realised upon this viewing I may have been looking back at the film with rose tinted glasses. The whole film seems a lot more cheesy and camp than I remember it. Especially the main trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione who sound like they have all guzzled helium before going on set. Also I don’t know if its just because I have seen the film a few times now and also read the books but the plot didn’t really engage me this time round. I suppose also the target audience is supposed to be children although it seemed to have broadened that as the films went on. Apart from the acting overall it doesnt seem to dated despite coming out over 10 years ago now and the magic and fun is still there but having now seen better written films and more impressive CGI it’s difficult to appreciate the film as much as I used to.

Carrying on with Chamber of Secrets is basically like watching a repeat of philosophers stone. Presumably they filmed these two films almost back to back because the cast are all exactly the same, there is the same tones and themes as the director is still Chris Columbus. However out of the films I probably prefer this one as the plot is more interesting, there’s more mystery and more suspense. The acting is also ever so slightly improved. Yet again though it doesn’t have the same impact it used to, I still enjoyed it but I did start to get a bit bored towards the end of the film.

With Prisoner of Azkaban a new director (Alfonso Cuarón) came to the table and there is definitely a noticeable change. The tone of the film feels more dark than the first 2 films. I think this is mainly achieved through mise en scene as the colour palette of the film is more greys, whites, and blacks rather than the first 2 films which seem more yellow, orange, red and green. The tone may be representing some of the darker ideas in the film like the dementors, which are hooded flying creatures which feature in the film, who suck people’s happiness away from them. The soundtrack composed by John Williams is noticeably different as well as it seems more mysterious and ambient than the recognisable and warm songs in the first 2.

A strange thing happens between scenes in this film which I had not noticed before; when a scene changes the screen fades to black but it spirals from the edge of the frame into the centre then spirals back out to the next scene. It is a really unnatural and strange way to cut and finish a scene and makes it very apparent to the audience that this is a film. I’m not quite sure why the director has decided to use this technique. Unless it is supposed to further represent the dark side of the plot and maybe that the darkness is approaching the characters. Also there is a large living tree called the whomping willow which is seen in short length wide shots throughout the film which represent the seasons changing as it’s leaves may be falling off or it may be covered in snow. This was an effective way of quickly informing the audience as to what time of year the following scene was set in and in this way each shot is an establishing shot.

Physical characteristics of the castle and its environments change in this film including a clock tower and courtyard which are incredibly prominent locations within the film. Also Hagrid’s house and the whomping willow have moved from where they were in chamber of secrets. They are now more on the sides of a large valley and near a large dark forest. The location change is most likely because there new areas look far more visually interesting and magical than the plain grass fields they were in before.

Further changes carry on into the later films so I may continue this post when I have the time.

6 – This is Textual, this is Analysis but most importantly This is England

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This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2007) is a gritty representation of 80s Britain. The film starts with a montage of iconic news clips from the time, set to a song from the same time period. This establishes the setting for the rest of the film in a visually interesting way. A number of the clips may make the audience feel reminiscent of the time period (as long as they were alive of course) and remind them of their own youth which is part of the ongoing theme throughout the film of a coming of age story.

Another strong theme of the film is the British attitude to other cultures and immigration into the country. Towards the end this becomes the critical theme and the nationalist attitude of one character results in the beating up and possible murder of a character simply because of his nationality being different. This reflects some of the attitudes that were present in the time period within Britain which means the film can be called an example British social realism.

The camera work in this film is quite clever as most shots appear to be hand held and filmed at eye level. Also each shot tends to be moving. This adds to the realism of the film and the directors attempt at making scenes feel uncoordinated and almost like a documentary.

In addition to the faux documentary feel many shots stay on for a long period of time and show a great deal of the scene. Obviously in documentary’s sometimes a singular camera would be used as it easier to film. This technique is most prevalent when there is 2 or 3 characters in the scene probably as the more characters are in the scene the more shots would be needed to cover everyone in the scene’s reactions.

The film begins with a montage of news clips regarding the Falklands war amongst other significant moments in the 80s (shown below) which quickly establishes the time and setting of the film. A similar montage is done later in the film which shows more images of the war which is significant to the plot as the protagonist’s father was killed in the war and at the time this montage appears in the film the character is reflecting on his fathers life and questioning wherever or not his dad would be proud of him after witnessing an attack made by a nationalist and aggressive character to a Jamaican character.

There is a grainy texture throughout which is most likely a filter added over the top of the footage in post production which looks like the kind of quality you would expect on a VHS tape which makes the film seem like it could have been filmed at the time, yet again this is another key factor of how the film feels realistic. Also the colours are quite saturated which could be representative of the bleak attitude in the country at the time (due to recession, a lack of jobs and the war etc).

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A great deal of the sound design utilises non diagetic sound and if there is music at least in the first half of the film any music in the film is part of a compiled score of songs from the 80s. The music genre involves a lot of reggae, specifically tracks by the Toots and the Maytals who are famous for reggae and ska music. The Toots and the Maytals come from Jamaica which is significant because of the racial themes throughout the film and the skinheads were associated with being a following for music which was built from new music that was being created between different ethnicities from different countries. There is a scene in the film where this is mentioned and the 2 characters (one of which was originally from Jamaica and one who was from Britain and was a nationalist) get to a point of seeing each other as equal through their taste in the same music.

The third act of the film features a more composed score that is very emotive and matches the dramatic changes occurring in the film. It may also represent the change in the main protagonist as it goes from the fun and more fast paced pop songs to the more sombre and slower music reflecting the character becoming more mature and witnessing the darker sides of some of the other characters. An example of the music is shown below, the following clip makes up the depressing and bleak end to today’s blog.

3 – A Tale of Two Textual Analysis Sections

This is the first textual analysis post I have written and I was shown the following clip starting from 5:51

In the lesson we saw an extract of A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim, Jee-Woon,2004) which depicts a woman alone in a dining room and kitchen who starts to hear unexplained noises and goes to investigate. She then see’s a ghostly image of a girl which then disappears and sees a hair clip appear from nowhere and when reaching to pick it up is grabbed suddenly by a dead arm. She then panics and turns around to see the ghost is right behind her.

To begin I have looked at the camera work in the scene and why certain choices have been made to create an effect on the audience.

The first shot of the scene is an establishing shot at mid-length away from the characters and shows a woman and a man. The man then leaves the room and the shot lingers for an extra couple of seconds which lets the audience know the man is not coming back and the woman is on her own. It also shows the setting as being a dining room.

This shot is followed by a tilted camera angle from behind the table looking up towards the woman. The table is out of focus so the focus is clearly on the woman. From what is seen later on in the scene where a ghost appears in a similar position within the room this could be a point of view shot as the camera is at a weird height and this is a hint at what is to come later. While in this shot the woman hears some noises from the kitchen area and looks towards where the noise has come from alerting the audience to the origin of the sound, in a sense this also makes it a reaction shot.

The next shot is done over the shoulder of the woman and shows the kitchen sink unit she is looking at and slowly tracks towards her. Yet again she is in focus and the background is out of focus, even though the background is where the majority of the movement in the shot is happening. This is done probably to give more attention to the subtle movements that the woman is making in fear of what is happening at the kitchen sink. The tracking towards her shoulder could create more tension as it feels like something is creeping towards her, also it is getting closer to what she is looking at.

There is then a reaction shot of the woman which is a mid shot showing her looking quite scared. This shot the follows her as she walks towards the sink, this was probably achieved with a hand held camera.

A close up of the kitchen sink establishes the sink which is in full focus this time. The woman then enters the shot which means there is not a cut which reduces the awareness of the audience that this is a film which may make them feel more scared.

Again this shot is followed by a reaction shot as the woman has opened the sink and found nothing and she is shown to be relieved.

The rest of the scene follows this pattern. There is an establishing shot of an area, she looks at the area, there is seen to be nothing to be worried of and then a reaction shot shows her relief. Until the end where she goes to pick up a hair pin in a hand held shot which follows her hand down to the pin and the the hand grabs her. Many shots are shown in quick succession which exaggerates the character’s panic.

The soundwork includes using exaggerated breathing from the woman to show she is scared and small noises and creaks which could not have been made by the woman and indicate something else is in the room with the woman without even showing anything. All these sounds are more apparent as there is complete silence between them which helps the audience to jump when there is a sudden loud noise. There also unnatural sounds which build up which make the viewer feel unsettled and represent the unnaturalness of the ghost that is haunting the woman throughout the scene.