In this essay I am going to compare two excerpts taken from the big screen. These are the motion picture ‘Godzilla’ and the sophisticated thriller, ‘Dead Again’. Dead Again is based around murderer who uses scissors as his weapon to commit homicide against his unfortunate victim. It’s target audience is an adult one as the story is complex and focuses not just on one event throughout the film. Also much of it is based within a prison and is unsuitable for younger viewing. In ‘Dead Again’, the scene of the film we are shown is a dream, set in low-key lighting however the rest of the scene is in high-key lighting. When studying this scene, we realise the reason for this dream to be in low-key lighting is for dramatic effect making the clip more intense.
Alternatively, Godzilla is a modern science fiction story, where computer graphics and modern technology are engineered to create a realistic atmosphere but with surreal events taking place. This film has a suggested audience of 8-12 year olds as, although the film contains section of destruction, it is based upon a killer monster and contains some light-hearted, childish humour. All films have the same fundamentals to work upon. These are; what the characters should wear, how they speak, their positioning on set and the lighting they are shown in. As the two films are both of different genres, they manipulate their use of lighting accordingly.
The most obvious difference between the excerpts is that ‘Dead Again’ is in low-key lighting, and ‘Godzilla’ is in high-key lighting. High-key lighting is simply replicating ‘The Real World’ within the studio. Low-key lighting however, is using light to heavily represent the figure’s personality within that frame. It is designed to show a clear indication of the character’s portrayal without having to delve too deep into the mind. This may help not only in a complex plot, but can also make a scene seem more intense through the sharp contrast of dark and light colours. This also adds to a sense of mystery, thus making it an ideal technique to be used for ‘Dead Again’ as the mood it creates matches the genre of the excerpt studied.
The studied clip ‘Dead Again’ starts with an interview between Mr. Baker, the journalist, and Strauss, a murderer on death row. As Strauss is the accused murderer, he sits in shadow, wearing darkly coloured prison clothes. On the other hand, Mr. Baker is seen in a bright white suit demonstrating his good character. Both men are sitting down in large, dimly lit, barely furnished room with only two chairs and a table.
This is because the dim lighting adds an eerie touch to the whole scene. The sparse furnishings draw your attention more towards the way in which both Mr. Baker and Strauss are acting. Finally, the light also puts the two warders, who are walking Strauss to his death, in shadow. This is possibly because they have no remorse for where they are leading this man, or perhaps they are merely considered unimportant to the scene. Godzilla however does not employ lighting to the same effect. It uses light simply to create realism thus making us feel as if the events that occur within the film could just as easily happen in our own lives. Also, it uses lighting to set a mood. The bright sun evokes happy emotions so that the subsequent rising of ‘Godzilla’ from the sea seems, by contrast, even more shocking.
The camera can be deployed to affect us in more ways than we realise, and its usage often acts on our minds subconsciously in the sense that we do not think deeply about its psychological ploys whilst viewing a film. In the clip of ‘Dead Again’ we see how the director has integrated the use of camera into his film production. The camera starts alternating quickly between the characters that are in conversation. This fast skipping between them gives a sense of urgency, which is appropriate for the main character, his being on death row. However, contrastingly, Strauss maintains a ‘cool, calm and collected’ since his true focus is elsewhere, i.e. on the murder he plans to commit.
This is made manifest when he takes the scissors used to cut his hair, with the intention of performing murder. As his success in obtaining these is the vital event within this scene, the camera is used in close up. It draws your attention to it. You then see Strauss looking at Baker. You see it from Strauss’ point of view. As if you are looking from the outside in; from the shadows into the light. It lets you feel as if you are Strauss, quietly and confidently looking into the eyes of a good and innocent man, yet feeling no mercy for the crime you are about to commit. Following this there is a jump cut. This really creates a touch and go atmosphere and is a device designed to put the audience on the edge of their seats. The corridor Strauss has to walk down is made to look very long and daunting. This effect is created by using a long shot.
As soon as Mr. Baker realises the plan you see him appear in the distance of the long shot. This distance makes your heart rush and you truly wonder if he can make it in time to save Strauss’ victim. Strauss’ eyes never stray from his victim. His eyes do not even flicker when he walks in and out of bright lights. It clearly represents the determination of Strauss. On both sides of the corridor are cells, and you can hear the riotous prisoners within, yet this does not distract him either. There is a continuous close up shot of Strauss’ hand as he reaches for the scissors which accentuates the film’s climax – the murder of his victim.
Music is a medium that evokes emotions. For this reason it has the power to provoke a wide array of feelings whilst watching a film. It can prompt tears or laughter; make you feel light-hearted or deeply thoughtful. Because of these effects, music tends to play a key role in films. Sound Bridges are where sounds are carried between camera views so as to keep the mood the same in between different sections of the film. In ‘Dead Again’ you hear the chanting of vicious inmates at the prison. It gives you a real insight into what it is like in a prison. Strauss begins to hum whilst walking out of the room. His humming is amplified at the expense of the prisoners’ tumult which fades away. As soon as he stops humming the sound bridge continues and Mr Baker has figured out the riddle, the music instantly becomes louder.
Violins play a shrieking staccato tune. Each small piercing burst of music makes you shiver – makes you tense. The tempo of the music increases and so does the volume. Faster, louder, faster, louder until Baker realises he is too late and Strauss reaches the end of the corridor. The music reaches its peak, but is cut short by a piercing scream of a woman. The base to the music matches the main chorus of instruments; however the lower note played reminds you of a heartbeat. It gets the audience caught up in the situation. As this happens their heartbeats also quicken along with the tempo of the music and the speed of the action on screen.
The Mise en Scene consists of many different components. It takes into account the make-up, costume, language and setting. It lets you know clearly what era and genre you are dealing with. In ‘Dead Again’ the language used along with the tone of voice determines the atmosphere in the film. Strauss uses riddles to try and give Mr Baker clues. He speaks in a tone of voice which indicates he is mocking the journalist because he knows that he does not understand, and cannot stop him. The audience can empathise with Mr Baker as Strauss lulls the journalist into a false sense of security but confuses him once again by contradicting what he has said. During all this Mr Baker stays calm. He starts off speaking to Strauss in a casual manner, regardless of the tense atmosphere and is in control.
However, as the conversation progresses he becomes a bit shaken by what he has heard and begins to panic. Strauss sees this and uses it to his advantage by confusing him with more riddles and then leaving the room. Baker then becomes panicky and shouts as he tries to stop Strauss from reaching the end of the corridor. The conversation on Mr Baker’s behalf is very ordinary in terms of the type of language. He speaks clearly but not in a genteel sort of way and does not use extravagant language.
By doing this the audience can relate to him more as a person and it makes conversation more realistic. Strauss, as mentioned before, speaks in riddles. This makes the audience have to think more and they begin to empathise with Mr Baker because they themselves would also like to know if he, Strauss, is the murderer. It is a perplexing way of speaking, yet it leaves them eager to know more.