Wednesday, 27 January 2010

General Codes and Conventions of Film Openings

During lessons and in my own time I have been studying various opening scenes to films, hoping to inspire me in my own media production. Watching films of various genres to investigate the codes and conducts used for different genres.

The first film opening we watched in class was
Halloween [John Carpenter] [1978]
    The first 2 minutes were just titles; the production company and the people involved in the making of the film. The names came up ontop of a scene of a halloween pumpkin, where the face had been cut out and a candle flickered inside. This signified the horror genre well, along with the non diegetic sound, which is now a well known sound for horror.

    As the light in the pumpkin goes out, text appears on the black screen, showing exposition of where and when it is set. There is the sound of children singing the trick or treat song in the background, and an audio bridge links it with the next scene.

    When the action does happen, it was filmed in one long take, up until the ending. This connotes point of view shot, with the audience being the eyes of the murderer. - The famous opening of the 1958 film Touch of Evil was filmed all in one take, which could be where Carpenter was inspired from. Effects such as a blue filter over the lens is used, which can signify the horror genre. Tension is created through non diegetic sound again, as the light in the bedroom goes out, and the sound cuts in. The choice of music is used to change the heartbeat of the viewer, making them feel tense. The choice of putting something infront of the camera to represent a mask, and make the viewer only be able to see out the the eye holes in which the killer sees is a good effect for enhancing the point of view camera shot. It also limits what the audience can see, which leaves the majority of the gore up to their imagination and less special effects have to be used.
    Overall the opening minutes of action (doesnt include the title sequence) is 4 minutes 43 seconds.

    Bride of Chucky [Ronny Yu] [1998]
      With an opening scene of 3 minutes 30 seconds with title sequences, the Bride of Chucky opening uses signifiers of the horror genre straight from the beginning, with the use of string based music for non diegetic sound. This relates back to Physco, one of the first and very popular horror films, which also has string based music.
      The production logo, Universal, and the text - Universal presents - is shown, and serif text is used which can signify a serious film, and the text that was chosen looked as though the serifs were daggers.

      From the first scene, exposition is used to let the viewer know little background details about the film, such as the american flag, and the close up on the police dept sign. Pathetic fallacy is also used in the first scene, with the heavy rain, night time, and thunder and lightening, which all give the idea that something bad is going to happen. All can be seen as typical aspects to a horror film.
      Again, like in Halloween, a blue filter is used over the lens to create a sense of fear. A dutch angle is used, which is when the camera is off axis, which signifies something isn't quite right.
      The opening also involves intertextual references to other horror films, such as Friday 13th sequals with the hockey masked thats locked away, and the Michael Myres from Halloween.

      There is alot of shot variation in the opening sequence, from close ups to long shots, which keep the audience interested.
      The false scare is also commonly used in horror films, where suspense is increased, in this example by the man reaching to look in the black bin liner, when a sudden action takes place, the loud noise of the police radio, which makes the audience jump, expecting something else to happen.

      The scene in which the mans throat is cut, is taken in short takes, and he covers up the cut, and blood pours out. This is an easy way in creating verisimlitude in a horror film, trying to make the gore look realistic.

      Male Gaze is also brought into the opening sequence, as a woman wearing little clothing is shown on screen, along with certain objects being shown twice, which could signify some importance later in the film.

      Severance [Christopher Smith] [2006]
        The opening of Severance lasts about 3 minutes 15 seconds, and is interesting in the way that even though it is the opening sequence, it is actually part of the ending of the film.

        Short takes of people running, then to a black screen, signifies action. It also makes it unclear as to what is happening. There is the slight comic aspect of where the man stops running, and the camera carrys on tracking, then having to go back and shows him catching his breath. Also with the women trying to get out of the hole, and having to take off their clothes to create a ladder, even though they are talking in a different language, the camera shot makes it clear when the girl says they need a little more to make it longer.

        The reason I chose to blog about this film opening, wasn't about the way it is filmed, but more the idea of having the ending of the film at the beginning.
        I would like to use this type of idea in my media coursework, as I feel it is an interesting way of starting a film, breaking away from traditional openings, and it can also be dramatic, and then have a short take, cutting it to the beginning of the films story, and then going on to tell the tale which leads up to the end sequence. I am going to look further into films in which they have their opening sequence this way.

        Memento  [Christopher Nolan] [2000]

          Production companies including New Market, Team Todd and Summit Entertainment, these are shown as text on black, in the same font as the following credits, which is different to other films, as it doesn't use animation for the production companys, which creates a more simple opening, with the audience not having the distractions of productions.

          The opening sequence to 'Memento' I feel, is very interesting. It starts with a close up of a hand holding a polaroid photo, of a scene with blood stained walls and what looks like could be a head. As the credits are shown over the shots, and the music builds up, from slow strings, and gradually gets louder, building tension in the audience. The text is serif, which signifies a thriller genre, along with the sound creates a eerie atmosphere right at the very beginning of the film. The take is very long (about 70 seconds), and as time goes on, the hand shakes the polaroid, and the picture fades, which gives the audience the realisation that it is in reverse.

          As the picture fades completely, it then goes back to the camera, he takes the photo and puts the camera away. Close ups of the males face are included to show emotion of the character. It then cuts to a shot of the blood pouring upwards, what could be on the wall as it is vertical, or it could be a vertical shot of the floor, and the blood is pouring out. A series of close ups are followed, with the bullet, a pair of glasses and the head of the man, then the gun flys through the air back to his hand. The male kneels down, the bullet moves on the floor, the glasses move through the air in a close up, then a longshot of the mans upper torso as the glasses go back to his face and the man turns, and the gun is shot. The creativity in this sequence is what I feel makes a film opening successful. With the audience already seeing the effects, but the way in which the sequence was put together keeps them on edge.

          The genres for this film are mystery, thriller and film noir. These themes are shown within the opening sequence with stereotypical conventions such as mysterious music which builds making the audience feel on edge. The film noir genre was included by the director in an interview in the special features on the dvd, and it seen as this for his play with time, narritive and audience perception.

          The budget for this film was $5m, and grossed aprox. $25m in USA and £1m in the UK. Which provides a clear view on how popular this film was for such a low budget film.

          As a homework task, each member of the class had to create a powerpoint on a film opening from the noughties. Without any persific genre set, this was a good chance to make notes on general codes and conventions of film openings.

          Marley&Me [David Frankel] [2008]

          • 40 second company credits - animation and white text on black background (20th cent. fox, Regency)
          • Voice over from centeral protagonist
          • Links sound and action - makes you th ink the person on screen is him.
          • Change in diegetic sound 
          • Frame paused when protagonist jumps over the fence (exposition that this is the person who voice is being heard.)
          • Exposition through voiceover
          • Interesting framing - through the door
          • Another character introduced - mise en scene (wedding day)
          • Stereotypes - American married couple
          • Rated PG   but includes adult themes
          • Typical rom-com but also covers social issues such as death

           Napoleon Dynamite [Jared Hess] [2004]

          •  2.40 mins of opening credits - paramount, MTV Films and other titles including actors and directors
          • Non diegetic music signifies comedy
          • Heavily stylised and creative
          • When it does get into the film, not much happens in further minute - exposition of centeral protagonist - geeky -> hair, glasses and clothes.
          Where The Heart Is  [Matt Williams] [2000]
          • based on a novel
          • Romance + drama genre - hybrid genre
          • Audience = American teens.
          • Appeals to working class
          • 20th Cent. Fox 
          • Audio bridge - dripping sound from car signifies important object/social status of people
          • Exposition through dialouge
          • Accent and mise en scene links to stereotypical texas characters
          • Goes against general convention of first onscreen character being central protagonist.
          • Pregnant woman - loses male gaze
          • Titles appear after 2 minutes.
          • No signifers of romance genre in opening 

          Hot Fuzz [Edgar Wright] [2007]
          • 30 second production titles - Universal + Working Title + Studio Canal
          • First scene very long shot - Establishing shot - Police office
          • Quick cuts -> fast paced signifying his skills
          • Mise en scene -> verisimilitude 
          • Voice over (exposition) + diegetic and non digetic sound. ('Goody Two Shoes' song from the 80's which signifies the target audience age.)
          • Preffered reading of genre - action with comedy twist
          • Quick established equilibrium - central protagonist being a hard working police man
          • Ending on disequilibrium - being moved location to small village.
          • Good representation of the police force
          • Binary opposition between rural and urban 

          Anchor Man [Adam McKay] [2004]

          • Company logo - Dreamworks - Apatow > text on black - documentary style
          • Exposition through voice over -> very vague about time and date, but specifies location - San Diego - and exposition about the character
          • Ron Burgundy - Central protagonist. Propps archetypes theory -> the Hero - "the balls" "legend of.."
          • Comedy genre
          • Exposition through mise en scene -> News room
          • Older audience -> 70's songs and time period
          • But also attracts younger audience with silly humour 
          • High social class -> Scotch, ring, suits. "He wore suits that makes Sinatra look like a hobo" - inter textual references signifies older audience to get preferred reading

          Donnie Darko [Richard Kelly] [2001]

          • Production comanies : New Market, Flower Films Productions + Pandora
          • Genre - Hybrid genre, Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi Thriller, Cult film
          • Audio bridge -> Thunderstorm over text into opening shot - signifies horror, connoting possible darkness of the film
          • Thunderstorm contrasts with the opening shot where there is no storm
          • Camera pans scenery along with non digetic sound of tense, slow music.
          • Protagonist turns to face screen, laughing. -> signifies a weird theme to the film
          • Music from the 80's could suggest time period. -> "The Killing Moon" by echo and the bunny man - connote horror film
          • Halloween party sign provides exposition to the date and signify a horror linked into the holiday.
          • Generally tracking Donnie - significance to being central protagonist
          • Anchorage to mysterious film with message on the fridge - "where is Donnie?" 
          Shaun of the Dead [Edgar Wright] [2004]

          • Studio Canal - includes music to match genre
          • Working Title - American police car to attract American audience.
          • Starts with shot of central protagonist - No transition in, character day dreaming -> zombie like (foreshadowing)
          • Medium close up - close up - four shot - cutaway - two shot- return to shot/reverse shot convo -> shot variation.
          • Other characters revealed through framing 
          • Pub sets scene and place - mise en scene of empty pint glasses -> signifies they've been there a long time, could be quite drunk.
          • Binary opposition between 2 conversational characters friends - Ed = slob, working class. The couple = snobby, middle class 

          1 comment:

          1. good detail. as you work through the examples, start to summarise your findings, with at least 1 e.g. per point (either at the start of the post or on a new post)