Removal (main project)

Preliminary Exercise

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Phonebooth - A Barthes Analysis

Enigma Code:

  • Phones play a big part. Why?
  • Why will the man use the phone booth?
  • Who is the girl he calls?
  • Who is the mysterious caller? (made more mysterious by the fact that there were pictures of the other callers, but not of him)
Action Code:
  • Walks down the street - To get somewhere he has to be.
  • Walks into phone booth - To call someone.
  • Took off wedding ring - Felt guilty about affair.
Semiotic Code:
  • Office buildings = Urban setting. Business.
  • Fast music = Hectic lifestyle.
  • Fast walking = Busy people.
  • Dense population = Urban. Poor.
  • Cheap clothes = Poor area.
  • Suits = Business.
Cultural Code:
  • Facts about phones and mobiles in New York.
  • Neon signs.
  • USA flag.
  • "Welcome To New York" on T-Shirt.
Symbolic Code:
  • Satellite = Communication. Electronic. Sci-Fi. Space. Phones.
  • Blue camera filter = Police. Thriller.
  • Wedding ring = Married.
  • Removal of wedding ring = Troubled marriage.
  • Phones = Communication. Technology.
  • Dark glasses = Important. Bad.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Opening Sequences

i) What forms can opening sequences take? Can you list the conventional features of opening sequences?

Opening sequences can take the form of a simple window into the life of the protagonist. We see them in their own environment and observe how they act and react to others in order to form our opinion of them. Then a problem is usually hinted at or appears. We discover the type of film it will be, eg. Back To The Future, being a science fiction film, begins with a complicated gadget operating.

ii) What narrative functions of opening sequences can you identify?

Opening sequences can be used to introduce the main dilemma, or set up a situation that is simply too perfect to last for long, and make the audience anticipate the disruption in the equilibrium. The dilemma, or villain, can be introduced right at the end of the sequence in an enigmatic fashion to make the audience want to watch more.

iii) What do audiences gain from watching the opening sequence?

They gain an idea of the style, genre and tone of the film. They are introduced to key elements of the narrative and meet some or all of the main characters. They observe the setting and are able to establish where and when the story takes place. From these discoveries they are able to create a rough idea of the story of the rest of the film and anticipate what will happen next. This could be either what they expect, creating a sense of comfort, or what they do not expect, creating a sense of unease. In this way, opening sequences can have a big effect on the audience.

iv) What do film-makers gain from including an opening sequence?

Film-makers are able to make their audience anticipate the rest of the movie with an opening sequence. This can be useful, as they can go against the expectations and shock the audience. This is especially useful in horror films where one of the most important factors is the audience's sense of unease. Opening sequences also hook the audience and make them want to watch the rest of the film. This is a good thing for film-makers.

Applying Levi-Strauss to the opening of "Pale Rider" and "Die Hard I"

Claude Levi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and film theorist. He considered how storytelling is used as a means of coping with the fundamental contradictions and irresolvable difficulties of a society. Each culture therefore produces its myths: a story which is not true, but something which is repeated so many times it becomes part of a culture's reality or 'common sense'. He studied the structure of stories. He analysed how meaning might be derived from narrative structure by looking at connections in story elements, eg. themes & characters. He also proposed that if one element is identified as giving one meaning, there must be another element which is not that meaning. More specifically, the meaning must be the opposite. He said that story elements which give meaning will usually appear in pairs. For example a story will typically be organised into binary opposites such as "Hero/Villain". My task was to analyse two films which contained binary opposites using Levi-Strauss' film theory.

"Pale Rider" (Eastwood 1985)
  • Settlement/Wilderness
  • Spiritual/Everyday
  • Calm/Chaos
  • Domestic/Savage
  • Natural/Man-made
  • Forest/Desert
  • Silence/Noise
  • War/Peace
  • Civilians/Armed robbers
  • Country people/Town people
  • Stormy weather/Good weather
  • Fire/Water
  • Fast riders/Slow villagers
  • Darkness/Light
  • Still shots/Moving shots
  • Disturbed/Undisturbed surroundings
"Die Hard I" (McTierman 1988)
  • Hard-working cop/Affluent upper-class
  • Group/Couple
  • Chatty/Reserved
  • Young/Old
  • American/Foreign
  • Technology/Old-fashioned wits
  • Cocky/Modest
  • Criminals/Police
  • Men/Women
  • Wits/Brute force
  • Efficiency/Idleness
  • Formal/Informal
  • Home/Away
  • Marriage/Career


Group 2C