This assignment is mainly to study and analyze the cinematic techniques used in the opening sequence of the films, “Blue Velvet” and “The Elephant”. I would be studying about, how the use of icons, camera techniques, pace mood, text, colour, music/sound effects and special effects.
I will begin with the film, “Blue Velvet”. Blue Velvet is a shocking film full of violence and tension. It is set in Lumberton, a town that appears to be an archetypal small American town. The opening scene of the movie is very captivating. The film focuses on a man in his garden watering his plants while his wife sits in her couch and watches a thriller when the man suddenly falls to the ground as if he had a stroke or was bitten by an insect on his neck. The old man is hospitalized and so his son comes to visit him, and on his way back the old man’s son find an ear on the ground under the bushes while he was searching for a stone to throw.
The power of the opening scene lies in the visual details and the use of sound. For instance the director uses many of the signifiers of small town America. In the very beginning of the Opening Credits are presented in front of a blue velvet curtain along with a tensed non-diagetic tune as the background music. In the opening shot, the camera pans down from a perfect blue sky to a white picket fences to bold, beautiful red roses are all signifiers of small town America. Everything in this scene is deliberate; it’s completely surreal, the fire-man waving like a robot alongside a dog which is still/motion less and the children walking to school. The wooden houses are another signifier of small town America. When the old man was watering his plants his water pipe gets stuck in the bushes and the director foregrounds the sound of the pressure building in the pipe in order to bring tension into the scene and when the old man falls goes into extreme close up and zoomed into the grass, as if there was so clue to what happened to the man the becomes black and I could make out was that there were insects in the grass. In the very first scene the director uses three different non-diagetic sound tracks: the opening credits, blue velvet and the radio. There is no actual conversation in this scene. The old man is in very bad condition, unable to talk and unable to move.
I basically thought that the film was nice and captivating. Particularly when the opening scene comes to an end, I was left behind many unanswered question in my mind, which I thought was good.
The film, “Elephant”, was actually based on a true life story about two boys Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, both belonging to a well-to-do families but end up committing suicide after killing 13 people and injuring 24. It’s all about what happened on the 20th of April, 1999 at the Columbine High School. The film is about the massacre that took place there on that day. The film is not an exact copy but has the same foundation but with some additional bits and pieces added on here and there.
The film has its’ title “The Elephant”, from the English phrase or proverb ‘the elephant in the room’. Its’ literal translation would be, even though aware, a big issue overlooked by the society or community, pretending to be unaware of it. In the context of the film it would be about the easy availability of guns and other weapons in the US and in some other countries cause huge problem to the community but neither does the society nor the government care to do something in order to prevent it.
Elephant, the movie is situated in an archetypal suburban America. This film is different to films what we have today. Now-a-days very few movie are based on reality, it’s mostly science fiction people are interested in. I’m used to watching horror, thriller, action packed and comedy movies. The Elephant come under the genre of drama. It’s a kind of documentary about those two boys. Initially, I found the movie a bit boring as it did not have no action, no thrills, nor did it have any comedy scenes. I felt that the film had no life in it, added to which I thought the film was dragged. I have not seen a film like this before, so I found it a bit strange. The film ended leaving behind questions which gave it a good but odd ending. Until the actual scene of the shooting begins the camera follows around few main characters taking a close up shot. The director uses both diagetic and non-diagetic sound effects in the movie.
After showing us the whole film our teacher made us focus on the following three scenes:
> Nicole, Brittany and Jordan
> Nathan: The scene begins with a few boys enjoying a game of American football or rugby. The camera is positioned in a funny way. It is a peripheral view we are given. This is when a confused girl (Mitchel) stumbles across them gazing at the sky. We hear sounds of people taking, the tackling sound, and the sound of a piano which was added in (non-diagetic), people shouting and that of people running. Out of the boys playing Rugby emerges Nathan wearing a red-hooded pullover with a life guard logo on his back. He walks across an archetypal American college, to the reception to meet his girl-friend. The camera takes the shot from Nathan’s back focusing entirely on him. This is an example of a tracking shot. While he is doing this, the tune to his steps is a soft and tensed one (non-diagetic). Everyone he walks across is minding there own business. All these people are out of focus. When he walks past the girls (Nicole, Brittany and Jordan). The camera goes into slow motion and focuses on the girls. Only the main characters are in focus while the background is blurry.
> Nicole, Brittany and Jordan: Three best friends are talking about their personal lives when Nathan passes by them. After this the girls walk to the dining hall. We hear their conversation, eavesdropping. In cinematic terms. After they’ve settled in the hall they argue about the time they spend with each other. The director takes the scene in a reality type as other conversations can also be heard.
> Benny: This is a man who from his looks we believe could save the day. The man without fear, wearing a yellow t-shirt which gives him a hero look. He is expressionless. He saves people. He is curious to know what happens in the college. He walks into trouble. He comes into focus and everything else goes out of focus. We have here a man we think will save the day but he is shot bringing forth the unexpected.