Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) Film Sequence Analysis
Subject: Introduction to Screen Analysis
Submitted as an Essay
Dute Date: June 5th 2012
Class: Wednesday, 14:00-14:50
Word Count: 2201
2. Narrative Function4
8. List of References12
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) is the action packed journey of a misguided young man desperately trying to navigate his own existence. In the film Scott must fight the conflictions within himself and the seven evil exes of his love interest. Based off the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, this film has the architecture and story of a’ live-action’ comic book where it creates a universe based off modern pop culture references such as video games, nerd romance and comics. Bordwell and Thompson (pp. 330, 2010) would define the film as one that breaks the conventions of its genre essentially because it encompasses elements of several genres such as sci-fi, romance, action and comedy. An audience that views Scott Pilgrim vs. The World would possibly be expecting (based on the cover art and advertisements) an action and romance driven story which is partially true but there is much more to it. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has intentionally been set up to be individual and unique in its approach which prompts for its analysis.
Consequently, the focus of this essay will be to examine the narrative function, mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing and sound concepts established by Bordwell and Thompson (2010) of a sequence from the film. With the film’s live-action comic book style comes an extensive use of cutting which seamlessly binds much of the key story elements together. So, the sequence chosen for analysis runs across several plot locations but is based around one theme: Scott (the protagonist) meeting Ramona (the love interest). Starting at approximately 10 minutes into the film, the character of Scott wakes up from a dream of Ramona (before even meeting her) at his house followed by a skip to a scene later on at a library with Scott and his current girlfriend Knives where he is still contemplating the dream and then actually sees Ramona.
The sequence then shifts seamlessly to later in the day where Scott is still distracted by his love interest followed by a shift to a party he and his band friends are at that night. The most significant part of the sequence comes when Scott finds out Ramona is at the party where he then approaches her, makes a fool of himself, leaves her, stalks her until she leaves and then proceeds to obsessively ask everyone at the party details about Ramona. The sequence ends approximately 15 minutes into the film. Narrative Function
Function of the sequence for the narrative:
The dominant narrative function the sequence in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the interaction that to establish Ramona’s character through Scott’s developing obsession with her. Bordwell and Thompson (pp. 79, 2010) explain that a narrative is a chain of events linked by cause and effect. In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World the progression of Scott seeing and eventually meeting Ramona that happens in the sequence provides the ‘cause’ for the film. The rest of the film subsequently relies on ‘effects’ of this action, including the action narrative of the ‘League of Evil Exes’ and the love narrative the Scott – Ramona relationship. Contribution for the development of characters:
The most obvious development of character seen in the sequence is the sudden obsession Scott develops for Ramona. Bordwell and Thompson (pp. 82, 2010) explain that the cause and effect motivators of a narrative are often the result of character actions and traits. In the first 10 minutes (prior to the sequence) Scott’s character and many others are established to a degree but only when the Scott – Ramona love narrative is introduced during the sequence does certain aspects of Scott’s character appear. He is presented as suddenly quite impulsive and ‘love struck’ when he sees Ramona, which contrasts the mellow, happy boyfriend traits established previously. Another development of character in the sequence is that of Ramona.
It isn’t until further in the film that Ramona’s character is completely revealed but in the sequence her character is first presented through the short interaction between her and Scott. She is quite abrupt towards Scott when he introduces himself which clearly intimidates Scott, causing his display of foolishness in the interaction. Ramona’s character is then further developed after she leaves the party in the film through Scott quizzing people about details regarding Ramona. This is all second-hand information but it does establish some assumptions towards the mystery and history Ramona’s character. Audience positioning:
The focus of the sequence is Ramona so throughout it the audience is positioned to be interested and inquisitive towards Ramona like Scott is. As previously discussed this positioning reveals aspects of both Ramona’s and Scott’s character which is important for the development of the story.
The thematic issue observed in the sequence is the inner conflict that Scott experiences regarding his commitment for his current girlfriend contrasting with his new obsession with Ramona. This thematic issue is important for the narrative of the film as it develops the characters of Scott, Knives and Ramona. The purpose of the issue is to display a conflict between Scott’s reality with Knives and the fantasy of Ramona. As the theme of Scott’s with his current girlfriend has already been established previously, the thematic focus of the sequence is the Ramona issue.
Setting; décor; props; costume; make-up:
There are several settings that appear during the sequence including Scott’s dream space, his apartment, the library, the band practice room and the house of the party. As discussed previously the main purpose of the sequence is to establish Ramona’s character for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which is carried out in the settings chosen. The purpose of the dream space, library and party scenes were to develop the love narrative and introduce Ramona’s character in seemingly coincidental or mysterious settings. The apartment and band practice settings were used similarly to further build on themes essential to the later plot and develop Scott’s character.
Décor, props, costume and make-up don’t present themselves as initially significant for the sequence. They are used as predominately to add wholeness to each setting and are progressively altered as the story progresses. The décor is mostly typical to each setting of the sequence to emphasise a sense of realness which is intentionally contrasted later in the film as the fantastical action and love narratives develop in line with the live action comic book style.
Props work in the same way by adding realistic wholeness to each setting including the guitars during band practice and drinks during the party but as the story progresses the props become progressively unrealistic with the prime example being the fiery samurai sword Scott pulls out of his chest towards the end of the film. Costume is presented in the film as typical to the Canadian setting and age demographic with the exception of Ramona. This character is new to the world within the film and wears striking, colourful clothes with pink hair and bold make-up. This clearly contrasts the basic clothes of the other characters to draw attention to Ramona and provide the first element of the fantastical narratives that follow.
Action; performance; gesture; manner; use of space and blocking:
The actions, performance, gesture and manner of the characters in the sequence of the film are intentionally presented as typical of their age generation. Both the main and secondary characters act and gesture in ways that is normal of real social interactions for their age generation with the obvious exception of Scott’s character. His gestures and actions are particularly melodramatic especially towards Ramona which is another way the film slowly progresses away from the real and into a live action comic book. Later on the film other characters are seen acting in ways that are overly dramatic, a prime example being the villainous personalities of the seven evil exes.
Most of the sequence consists of conversations between characters so consequently space is used to compliment these interactions. The library and party scenes have a deep space that reinforces the mood of each setting. A significant use of space is seen when Scott talks to Ramona at the party. It contrasts the deep space shots seen previously at the party with a very shallow space during their interaction which almost separates them from the density of the party atmosphere in the film. Casting:
Michael Cera has previously been cast as the awkward teenage male in films such as Superbad (2007) and Juno (2007) so casting him as the Scott Pilgrim works with his already established acting style. Casting of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona contributes to the comic book style of the film relating to her big eyes and round face similar to the cartoon Ramona. The casting of a lot of the characters works similarly in that they look and are presented similar to the cartoon versions from the original comic book.
Shadow and Lighting:
The sequence mostly uses natural lighting to fit with the realism of each scene. No obvious use of additional lighting is used other than the inclusion of house or party lights during the apartment, band and party scenes. Consequently the light is not particularly intense but certainly is directed to draw attention to the characters. This is less a use of light strategy though more a positioning of shot technique. A comedic lighting effect occurs in the apartment scene where Scott opens the door thinking it was still dark but is dramatically overwhelmed by the intense brightness of outside. As the film progresses the focus of lighting tends to complement the live action comic book style. Summary:
As evidenced previously, the main focus of mise-en-scene is to establish a realistic setting so it can be later contrasted with the dramatic, comic book style of the developing love and action narratives. Bordwell and Thompson (pp. 118, 2010) stresses the importance of mise-en-scene in facilitating themes of a film which is consistent with its utilisation in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Most of the sequence consists of interactions between characters so the cinematography is used in ways that compliment these dialogues. These dialogues are used to establish the love and action narratives. Generally scenes are shot from multiple angles and positions that relate to the character who is currently talking. The scenes with Scott and Ramona talking and at the library also show use of a relatively distant shot showing both characters talking in the same frame.
This suggests a stronger connection between the characters (Scott – Knives, Scott – Ramona). Camera focus is generally clear with the exception of the part where Scott stalks Ramona out of the party where the focus rapidly shifts from Scott to Ramona in several scene cuts. This film is in colour and uses a mix of cool and warm tones to complement the natural lighting of the particular setting.
Camera movements in the film are consistent with a comic book style, the shots are generally unmoving with several cuts during each scene. Fast sweeps and jagged camera movements start being used in the party scene where Scott’s becomes obsessive towards Ramona. This kind of shot manipulation is almost always centred on keeping interest in the characters, predominately Scott. In summary, the cinematography of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World reflects the moods and actions of Scott’s character and definitely favours his viewpoints in scenes to progressively reveal and establish Ramona’s character.
Editing his heavily used in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to emphasise the narrative themes and live action comic book style. As previously discussed, the sequence uses several cuts during each scene. Despite there being several scenes that makeup the sequence and each composing of several cuts, there is a clear continuity throughout. This is achieved by seamlessly linking scenes through camera movements or dialogue.
The main purpose of editing for the film is to display what is significant to Scott’s character. Everything that is edited in has distinct emotions and actions from Scott which establish both the love and action narratives. The film has a fast pace and rhythm which is also supportive of the comic book style. An interesting relation that is clear between shots in the film is that they all progressively become more directed towards Ramona as Scott quickly becomes more interested her. This type of editing is significant as introducing Ramona is the focus of the sequence. Sound:
The use of sound in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is reflective of two pop culture themes: the video game culture and indie rock culture. Because of this, the timbre of the music consists of old video game ‘8-bit’ tracks and the drums, bass, piano and distorted guitar of modern indie music. Significant sound use is first observed in the library scene when a quiet, non-diegetic bass line leads into a heavy indie rock tune as Scott sees Ramona for the first time. This tune plays again with a slower beat in the party scene when Scott finds out Ramona is there. This use of sound is clearly reflective of the moods and actions of the protagonist Scott.
Throughout the sequence there are also several small video game and indie rock sound bites that appear briefly during dialogues to better convey character moods. An example of this is the sharp amp sound that screeches when Scott sees Kim, a girl he used to date. Music in the film has a combination of volumes that loudly dominate scenes or quietly facilitate them. In terms of dialogue, the sound has a fast pace at a conversational volume. Definite use of pop culture words and slang happens in conversations between characters to further emphasise the comic book style. As the film progresses use of sound becomes more significant and distinct as the realism of the film decreases. Conclusion
The sequence chosen in some of the opening minutes of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has the purpose of introducing and establishing the character of Ramona and the love narrative. The mise-en-scene of the sequence contributes to this by presenting the scenes in a way that focuses on Ramona, predominately through directing the scenes as though they are happening from the viewpoint of obsessed Scott. Mise-en-scene is also utilised to highlight contrasts between the initially realistic settings and lightings into fantastical elements with the progression of the story. Similarly, cinematography is used to draw attention to the dialogue that is relevant to establishing Ramona and the love narrative. Shots are also positioned in separate or linking ways that display distance or bonds between characters. Editing complements the live action comic book style of the film through solid shots and several short cuts in scenes which focus Scott’s viewpoint.
This sets up Ramona’s character in a unique way that implores the audience to view her the same way Scott does; as a mysterious and appealing character. As the story progresses the use of the comic-like editing techniques increase to enhance effect. Sound is similarly used to enhance the live action comic book style by using video game and indie rock culture as its soundtrack. The volume and complexity of tracks increase and speed up as Ramona’s character is seen by Scott, manipulating the audience into being interested by her. Small sound clips are also used to add to the mood and purpose of dialogues during the sequence. Overall Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a movie that utilises film techniques in a ‘comic book’ styled ways that establishes and progresses themes throughout the film in a unique and interesting way.
List of References
Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. 2010, Film Art, McGraw – Hill, New York Juno, 2007. [Film] Directed by Jason Reitman. USA: Fox Searchlight Pictures Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, 2010. [Film] Directed by Edgar Wright. USA: Universal Pictures Superbad, 2007. [Film] Directed by Greg Mottola. USA: Columbia Pictures