Compare the opening sequences of the film Essay
Compare the opening sequences of the film
I have chosen to compare the opening sequence of “Hannibal” with that of the opening of the classic crime thriller “Reservoir Dogs. To accurately make comparisons of the two openings it is essential that I study the sound, the use of colour, camera work, lighting text and mise en scene. Not only stating what is there but also why. This has been achieved by first connotating and dennotating each opening. I watched both openings numerous times, both in class and at home. This made it possible for me to decisively analyse and then compare the two openings.
The opening sequence of “Hannibal” begins with a black frame and a sound bridge which consists of a conversation between two people, the voices and content of the conversation are unclear but grab the audiences attention as you need to focus to attempt make out what’s going on. There is calming music being played, piano music, very soft as not to take our attention away from the voices but just to create a subdued atmosphere. From the bottom right hand corner of the screen a small box with an image in it approaches at a slow but steady pace. The camera is revolving around the image.
The box gradually begins to enlarge and takes over from the black frame. The reasoning for this technique is so that the audience is immediately involved with the scene, instead of the opening scene just being there, a certain amount of suspense and tension is created as the audience wait to see whether their own interpretations are correct. This is an insight into how the rest of the film is going to go. The main themes and plot are not there in black and white instead you, the audience are invited to read between the lines and go along with Agent Clarice and solve the case.
The camera then pans across slowly and what unfolds before us is a significant opening into the storyline. The pace and angle of movement of the camera make it perceivable that the audience is in the form of another person entering the room. The sluggishness of the camera gets the audience waiting in anticipation, you are eager to put a face to the two voices that have been heard throughout. The two colours immediately evident through the interior and lighting are a chilling blue and a fierce red.
These are extremely relevant, for the reason that blue is the colour associated with Starling throughout the film, representing her loneliness in her search for Hannibal. Red is a symbol of Hannibal, conveying his murderous characteristics and his dangerous ways. The interior is of a very regal house, this is symbolic of Hannibal himself because previously it has been seen that however disturbed he may be he has to some extent a certain degree of class, in terms of choice of music, arts, food (other than flesh).
The two characters are the doctor from the hospital Hannibal was once a resident at and the other a victim of Hannibal, an extremely disfigured man. This acts as a re-introduction to Hannibal, and what he is capable of inflicting on his victims. The conversation progresses between the two and the audience are then witness to four close ups in succession, two of which are over the shoulder shots, enabling us to view the others reaction to what has been said to them. The choice of close ups allow the audience to get an understanding of both characters through facial expressions, who they are and what role they have to play in the story.
The doctor appears as the good character whereas the victim appears as the bitter evil character this can be defined by their characteristics, posture and context of their conversation. The scene develops further, with the conversation taking a more direct approach to what is to be the climax of the scene, the introduction of the mask. There are a string of mid shots which present us with more background on both characters. The doctor is wearing some sort of professional nurse’s uniform and “Cardel” is wearing a suit fitted to his mangled body, although suggesting that he has a certain amount of wealth and social status.
As the conversation continues there are two more close-ups which coincide with important parts of the conversation. An example of this is when the word “thousand” is spoken. This could be seen as a symbolic message, representing the extent of pain “Cardel” has be subjected to or the extent of revenge he wishes to inflict on Hannibal. The scene ends with a close up gradually changing into an enlarged extreme close up of the mask which is to be the artefact of the movie. The mask takes up the entire screen before fading away into the blackness of the original opening shot.
The fact that there has been a cycle from black through to black could suggest that the story may be similar in that there is no answer instead an encircling cat and mouse saga. From the first scene the editing has been very smooth and gradual, there appears to be no rush to get the audience to the story, maybe implying that the story will come to the audience. The mask fades out again at no great pace and then “Hannibal” appears in a red font, as if to bring fear to the audience.
The scene commencing is of a more complexed nature there are more shots with the editing being more sharp and severe. There are a chain of short shots, no longer than a few seconds which are all related to Hannibal in some form. The technique used is to convey that all the images have been taken from a security camera, recording the events of the town centre of Italy, which is a bustling constant moving place, no dramatic incidents just people walking through the streets and cars driving through traffic. The shots have been edited to appear faster than real time.
This is another link in with the story line, although there may be no overly dramatic sub-plots there are plenty of twists which will keep the audience alert. Flickered in between these shots, are an image of a brain. The shot is so sudden that the audience only just have enough time to be taken aback let alone comprehend the significance, the fact that Hannibal later eats a brain. There use of pigeons are a link to the “silence of the lambs” when Hannibal describes Clarice as a pigeon and comes in handy when Hannibal’s face is displayed amongst the pigeons for a few seconds.
This technique of suspending time is a method used twice in this scene, the other being when the camera focuses briefly on a man who’s appearance is much similar to that of Hannibal, but we are left unsure whether it is him or not. Either way we are again reintroduced to Hannibal as a physical character rather than just a theme. There are many images of flesh, a representation of cannibalism which is a key theme associated with “Hannibal”. The shot of the pigs links in with the events later in the film, when the hungry pigs are unleashed to destroy Hannibal.
This theme has been carried on from the Hannibal trilogy. Police officers are also used signify the factor of crime and deviance used by both Hannibal and fellow FBI agents of Clarice. The opening scene of “Reservoir Dogs” has a duration of 7 and half minutes which is exceedingly long for an opening. For a good 6 minutes neither the setting, camera angle nor characters change within the first scene. This makes it a relatively easy opening to analyse although there are many artefacts and themes which are relevant to the rest of the film and must be mentioned.
The opening shot is a black frame with a voice over of “Mr Pink” talking about Madonna. The black frame doesn’t last too long and soon we are introduced to the setting which we are to be subjected to for the next 7 minutes. It is a cheap breakfast dinner. Immediately the audience are placed right next to the main table. It is obvious that the dinner is cheap because of the interior the curtains have a corny appearance, the pictures on the wall look inexpensive the lighting is very false and the condiments on the table are plastic.
The camera remains the same throughout, endlessly circling, giving the appearance of a shy little boy wandering around the table always focusing on whoever is speaking or making a gesture of importance, rarely giving us a clean shot of their faces but just enough to introduce the audience to the principle characters. The gangsters light cigarettes and drink coffee, the conversation diverges into that of the origins of Madonna’s song “Like a virgin” and a few other tedious subject come into play.
All the way through we are given extensive time to learn about the 8 men all sitting around the table. All the men bar one are dressed up in the stereotypical gangster outfit, a black suit, white shirt and black tie. This is part of mise en scene, introducing us to the concept of a “crew” of gangsters all together for a reason. Their appearance however stereotypical is very simplistic and that could be what they are expecting of their proposed heist, this later comes out as irony because the heist is far from simple.
There is one man who is not in a suit and that is “Nice Guy Eddie” he is though in another form of stereotypical gangster attire. He is wearing a blue shell suit, opened up enough to show his big gold necklace on top of his hairy chest. This makes him out to be somebody of importance, maybe the “boss”. The atmosphere is very smoky, which is a sharp contrast on top of the easily wipeable tables and disposable napkins, this could again be a representation of their plans becoming clouded by unforeseen circumstances.
After taking in what is before us the audience begin to want reasoning for why eight gangsters are all together in such a cheap establishment, and it is apparent that they want to be inconspicuous, avoid any unwanted attention from the authorities. This builds up a sense of anticipation, there is now a distinct impression that violence is going to rain. There is another key shot that implies a sense of violence and that is when “Joe” steps up to pay the bill, the camera pans up and we are given a glimpse of his gun. This is the first sign of possible bloodshed, this builds on the previous sense of anticipation.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 July 2017
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