Dead Calm Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 12 November 2017

Dead Calm


Rae (Kidman) seems to change the colours of her outfits as the mood changes in the film. In the beginning, she wears a black swimsuit to signify that she is still mourning the death of her son. Later on in the film however, she changes into a white raincoat, once she has tied Hughie up. This suggests she is in control of the situation and has power over him. It also shows that she has hope that she will find john again. She also changes back to a black dressing gown after sleeping with Hughie, which suggests that she feels violated and ashamed at what she has done.

The contrasting colours of the two boats also have a strong impact on the visual element. Hughie’s ship, the Orpheus is coloured black which suggests elements of danger, death and evil, and that there is nothing good to come from visiting the ship. The Ingram’s ship however is coloured white, which reflects their innocence and this also stands for a symbol of hope when Rae is looking for John. The weather in the film also plays a major role in adding tension and creating suspense. At the beginning, you see Rae driving in the car with her son, while there is a storm outside.

The fact that it is raining heavily makes the scene tense, and also makes you suspect that something bad is going to happen, which of course It does. There is also an element of chilling music in the background. The title of the film ‘Dead Calm’ is in a way very ironic, as there is only a small part of the film where the weather is actually dead calm. From when you first see the Ingram’s on their boat, until just before Hughie arrives the weather is calm, but once he arrives the weather gradually starts to deteriorate.

When john is on the Orpheus, the weather is very bad, with thunder, torrential rain and lightning however this is a major contrast to the scenes on the Saracen, where the weather appears to be completely different, although the boars are not that far apart. The weather in this film is definitely in a cycle, as it seems to start off ‘dead calm’ and end in the same way. The changes in the weather throughout the film create a high feeling of tension and almost constantly seem to warn the viewer of bad things to come.

Sound effects and the use of pulsating and breathing sounds makes the viewer literally breathless from early on in the film, and in later scenes the use of a solo soprano voice brings a definitely haunting quality. Throughout the film there is a constant sound of water lapping against both boats, which gradually diminishes and you seem to forget that it is there. Also the beeping of the radar, when Rae is trying to communicate with John is soothing and gives her the sense of hope that he is still there. Clicking noises are also used to help them communicate and this builds up tension.

When the television turns on, while john is on the Orpheus it begins to flicker and make static noises. This creates a sense of fear and suspense because it is not certain what the significance of the television is until slightly later on in the film. Periods of silence are used in effectively in this film, which make the viewer unaware what is going on, and anxious about what is going to happen next. The musical score by Graeme Revel helped to build on the films tension throughout. Moods are set but every now and then the viewer is removed a little from what I succouring in front of him or her.

The music occasionally provides an invisible barrier between the audience and the characters. Rather than feel nervous about every action taken by the characters (as the director intended), the viewers would sometimes feel the character might know more about something than he/she did. At the beginning of this film, the haunting music really sets the tone for the rest of the film. Camera angles plays a major role in this film, especially when they are mainly used to show who is in control of the situation. There were some interesting camera angles used in a few scenes that took place on the Ingram boat.

At the beginning of the film, high camera angles, are used to show that John is anxious about the news he is about to hear from the police, and the close ups are used in the car crash to give the viewer the full impact of the event. High camera angles are also used when Rae has locked herself in her room, and is lying on the bed, to show that Hughie is in power. Before Hughie gets onto the boat, as he rows towards the Saracen, the camera looks down on him to show that he does not yet have control of the situation. Also, earlier on in the film before Hughie has arrived there are close ups of Rae’s bottle of pills and of the flare gun.

Later on in the film you realise why these objects are significant to the plot of the film, as Rae drugs Hughie with the pills and ends up killing him with the flare gun. Other close ups that are used really quite effectively are of the blood dripping from the door, when Rae shoots the dog, and when Hughie jumps out at her and tries to strangle her, as this makes the viewer jump. It is really quite a shocking image, as by this time he is starting to feel the effects of the pills and this makes his body language quite strange.

One of the shots that really make the viewer gasp is when Hughie’s blood stained hands start to wash Rae’s hair as the camera zooms in on his hands, which has a disturbing impact, and this terrifies the viewer. The key scenes in this film are the ones that give the audience a feeling of anxiousness and terror, and give the whole film a disturbing quality. Most of the scenes involve the audience being shocked, such as when the rope swings down at John when he is on the Orpheus and when Hughie jumps out at Rae and tries to strangle her.

Overall Phillip Noyce uses many different and effective ways to create tension, suspense and to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. His wide use of colour aesthetically alerts the viewer to the danger that is apparent in most of the film. The clever use of technical elements like camera angles and music, create the constant effect of fear, and make sure that the viewer never misses a piece of the action. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.

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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 12 November 2017

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