Nolan’s The Dark Night Essay
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How does Nolan’s the dark night use MELCS to good effect and what does this indicate regarding the films genre? Are there any social criticisms present?
In this essay I will be explaining the way that different techniques are used, and what these show about the Dark Knight. I will be looking throughout the film at how Nolan uses various effects such as, colour, editing, lighting, camera, and sound. And how these things aren’t really what you might expect for the typical super hero film, but also how he uses them to subtlety criticize human nature.
First of all I will talk about the colour used Nolan uses. Throughout the film the colour scheme always seems to be very dark but as well as this the things that are happening usually contrast this. A good example of this is at one point when the Joker is being questioned, all the lights go out and everything is pitch-black except the jokers white face. This is very effective as it really makes the joker stand out and means you can see every little detail of his face and facial expressions but don’t know what else is happening in the room. It therefore creates a whole lot of suspense about what’s going to happen next and where it’s going to come from whilst at the same time letting you see every detail of the jokers face and almost making you really understand what he’s thinking.
Another point in which this contrast is shown is in Bat-mans hide away place. In there the floor is a dark dull grey/black, and the ceiling is all white lights. This is good because it makes the room seem endless and gives anything in it airs of importance and cleanliness like trophy shelves that are lit from above like the room or a dentist. This is good because in the room he keeps all his high-tech gadgets witch seem incredibly expensive and valuable when they are in the room, but then when Bat-man is using them he acts as though they are something that are disposable.
Another way Nolan uses colour is in the costumes. The Joker is an especially good example of this as he wears a purple jacket, green hair, Green top, and bright red giant red lips. This shows us a lot about his character for example, purple stands for royalty and the joker becomes almost like a king by making everyone scared of him. Secondly the green stands for jealousy, and the Joker is very good at making people feel jealous and spiteful about other people. As well as maybe feeling slightly jealous at not being normal, and being unhappy himself. Lastly the joker is just completely crazy, and all his colours clashing certainly do emphasize this.
Overall it is a brilliant way of showing his character and showing how different he is to everyone. I mean, you’d never miss him would you!? On the other hand the dark knight is completely the opposite of the Joker, and their clothing really shows this. As the knight is completely black it seems to show how he represents reality and order, but the joker stands for everything mad and chaotic as that is what he loves. As for the props Nolan uses, really they are quite simple. Even the high-tech gadgets batman uses all seem possible and there are no out of this world, impossible things. I think this is actually quite a good thing, as it means that it makes the whole play seem more realistic, and like something that could actually happen. Therefore it is all scarier in a slightly surreal way.
Next I will look at how Nolan uses editing in the film and what effects this creates. When a lot of action is happening at the same time Nolan uses lots of quick shots of the action quickly cutting from one to the other. This is very clever as you think you’re just about to find out what’s going to happen when it cuts to the next scene which is also really tense and you want to know what’s going to happen there but it goes back to the one before. This creates lots of tension in the film and it is a bit like its flashing from scene to scene like your heart beat getting faster and faster.
It also gives the sense of chaos and panic and shows you how every thing is happening at the same time. This is good as it makes you realise how hard it must be for the cops and detectives. Another similar thing he does is when two people and talking to each other about something in which one of them might react in a certain way he will keep cutting from one face to the other as you wait for the reaction to happen. This also creates tension and makes you wonder if they will react the way you think their about or not, then when it does its more of a shock.
The lighting in the film is another very important element in the film. I have already explained some of it in the colour part. As with the colour most of the film is set in dark, low key lighting, with lots of shadows creating a spooky kind of atmosphere. Once again though like the colour, often he uses contrast. A place where this is very effective is when some people are looking for Bat-man and it is very dark so they all have very bright torches. All you can see is the torch light getting closer and closer towards you but nothing out of the light. This makes it seem very scary as all you can do is wait until he is in the torch light but by that time you know it will already be too late because they are too close.
Another scene in witch the lighting used is very effective is in the bank robbery scene. It is once again very dark in the bank, but because this time it is lighter outside, and the room has very big windows, you get some patches of the bank where it is much lighter. This is really good because he then makes it so that when the action happens, it happens in the lighter places. This means you can clearly see what is happening in the light when something happens out of it your attention is not so focused on it so it is a surprise. Also the dim light coming from just the one side of the building creates big long spooky shadows to, witch adds nicely to the tense atmosphere.
Nolan also uses camera techniques in an interesting way to create good effects. For example right at the beginning of the play there is an extreme long shot of a sky scraper. This is then slowly zoomed in; right up to one window and into an extreme close-up, then the glass in the window suddenly shatters. Nolan uses this a lot in the film with other things too, like some one face that once zoomed in you see their shocked facial expression. This creates the element of surprise means you know that something is going to happen to do with what they are zooming in on but not what exactly until your right there. It also creates tension on what that’s going to be. Another camera technique used is when something is happening the camera circles the action.
This happens a lot and is good because it means you can see everything that is happening and all the reactions of people around it. In addition to this it can create serious tension and fear. A great example of this is when the Joker is about to slit the black mans mouth. The camera circles his head so that sometimes you can see his face with the knife in and sometimes just the back of his head and the Jokers facial expression. Every time the camera shows his face you wince and think, Oh no, is it going to happen now whilst I can see it.
This happens over and over until eventually he slits his mouth when you can only see the Jokers expression but you know it’s been done because his face and its kind of a relief because at least you haven’t have had to watch. Lastly Nolan uses another successful effect by turning the camera around. He does this near the end when the Joker is hanging upside-down off a building. The camera is turned so that you see the Joker as if he was standing upright and it looks very strange as his hair is all over the place and his hand are waving about, but for some reason it kind of fits the Jokers. This is because the Jokers personality is all over and mad and it seems like that is where he belongs, in an upside-down world. It’s slightly ironic really. Moreover, it made it seem like the right place, and way for him to die.
Another method Nolan uses to brilliant effect is sound, digetic, and non digetic. For instance throughout the film, when ever tension is building up the same music starts. It sets of quietly and slowly, building up, getting faster and louder until the pinnacle of the excitement then stops. This is very effective as it creates the feeling of panic and makes your heart start to race as you know that something’s about to happen. Sometime when this happens the non digetic sound is on its own building up until its apex when a sudden digetic noise will puncture it. This not only makes tension but also shock and fear. A good example of this is at the beginning when a window breaks.
This is a great opening scene as the sound and the camera skill create loads of tension and anticipation. Nolan does another very clever thing with the sound at one point. Just after a massive explosion has happened he cuts the sound altogether, and although you can tell that really there would be loads of noise going on its silent. This is because after an incredibly loud explosion you often become deaf for a while. This is a very clever thing to do, and makes you feel like you really are part of the film. Further more without the sound you concentrate more on what you can see and all the facial expressions and whatever’s going on around.
Another interesting point to think about in the dark knight is weather or not it is a normal film in the super hero genre. There are many things for and against this argument and I will look at them in this paragraph. First of all there is of course the super hero, and super villain, in this case, bat-man and the Joker. Both whom have very typical features of the super-hero genre but also some not so typical ones. To start with I will concentrate on Bat-man. Like most super heroes he is; quite wealthy, but has had a hard background and has had to build up that wealth from not very much. Is young and good looking with lots of strength and high tech gadgets. Has a different identity during the daytime, and fights crime at night, wearing a costume so no one knows who he is. Also, like a lot of super hero’s e.g. spider man he is based on some sort of animal. Lastly he has a very strong sense of right and wrong, for example his one rule never to kill anyone witch a lot of super heroes seem to have.
On the other hand, although he seems to be a reasonably normal super hero, there are some things witch are slightly different. For example, a lot of the public don’t particularly like him, at one point they even try to send him to jail. Also unlike most super heroes, he doesn’t really have any sub natural powers, he just like a normal human in most ways. Also, a very big twist in the play is when the heroine dies, so like most super heroes bat-man does have heroine who he can’t really have yet. But, whereas usually at the end of the play they would get together, In Bat-man, about half way through she dies. Now as for the joker, is a bit different. Although like most super villains he is bad and has had a hard life. His attitude to life and Bat-man is quite different. Unlike most super villains, he does not really seem to hate Bat-man.
Instead he sees him as game, and even when he has the chance to kill him says he is too fun to kill. This is very unusual and very different to how the baddy usually feels towards the hero. Furthermore, the reasons for the Joker to do what he does is rather strange too, because most villains do it for money or wealth or power, but the Joker doesn’t care about any of this, and just does it for fun. Overall I think that although The Dark Knight isn’t exactly what you would expect from a typical super hero movie, all in all its more that than anything else. I think that really Nolan has taken the super hero genre and added aspects from other things like horror to create a very successful, far more adult movie which will appeal to people who love all the super hero kind of movies, but also to those who usually find them a bit too childish and unrealistic.