The final film I analysed by Alfred Hitchcock is the 1958 psychological thriller film: ‘Vertigo’. Like any other Hitchcock film, he uses miss-en-scene, camerawork, sound design and editing to create a suspenseful atmosphere. Here are the techniques I noticed whilst watching the film:
- Something I have noticed in the other Hitchcock films I have watched is that he uses a lot of extreme close ups and reaction shots – this is something which is very prominent in ‘Vertigo’. It creates the same effects as the other films: it makes you feel like you are actually immersed in the story and you are actually there. Since I am making a film opening with the intention that it will be eery and tense, making the audience feel like they are part of the plot will give this desired effect.
- The lighting creates an atmosphere too. Red lighting has been used which portrays danger, blue to represent sadness and so on and so forth. Using lighting to create a mood in my film opening will be another skill.
- Even though there are a lot of extreme close up shots, there are some really nice shots of the background “taking over the screen”. In these shots, the characters look very distant but, it creates a theme of isolation. Since our plot does have that theme underlining it, shots like these would be very useful to consider.
Another murder mystery film I watched (which is also directed by Hitchcock) is the 1954 film: ‘Rear Window’. Hitchcock tells the story of a wheelchair bound, magazine photographer watches the people who live in his apartment block from his rear window. He soon realises that a murder may have taken place in one of the apartments opposite him. The director uses lots of techniques to draw the audience in and put them on the edge of their seats; as well as creating the alluring suspense found in the murder mystery genre.
- The only setting seen throughout the film is in the protagonist’s apartment. Like ‘Psycho’, the camera being incredibly close to the characters creates a feeling like you are actually there with them. The setting of only seeing through the apartment windows also makes you feel like a voyeur and you are engaged in these people’s personal lives. Reaction shots and extreme close ups of the protagonist also made you feel like you were close to him.
- Lighting is also used to create a mysterious effect. The main character usually watches his neighbours at night and the only light coming into the room is with from the moonlight or, from the apartments opposite. The characters face is dimly lit and this also creates an eery feeling.
- The only sound heard (this is the case for 99% of the film) is the diegetic sound of the outside world or from the protagonist. This makes the film look a lot more realistic and it seems like the audience is engaged in a real life situation. The use of diegetic sound will be used a lot in my film opening as it creates a wonderful effect and it also fits to the genre expectations.
A film which fits into the category of the “murder mystery” genre is Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 film: ‘Psycho’. ‘Psycho’ is one of the most famous and game changing films in the history of cinema so, I thought it would be a great idea to see what techniques such an amazing film used to portray the mood and theme of the murder mystery genre. Here is what I found:
- The camera is always very close to the character. Personally, I felt like I was fully immersed in the story and what Hitchcock was trying to convey in each scene. Shots like reaction shots and extreme close ups of individual body parts of the characters are extremely common in this film and if I’m honest, I really like the effect it gives. I wouldn’t want the audience to feel like they are just watching the action from a distance but, instead to be fully immersed in it and to feel like they are actually there. I think this is one of the reasons why ‘Psycho’ scared a lot of people: they felt like they were in the film themselves. Hitchcock even explained this:
‘The point is to draw the audience right inside the situation instead of leaving them to watch it from outside, from a distance. And you can do this only by breaking the action into details and cutting from one to the other, so that each detail is forced in turn on the attention of the audience and reveals its psychological meaning.’ – My Own Methods, Hitchcock, 1937
- The iconic music everyone knows from ‘Psycho’ also creates an effect. The high pitched, non diegetic composed soundtrack accompanies and matches the stabbing sounds in the shower scene. Without this music, the scene would not be as scary; a soundtrack is obviously a key and effective way to create dramatic effect for the audience.
Following on from ‘Fight Club’, I decided to watch another David Fincher film – ‘Panic Room’. ‘Panic Room’ is a 2002 thriller film starring Jodie Foster; a perfect film for me to analyse since the thriller genre is the genre we would like to portray in our film opening. Even though ‘Panic Room’ is seen by some as a “weaker” film that Fincher has made in comparison to his other films, the film has many aspects in which create a tense atmosphere which fits perfectly with the thriller genre. Here is what I found out:
- Fincher uses his infamous aesthetic to create an unsettling and tense atmosphere in the film. This includes: high contrast lighting and a cool toned colour palette. The rooms tend to be dimly lit, occasionally with a pop of colour from a yellow lightbulb or a machine. For example, this can even be seen in the film poster: a dark setting (the man in the doorway and the surroundings) with a pop of colour (the red writing). The colours also can be used as a metaphor or a symbol of a certain feeling – the red writing could symbolise danger.
- Like ‘Fight Club’ the film’s storyline is very fast paced. Instead of using still, extreme close ups and focus pulls like Fincher did in ‘Fight Club’, Fincher uses a steady and slick camera movement. The action takes place all inside a house so, a steadicam is used to show a character’s transition into another room. This can create the effect that the action in the scene is rapid and it has intensified.
- The soundtrack is also a major part in this film as it too, creates emotion and an atmosphere for the audience. The non diegetic composed score is definitely foreboding – this adds to the tense atmosphere.
After watching ‘Gone Girl’, I decided to watch some more of David Fincher’s critically acclaimed films. On this occasion, I watched ‘Fight Club’ – a 1999 drama film starring Brad Pitt. In all films, filming techniques are a common way to show emotion and a certain ethos in the scene or, the film as a whole. In correlation with our task, I thought that watching other films by David Fincher would give me inspiration and ideas which I would like to carry forward into our film opening. This is what I noticed in the film:
- Fincher uses many extreme close ups on inanimate objects and characters to show their importance.
- Linking to the previous point, there are also focus pulls between the characters and the inanimate objects. This not only shows the importance of both the character and the object; it also shows how they are linked together in a particular way.
- In terms of mise-en-scene, ‘Fight Club’ has a very dark and dull colour range. This is something I would like to portray in my film opening as it creates an eerie and dramatic atmosphere which can be uncomfortable for the viewers/audience.
‘Gone Girl’ is a 2o14 thriller film directed by David Fincher. This film is, without a doubt, my favourite thriller film I have ever seen; I would even go as far as saying that it is one of my favourite films ever. ‘Gone Girl’ is one of the best thrillers in modern cinema because it does exactly what a thriller is meant to do – it excites you and brings you closer to the characters. ‘Gone Girl’ also has this character development which is seen in many thrillers – something which is incredibly compelling and adds to the suspense and excitement an audience member would endure. David Fincher has used a unique style of filmmaking in this film and it is something I would love to portray in my film opening. I decided to watch this film again to analyse the features so, I can perhaps take some inspiration from them.
- The first part of the film is the most important part a director has to deal with. In the first half we learn: who the main characters are, what the main plot is and the setting (time and decade). I noticed that the main characters were shown using close up shots, sometimes extreme. This emphasis on these characters indicate to the audience who are the protagonists in the film. The main plot is immediately explained by Amy Dunne’s diary entries which begin just after the first ten minutes of the film. The narrative goes back in time at the start of the film to show a small back story which is obviously very vital to the events happening later on in the film. The setting and location is also established in the opening of the film. Small text is shown in the bottom corner which states the date – this is related to the diary entries Rosamund Pike’s character, Amy, writes throughout the film.
- The mise-en-scene of the film creates a moody and depressing atmosphere. The lighting is very dull and in a lot of scenes, there is minimal lighting. In some scenes, Fincher has used a back light to almost create like a silhouette of the characters in shot – instead, this silhouettes create a “mysterious” feeling to the scene.
- The colours in the scenes represent themes like: sadness, mystery and suspense. Many scenes have a green, blue or just a cool undertone to it. I like this effect the editor has used as it creates an atmosphere which an audience member would want in a thriller film. The dark colours are also shown amongst the clothing/costumes worn by the characters. The dark clothing is worn by Nick mainly which can arguably show his emotions throughout the film.
- Non diegetic sound creates an uncomfortable and unsettling feeling throughout the film. The film opening has a “sharp” uncomfortable continuous noise which sets the scene immediately. When the non diegetic score isn’t used, natural noises (diegetic sound) also creates an isolated atmosphere – which many of the characters go through in this film.