Saturday, 11 December 2010

Genre Research [draft]

[From wikipedia]
"Psychological thriller is a specific sub-genre of the wide-ranging thriller genre. However, this genre often incorporates elements from the mystery and drama genre in addition to the typical traits of the thriller genre. Also, occasionally this genre will border into the also wide-ranging Horror genre.
Generally, thrillers focus on plot over character, and thus emphasize intense, physical action over the character's psyche. Psychological thrillers tend to reverse this formula to a certain degree, emphasizing the characters just as much, if not more so, than the plot.
The suspense created by psychological thrillers often comes from two or more characters preying upon one another's minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by merely trying to demolish the other's mental state.
Sometimes the suspense comes from within one solitary character where characters must resolve conflicts with their own minds. Usually, this conflict is an effort to understand something that has happened to them. These conflicts are made more vivid with physical expressions of the conflict in the means of either physical manifestations, or physical torsions of the characters at play."

Key directors include David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Darren Aronofsky

Our Research

American Psycho [2000] [Mary Harron]
Plot (from IMDB):
A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies. 

The opening scene is a series of shots with eliptical editing that add insight into the central protagonist's mindset. The first show is long take of a corridor into an apartment room - very Kubrick esque style shot. This shot and a lot of the opening anchor our protagonist's lifestyle. The room looks is classy and could signify wealth but also is simplistic. It has an almost empty feel, something also signified by the way the opening only features Patrick himself and his routine - a self indulgence, and sign that he is alone in the world. White is the main coulour used in the opening, with the walls, bed, furniture and even his underwear. The fact that he is walking aound in his tight underwear connotes a definate vanity, which becomes more evident as the scene continues. A sophisticated film and personality is connoted, through the use of intertextual references to classic theather such as Les Miserables, and the use of art in the rooms. Reflective surfarces are also used, signifying the character's indulgence in his own self. Cleaning though is often used in films to signify the idea of cleansing from sins - and in this film that idea is definately relevent later on. The opening sequence is paced slowly to match our protagonist's daily routine, the atmosphere is relaxed, it's as if following a schedule so the pacing suggests this too. This relaxed, sophisticated mood is ancored by the piano soundtrack. Though apparently not directly relevent to the film, the voiceover adds alot of exposition; "There is an idea of Patrick Batemen...some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me. Only an entity, something illusionary." These lines are spoken over a shot of Patrick removing a mask from his face, which matches the idea of illusion and reality of a person. 

One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest [1975] [Milos Forman]
Plot (from IMDB):
Upon arrival at a mental institution, a brash rebel rallies the patients together to take on the oppressive Nurse Ratched, a woman more a dictator than a nurse.

The opening features a very long take of a landscape, establishing the isolation of the setting. This opening shot has all the creditson it in a serif font similar to an almost handwritten style, possible a signifier of the book it was based on. At around the one minute mark we see a small flicker of light from a car (the only movement so far). The camera tracks the cars movement panning to the right as it drives by, possibly signifying the importance of who is in the car. It then cuts to a pan of the ward of the institute revealing later characters but more importantly the situation they are in. The long takes when put with little movement signify the boredom and lack of freedom at the institute. A long shot, with interesting framing reveals our central antagonist, the central protagonist (Jack Nicholson) does not appear in the film until after 4 minutes. Our antagonist stands out from the setting when entering, wearing jet black in a white room. The music has stopped now, and all you hear is her footsteps followed by her rustling the keys to the ward. The repeated line of "Good morning" helps to show the routine of the institute, and the opening sequence shows the dull equilibrium of the mental ward. We suggest from the opening that whoever is in the previously seen car, will disrupt that equilibrium.The film cuts from the brief introduction of "Chief" to that of McMurphy entering the building in handcuffs.

The Shining [1980] [Stanley Kubrick]
Plot (from IMDB):
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.

The opening scene is very similar to that of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" in that it is a very long take (filmed from a helicopter), which generally just establishes the isolation of the location. Visually the opening does not suggest a horror movie, it's polysemic, but the soundtrack is used to signify horror. The camera tracks a car driving through the landscape, so again we suggest the importance of those inside the car. At  1:09 there is in fact a blooper where the shadow of the helicopter on which the camera is placed can be seen in the bottom right of the screen. The camera pulls in closer to the car at one point as the on screen credits begin to roll. The isolation is also signified by the way in which the only other cars seen are driving in the opposite direction to that of our protagonists.We then cut to a extreme long shot of the hotel, signifying the car's desination and focal point of the film before a cut to a black screen with text on it reading: "THE INTERVIEW". On screen titles such as these are a recurring motif throughout The Shining.

Requiem For A Dream [2000] [Darren Aronofsky]
Plot (from IMDB):
The hopes and dreams of four ambitious people are shattered when their drug addictions begin spiraling out of control.

The opening to this film instantly introduces artistic nature. The game show scene suggests an almost documentary nature to the film.The clips of the game show are intercut with the onscreen credits, which are plain, simple, a serif font on a black background. This suggests the film's serious tone. A close up of the tv cable being pulled out enters us into the scene with Harry (Jared Leto) and his mother (Ellen Burstyn). The colours worn by the characters and the set design connote a poorer family, which is anchored by Harry's New York colloquial speech. This scene introduces the theme of conflict of age, and already introduces a sad tone to the film.  Many close ups and POV shots are used to express the emotion of the characters. The disrupted relationship of mother and son is also signified, with this apparently being a routine act (Harry says "You know you're gonna get it back in a few hours". "Why do you always have to make me feel bad for this?"). When the camera reverts from split screen to full screen, we also see Sara's disturbed nature when she talks to herself. The two shot variant also introduces director Aronofsky's creative cinematography and his style as an auteur. The fact that already the opening of the film focuses on deep disrupted lives and emotions shows what is about to follow. Though not many people watching it would expect just how intense it becomes.

Donnie Darko [2001] [Richard Kelly]
Plot (from IMDB):
A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after narrowly escaping a bizarre accident.

This opening was talked about a lot more in depth earlier in the blog. To view that post click here.

A Clockwork Orange [1971] [Stanley Kubrick]
Plot (from IMDB):  
In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and later volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society's crime problem... but not all goes to plan. 

The weird coloured screens instantly suggest the strange tone to this film. The music is very powerful, and helps create an, again, strange atmoshpere. The opening shot frames our central protagonist direct centre, before panning out to the lesser roles. A voiceover adds exposition to the plot.The camera pans out revealing the location to be a milk bar full of sexual references. No woman are present in the milk bar, but their presence is fulfilled by nude statues in explicit positions. The bar itself acts as a way for Alex and his gang to build up into the state of mind for some "good old ultra-violence". This opening suggests the very strong adult themes shown in the film - which ultimately saw it banned. It also hints at the sci-fi tone to it, with the very strange colour schemes and visual appearance to it. The actual first shot of Alex before it pans out, is typical Kubrick with the symmetrical setup and long take that we see in many of his films.

Dressed To Kill [1980] [Brian De Palma]
Plot (from IMDB):
A mysterious, tall, blonde woman, wearing sunglasses murders one of a psychiatrist's patients, and now she's after the prostitute who witnessed it.

Not too much can be said about the opening scene to "Dressed To Kill". The opening scene instantaneously introduces the adult themes of sexuality and violence. There are also definite links to the movies of Alfred Hitchcock with correlations with Psycho's shower scene, and also his repeated use of blonde, female victims.

Pyscho [1960] [Alfred Hitchcock]
Plot (from IMDB):
A young woman steals $40,000 from her employer's client, and subsequently encounters a young motel proprietor too long under the domination of his mother.

The film begins with typical Hitchcock titling sequence by Saul Bass. The quickly played notes on the violins are a recurring motif of Psycho, obviously with their most prominent use in the iconic shower scene. The next part features establishing shots of Phoenix, Arizona with the use of overlay between shots. The film is shot in black and white (Hitchcock revealed that he was given the option of filming in colour but infact felt that black and white would be more appropriate) - it gives it an almost film noir feel, but also just a more general, bleak tone. Onscreen text is used to help anchor the location and setting of this scene. It seems quite calm and peaceful as it pans in, suggesting the security of the current location innercity. Here the string instruments calmer pace also help anchor this tone. Another recurring motif is shown with a focus on the birds (later Norman Bates reveals his fixation with birds).The camera continues to pan around the city before zooming in on an apartment building's window with Venetian curtains drawn. In contrast to the outside where the sun has been shining throughout, this inside location is darker. We then see our central protagonist in a apartment with a man, suggesting adult themes.

Secret Window [2004] [David Koepp]
Plot (from IMDB):
A writer is accused for plagiarism by a strange man, who then starts haunting him for "justice."

The opening introduces our central protagonist with the very first shot being of him looking directly at the camera. Though in the long run he is the protagonist, and apparent victim, this first shot almost signifies him as a possible villain. He is slightly obscured by the framing of a car windscreen wiper. The use of the voiceover creates the theme of Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp)'s conflict of of inner thoughts (saying "Don't go back there." then proceeding to go back). The setting of cold, snow and and rain, is connoted not only by the later external shot of the motel but also by Johnny Depp's character's clothing. His clothing and appearance signify a man with a disorganised nature, who looks in a bad way mentally.Weather such as this is often seen throughout horror films, an the opening here has a clear links to both Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (the snow and the helicopter shot gliding over a lake) and Hitchcock's Psycho (the shot of the motel, and the soundtrack) which is unsuprising given that it is based on a Stephen King book. Adult themes are possibly introduced as well, as he bursts in a man and wife in bed together. At 3.42 it introduces his position as a writer, again a idea seen in The Shining. There is very little diagetic dialogue throughout the opening, but the voiceover adds exposition.

Memento [2000] [Christopher Nolan]
Plot (from IMDB):
A man, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife.

The film starts with a close up of a polaroid picture, a recurring motif in the film. It is being flicked backwards in time, suggesting the strange time shifts. The colours are diluted, which gives the film this almost polaroid style to it. We then see a dead body on the ground, suggesting an adult nature to the film.

2001: A Space Odyssey [1968] [Stanley Kubrick]
Plot (from IMDB):
Mankind finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, artifact buried on the moon and, with the intelligent computer HAL, sets off on a quest.

 We begin "2001..." with a shot from the dark side of the moon with the very edge of the earth illuminated by the sun. As the iconic soundtrack rises, so does the sun to reveal more of the world. The onscreen titles then appear in a futuristic sans-serif font.The film then fades to the opening scene at the birth of man, using lots of extreme long shots to establish the setting of this section of the film. Again the use of sunset cinematography signifies an artistic nature to the film. Notably no defined protagonist is seen. What is also notable is the sheer quiet and feeling of emptiness in this opening scene. Only the chirping of birds and the gusts of wind across the desolate landscape can be heard. Before we see any form of life, we see a symbol of death - bones left to rot on the wasteland. In truth, eveything about 2001 is on such a grand scale that it becomes hard to try and analyse the sheer depth behind each shot, - at the end of the day, it's film which tries to explore our very existence as the human race, and there haven't been many films which have took on such a large task.

Burn After Reading [2008] [Ethan & Joel Coen]
Plot (from IMDB):
A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.

This starts for a EXTREME long shot of the world, panning into the US CIA headquarters.We follow our characters feet along the long corridor, which connotes power and importance, before we see his face.

Vertigo [1958] [Alfred Hitchcock]
Plot (from IMDB):
A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her. 

The titles for Vertigo is a sequence of drawings with a few shots of a woman. The confusion is signified by this. The music is intense which suggests another Hitchcock suspense thriller.

The Sixth Sense [1999] [M. Night Shyamalan]
Plot (from IMDB):
A boy who communicates with spirits that don't know they're dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist. 

The opening starts with our protagonist celebrating with his wife. The fact that the lighting is dark and it is set at night signifies horror. This then anchored by the scene with the troubled character who ultimately shoots our protagonist. Again an act of violence, starts the film going.

Fight Club [1999] [David Fincher]
Plot (from IMDB):
An office employee and a soap salesman build a global organization to help vent male aggression.

Credits show images of brain, which signifies genre (psychological). It then cuts to the gun barrel in our protagonists mouth, from a high angle suggesting his powerlessness. You never see the face of the antagonist, which creates narrative enigma. The use of voiceover adds exposition, that is scene is from the end chronologically.

Identity [2003] [James Mangold]
Plot (from IMDB):
Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rainstorm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one.

 Trainspotting [1996] [Danny Boyle]
Plot (from IMDB):
Renton, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and influence of friends.

In the opening Renton runs down the street, whilst Iggy Pop plays, suggesting a rebellious youth protagonist. Also when  he looks into the car window, it creates a still frame, providing character name in text and the still image represents his character.

The Lost Boys [1987] [Joel Schumacher]
Plot (from IMDB):
After moving to a new town, two brothers are convinced that the area is frequented by vampires. 

The opening uses a long shot filmed from a helicopter to establish the fairground pier setting. Our central antagonist is suggested by the central framing, and a slight hint at the vampire theme is suggested by the teeth movement. As is stereotypical for horror films, an act of violence is seen through the long POV attack of the guard.

Rear Window [1954] [Alfred Hitchcock]
Plot (from IMDB):
A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

James Stewert is looking around (in POV) from his apartment from one fixed position. This suggests his disability causing him to stay stationary. It introduces a basic plot overview, and many characters.

Pi [1998] [Darren Aronofsky]
Plot (from IMDB):
A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.

Aronofsky's first film, and he establishes his artistic style straight away. The extreme black and white contrast give it a strange nature. The voiceover anchors this, as does the music. Again, we are introduced to our central protagonist.

S. Darko [2009] [Chris Fisher]
Plot (from IMDB):
The story picks up seven years after the first film when little sister Samantha Darko and her best friend Corey are now 18 and on a roadtrip to Los Angeles when they are plagued by bizarre visions.

Clear parallels can be seen with the opening to Donnie Darko clearly as it is the sequel, and a different director has tried to link to the original. Artistic sunsets and landscape shots are used, whilst showing our central protagonist.

Pulp Fiction [1994] [Quentin Tarantino]
Plot (from IMDB):
The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption. 

The opening scene of this film uses very little shot variation, concentrating mainly on the dialogue. We would assume these two characters would be our two central protagonists (though they are not). It establishes the adults theme with smoking, violence and swearing. We also see an artistic style through the use of the "pulp" definition.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button [2008] [David Fincher]
Plot (From IMDB):
Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.

The Silence Of The Lambs [1991] [Jonathan Demme]
Plot (from IMDB):
A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. 


In the opening scene of this film we have an establishing shot of a forest, very stereotypical for horror films. But this infact is revealed to part of an FBI training programme, anchored by the "FBI" hat etc. This uses a countertype of a seemingly strong, blonde, female central protagonist, possibly connoting an older audience.

Se7en [1995] [David Fincher]
Plot (from IMDB):
Police drama about two cops, one new and one about to retire, after a serial killer using the seven deadly sins as his MO.  

 The opening to Se7en introduces to our central protagonist. Our first shot is a partially obscured view of Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) beginning to get ready. The room is lit very darkly, the colours used throughout are very bleak, the tone of it instantly gives that of darkly themed, crime film - Notably there is no music in the opening. What we can tell straight away about our protagonist is his proffessionalism. He is shown to be very neat and organised (his clothes all set out ready to be worn, a chess table with all it's pieces, and his smart attire), clearly siginify an expert in his proffession. From the bedroom we cut to a crime scene with a dead body surrounded by blood. There is no build up to the storyline in this film, you are thrust in to from the beginning. At the crime scene we see stereotypical detectives wearing trench coats and peaked hats, signifying the classic film noir genre. In the opening of Se7en, unlike many previously mentioned films, we are introduced to multiple characters in the opening. It becomes evident Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) is a new detective in the area, and shown to be more of a rookie, simply by his age and rough appearancem, in comparison to that of Detective Somerset. Again this introduction of multiple characters and events shows the rapid lifestyle of crime in the area. Outside on the street we hear constant police sirens in the background. Detective Somerset hints at the how the area is far worse for crime than anywhere else, and the main theme revolving around the number seven is introduced when Somerset says "Well over the next seven days detective, you'll do me the favour of remembering that."

No comments:

Post a Comment