Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Film Cinematics and “The Shining”

Apart from the sheer thrill of suspense, drama, fear and entertainment delivered by this movie, its none the less a classic example of one of those standalone movies, where film cinematics are displayed in their best of forms. Whether it’s the sound, the lights, the narrative, the dialogues, the acting, the editing or the sets, the Mis-en-scene of “The Shining” plays a perfect synchrony of both form and function.
In the following paragraphs, we will touch many of the facets of film cinematics in “The Shining” and evaluate how each played the role, it’s supposed to.
Nothing would be better than to begin with the opening sequence of the movie, which in a way sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The score for the opening scene creates a strange, grotesque and disconnected feeling about the movie. The screams or noises we hear towards the end of the opening score create a sudden distraction. This somehow brings us back to the same feeling of disconnection, all the while we were still trying to familiarize ourselves with the location, setting and general tone of the movie. The ominous and eerie music gives us a sense of imminent danger. We can clearly observe some match cuts during this opening sequence, signaling continuity of the film. The framing of the shots are mostly in a bird’s eye view fashion, allowing us to observe the surroundings, while we still follow the car, intrigued, and wondering, where it is going, what is going to happen, who is driving the car etc.
One of the most prominent scenes in the movie shows Danny riding his tricycle across the hallways of the Hotel “Overlook”. This is a repeated scene over a few times throughout the movie. In the first few scenes we see a tracking shot, of Danny riding his tricycle, turning at every corner. I think a Steadicam is used to achieve it. One of the things I noticed was the sound effect, of the wheels of tricycle hitting the wood floor and then the carpet, consecutively over and over again. This in itself, created a tension in the atmosphere of the scene, without the use of any background sound. Remember this is one of the earlier scenes, before he saw the two twin girls.
In another scene where Danny finally sees the apparition of two twin girls, calling his name and giving him the fright of his life, I noticed how the tracking camera following Danny’s tricycle adjusts its distance in between from Danny. With every turn, the camera lags behind Danny more than before, as if we are anticipating something to show up at the corner. The background sound also plays a key role in creating this suspense and makes us scared. Finally Danny sees the two girls standing across the hallway. This is shown in an extreme long shot, allowing the audience to absorb the shock from Danny’s point of view. The music at this point starts to get faster, suggesting something horrific is going to happen soon. We see a close up shot of Danny, to show us his reaction, he is terrified and yet he doesn’t do anything, as if he is wants to know who they are and what they are doing here. Reverse shots are used that go back and forth between Danny and the girls, who even ask him to play with him. Then, there is a jump cut, showing the two girls killed and lying in a pool of blood on the floor, suggesting they are ghosts and have been killed in the past. The editing then on, is fast paced, to create confusion, terror and thrill among the viewers.
Lap dissolve is used at several time points in the movie. An example would be the scene where Wendy(Shelly Duvall) brings Jack (Jack Nicholson) his first breakfast at the hotel, which later lap dissolves into a scene with the close up shot of a typewriter, zooming out to Jack playing with a tennis ball, this again lap dissolves into Wendy and Danny, going into the maze, then again lap dissolves back to Jack in the hotel looking at the maze design prop. Lap dissolves here shows a change of setting, while continuing to carry the story forward, in a way replacing parallel editing, to show what both Jack, and Wendy were doing at the time.
Another most powerful scene is the one when Wendy discovers what Jack has been typing over the days. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, typed over and over and over again. The close up shot and the reverse shot that moves between the pages of paper and Wendy looking down, in those few moments, convey Jack’s complete dip into insanity. As the scene progresses, we see Jack as a dark shadow on the right, looking at Wendy, in a long, wide angle shot. Building the tension up, what follows next is the effective use of shadows, Jack with the lights reflected behind his back, projecting him in darker shades, while we can see clear expressions of fear on Wendy’s face. We can see a lot of action reaction in this scene, going back and forth between each one of them.
Somewhere in the middle we see parallel editing being done to show what Danny is doing and seeing during that time. A few jump cuts with Jack’s voice at the background show, a hallway flooded with blood. The scene is in constant motion with both Jack and Wendy moving, while they are talking about Danny. Once again the dialogues effectively give us an impression of disorientation, disconnection and Jack’s insanity. Eye line matches or the 180-degree system is used a couple of times in the beginning and end of the scene, to show the point of view of the subject, mostly Wendy.
Another great element of film cinematics displayed at its best are the dialogues in this film. The dialogues delivered by Jack are in perfect sync with the mis-en-scene of the movie, projecting the remoteness of the location and the confining aspects of Jack’s situation. His dialogues in the movie, portray an unsettling nature, while continually mirroring his unnerving and desperate situation, as well as picturing his final slip into madness. Jack’s expression of Deja vu with the place, and Wendy’s expression of initial fear with the place, at the first breakfast scene, gives us more hints to the plotline, as well as creates a sense of suspense as to what might happen. This movie is the best example of precise and concise dialogues. The amount of dialogues is sparse and yet a few carefully chosen ones effectively add to the overall feelings of fear, danger and the loss of control.
“The Shining” not only captures in perfect essence, the genius, methodical perfectionist in Stanley Kubrick but also gives a perfect lesson in film cinematics for any first year amateur student in the art of film making. Films become more than just a medium of telling a story in a movie like this. This movie also champions and proves the value of technique over simply being recognized as a brush stroke of a genius.

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