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Does This Actually Mean Anything?

Good Afternoon Guys and Gals!

Week 10 is all about movies: understanding them, reading them, making them. We are assigned a few tasks that will help us in becoming better movie critics. For this post, I am going to watch a YouTube clip of a movie and critique it based on some very hand tips on “reading movies” from Roger Ebert and various tips on angles and camera work. Let’s see how this relates to a movie scene.

The Assignment

1) Analyze the camera work. Before watching the first time, turn the volume on the clip (or on your computer) all the way down. Take notes on the visual aspects of the clip. Look for camera angles, cuts, how many times the camera switches view, the quality of light, the cuts or transitions. Look for the ways the camera tells, guides the story.
2) Analyze the audio track. Now turn the volume up, but play it without looking at the screen (or turn off the screen); just listen to the audio. Take notes on the pacing of the dialogue, the spaces in the audio, the use of music or sound effects (think back to our work earlier on listening to audio).
3) Put it all together. Finally, watch the scene as normal. Pay attention to something you may have missed the first time or how the elements you saw in the first two steps work together.

The Critique

I chose my scene because it was in Russian so I felt obligated to do that one. The movie is called “Idi i smotri” which translates to either “come and see” and “walk and see” and it is about the atrocities of WWII. It is directed by Elem Klimov. You can watch the scene HERE.  CAMERA WORK: From the very first few seconds, we see a destitute face on the left and in the foreground. This person’s face takes up a rather large portion of the screen. He is on the left, which means something negative/sad/horrible and he takes up so much of the foreground that one can tell the pain that is occurring is huge. The other man is small in the background and to the right, which implies that the positive in life is small and far away. For most of the scene, we see black and white flashbacks that are occurring at rapid movement. According to Ebert, movement is more powerful and I believe the constant bombardment of movement is showing how extreme the main character’s memories and thoughts are concerning Hitler. I also noticed that many shots include people in the center. I guess this is to objectify the main character and Hitler and imply that everybody is just human and people go through struggles and die all the time. Also, the main character is shot from a low angle and thus given a godly status, while I saw a few scenes of Hitler shot from above which is implying that he is not worthy. The major camera angle I saw was from below which makes you feel as though the young boy is looking directly at you. Because of this, you can really feel his pain and you are connected to him. The first shot of his face from below almost made me cry because I felt like I wanted to reach out to him. MUSIC: At first there is no music, just a few footsteps and complete silence. It implies peace and calm or maybe something ominous and deadly. Then we hear a gun shot and heavy breathing. This breaks the peace and causes to be alert and question what is happening. One more gunshot and then extremely loud music, blaring with planes flying by and people yelling. It’s extremely disorderly and actually sounds like a war is going on and cities are being blown up. I had to lower the sound because it was so obnoxious. It made me cringe. There are more gun shots in between Hitler’s speech. At this point, I am imagining a huge monster.  Suddenly, silence again. As if we ran away from the war and are hiding in a peaceful place again. Or maybe everybody died and there is nothing left. I imagine that the boy feels empty after everything he has been through. Finally, powerful voices start singing in chorus. They are quiet but deep and very sad as if mourning a loss. ALL TOGETHER: Together, the music with the expression on the boys face perfectly tells of his inner turmoil. At first, he looks sad but calm and then he becomes more enraged and the music is loud and chaotic. It builds up to his complete rage as he shoots the portrait multiple times and then it eases as he becomes exhausted and deeply saddened by the memory of his family. Separating the senses makes the whole scene less dramatic but combining the senses together creates a dynamic and emotional filled shot.

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