The Usual Suspects


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Analysis of Opening Film Techniques Employed

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The Usual Suspects

  1. 1. -The Usual Suspects (1995)<br />Film TechniquesExamples of typical film techniques used and why– Illustrate your findings with references to actual onscreen moments. Titling – colour, font style, over image or black, timing, credits presentation etc In the opening scene there are no titles shown; the film shows the action straight away, which allows the audience to understand what is going on without being interrupted. Camera Movement (panning, tracking, crane shot and crabbing etc)The camera is mainly held still to allow the audience to understand what is going on; however at several points a tilt shot is used. These give the impression that someone is watching the actions that are happening (for example, the fire following the line of oil at 0:22-0:25) and heightens the suspense as we don’t know who is performing the next action.Another example of the tilt shot being used is (at 1:46-1:49), where the unknown character moves the gun to his other hand. The shot gives the impression that the character whose face we know is watching this action and gives the idea that we are watching from his point of view.At the end of the scene (2:41-2:47) the camera zooms in on an object before fading into the next scene, which shows a man in the centre of the screen. This could imply that we are going to be looking into his mind or that the events we have just seen were from his memory.Framing of Shot (CU, MLS, ELS etc)The shots where the two characters are exchanging dialogue are shot from medium-close up, allowing us to see their details as well as some of the background. It also builds empathy for the character whose face we can see as we can see his expressions.A long shot is used (at 0:38-0:51) to understand where the characters are: although we are watching a character the background is mainly visible and coupled with our knowledge of other parts of the background we know that they are on a ship or boat.The first shot of the film is a close up – this builds suspense from the beginning as we feel that the object in shot is going to be important. Camera Angles (high and low angles etcThe most obvious example of a low angle being used is at (1:56), where we are shown the unknown character holding a gun at the other person. As we see this from a low angle we understand the powerlessness of the character that is going to be shot, and are aware of the power the other man holds over him.The level of the camera is low at (1:02) to show the insignificance of the character we can see. Part of the screen is filled with the coat of the other character and we are able to see the first man looking up at him – this emphasizes the height difference between the characters and further gives us the impression that the unknown man is important and powerful.Selection of mise-en-scène including colour, figure, pops, lighting, objects, location and setting;As the scene is dark and there is not much light, the audience’s attention is focused on the colour of the flames, which contrasts the rest of the scene. It is a bright orange-yellow and as we know it belongs to flames we know it is a dangerous colour. The other colours and objects are shown because of this light, making it the dominant colour in the scene.Because of the lack of lighting in the scene it is hard to establish where the characters are; however because of the props and some long shots we understand that it is taking place on a boat or ship. We also know that the ship is docked, but because it is set at night-time we also know that there is probably no-one except for the characters we have already seen around, so no-one will be able to help.There are only two characters that we are introduced to in this scene: after some dialogue we know that the first man is in pain/cannot stand, while we never see any more of the second man than his hands. This adds an air of mystery to the second man and makes us think that he is a very secretive person and also very well known, as he is addressed by name/title by the other man.Editing directions(Match cuts, jump cut, reverse shots etc)The cutting rate of the scene is quite slow – this shows that there is little action going on and emphasizes the dialogue and movements of the characters. It also helps to draw out the suspense as the audience does not know what is going to happen next.The scene is brought together by matched cuts, with no special transitions. This allows the audience to understand what is going on (the scene is played out in the correct order) and keeps their attention on the events. Later in the movie, the scene fades into another one slowly, indicating a lapse in time.The two characters shown have dialogue; we are able to focus on each character because of the reverse shots, which show each character as they speak and shows that the scene is playing in order.Sound techniques(diegetic, non diegetic, silence, dialogue The beginning of the scene is silent with only diegetic sound (e.g. footsteps, fire crackling, water dripping), building up the suspense. At 0:31 music begins to play and gets louder – it is played by soft instruments such as a violin and sounds as though it is building up to something; at 1:23 the music strikes a different note and becomes louder, making us feel that the character being indicated is both mysterious and powerful. The dialogue between the characters allows us to know ho well they know each other; the unidentified man addresses the other by name, indicating that they know each other.Actor’s positioning and movementThe man whose identity we know is mainly in the centre of the screen and slightly to the right; he does not move much as he is sitting on the floor and has stated that he cannot “feel his legs”. There is more movement from the other man, who walks down a flight of stairs and who (when filmed) takes up the entire screen, even though we cannot see his face, showing us that he is an important character.<br />-0:25, the camera has just finished tilting downwards to show the line of fire. <br />-1:00; the camera is level with the character that we can see. He is looking up at an unknown character.<br />-1:42; level shot of the unknown man’s torso. We never see any more of his dace or body than this, adding to suspense.<br />