Codes and conventions of thriller

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Codes and conentions of the thriller genre.

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Codes and conventions of thriller

  1. 1. By Matthew Nolan
  2. 2. GenreThe genre of a film dictates howthe film will be presented, the castinvolved (as some actors andactresses are often repeatedlyused as audiences recognise themand relate them to specificgenres) and the overall storyline.The thriller genre has been widelysuccessful within cinema and hasmany codes and conventions thatevery writer and director followswithout question. When creatinga thriller film the essential microfeatures that have to be focussedon are editing, Mise-en-scene, sound andcinematography, these often areused to create intense orsuspenseful situations.
  3. 3. The Thriller conventions(opening sequence)
  4. 4. EditingEditing conventions within the thriller genre are oftenfocussed around creating an uncomfortable orsuspenseful atmosphere as quick cuts and changingcamera angles are often used which disorientates thespectator and creates an on screen tension. Tension isvital in the thriller genre as it is that which keeps thevast suspense at a steady pace throughout the filmand then it is able to explode with a conclusion ofaction or an overwhelming resolution whichspectators might not have expected.
  5. 5. Mise-en-sceneMise-en-scene conventions are also very important to thethriller genre as many props, sets or locations can havesinister or tense connotations. A technique often usedwithin mise-en-scene is the use of mirrors which mightconnotate how the characters have to reflect on what theyhave done or might do and also show how they look atthemselves and the many different ‘faces’ they have..Another technique is the use of stairs which might showhow characters might have higher or lower groundshowing the use of power some characters have overothers and also the use of climbing up/ falling down stairswhich might connotate how a character is rising to achallenge or falling from their powerful state. All of thesetechniques relate to the iconography of the thriller genresuch as confined spaces, bars on windows or street lamps.Blacks and whites are also used as a convention of thrillersas it shows the sinister side of the film and the coldharshness which many thrillers portray For example FrankMillers ‘Sin City’ shows extensive use of black and white toportray the harsh narrative.
  6. 6. SoundSound is also an important micro feature and as well as the others itholds many conventions relating to the thriller genre. Sound is usedto create tension with eerie or intense music being played either asdiegetic or non-diegetic material within the scene. High pitchedsound is often used as it makes the spectator uncomfortable andshows how the scene might not be pleasant or somethingunexpected might happen. Many other uses of sound are used inthrillers and even within dialogue is usually unique to other genres asinner monologues or perhaps narrators can be found in many thrillerfilms which create a more direct tension to the spectator making itseem as if they are experiencing the film from the characters point ofview.For example, Steven Spielbergs ‘Jaws’ uses sound to createsuspenseful atmosphere and since then the motif of the shark hasbecome a widely known sound for a suspenseful atmosphere.
  7. 7. Cinematography Another micro feature which holds many important conventions which help elaborate and create a thriller genre film is cinematography. Cinematography depicts the different camera shots and angles and when the thriller genre is concerned these shots and angles are used in greater doses and with faster transitions from one to the next. In conventional thriller films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ 1960 camera angles are used more excessively such as within the scene where Master Norman Bates is having a discussion within Marion Crane.Within this scene factchanging camera shots areused to show disorientationand low camera angles areused on, the murderer-to-be,Master Norman Bates toshow the power he has over the female before him which also links to the mise-en-scene used within the sequence as birds of prey hang from the wall to show NormanBates’ intension to prey upon MarionCrane. This is just one example ofthe conventions of cinematographyin the thriller genre and how theyare used to create tension.
  8. 8. ThrillsThe thriller genre could be defined as something which thrills the audience.Audiences visit the cinema to experience feelings they wouldn’t get fromnormal day activities so the thriller genre contributes by making audiences’heart race, audiences watch thrillers for the excitement and the fear, theprotagonist is usually faced with dangers which help create a good quantityof excitement that eliminates a small amount of tension until a suspensefulscene takes over. This is then followed with the greatest danger of the filmat the end with the antagonist, which could result in the resolution of thefilm.
  9. 9. Film noirThrillers are often shown in a film noir style, this means that they would befilmed or shown in black and white and using typical conventions of the filmnoir thriller genres used together. Techniques such as the use of shadowsand the bars can be found to be used more excessively within film noirthrillers and as a result of this the tension and suspense has a greater effect.The effect is heightened because of the film noir as the techniques enhancethe suspense, the use of cliff hangers create a greater sense of tension andmake the audience crave more from the film.
  10. 10. CharactersThe characters in thriller films are not similar to ones that will be portrayed in other genres.Thriller characters can be found to have darker or sinister motives than others, they usually havebeen trapped in a situation and might feel they have hit rock bottom. These characters are usedto portray the ‘Underdog’ which is conventionally used for the main male role who might not bethe ideal hero or traditional protagonist but proves himself throughout the film to be kinder andmore good willed than initially thought. Also the most conventional character of the thriller genreis the ‘Femme fatale’ theory which is usually used to portray the main female role. The femmefatale is usually shown to be a lot stronger and independent than most female roles, she is alsoshown to be colder and not as innocent than females are usually portrayed. Quentin Tarantino’s‘Pulp Fiction’ 1994 shows the most conventional Femme Fatale through Uma Thurman’s portrayalof the character Mrs Mia Wallace.Mia Wallace is shown to wear dark or blackclothing with black hair; she smokescigarettes and introduces drugs into hersystem. This is not the traditional role afemale would be playing in other genres asfemales are conventionally shown as beinginnocent and the male roles tend to focusmore on being independent.
  11. 11. ConclusionIn conclusion the thriller genre has many codes and conventions which may portraysinister motives and dark characters. All mise-en-scene, cinematography, editingand sound are used in thrillers to show these conventions and all are important asthey each create different aspects that generate tension and keep the spectators insuspense. The use of criminals and danger are often used within thrillers as themajority of the audience will not be seeing criminal or dangerous activities on adaily basis so they will be frightened and intrigued by the characters, they want tobecome spectators into their lives and get excited by the danger on screen.

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