The trailer begins with the camera off-centre at a low angle facing the protagonist, this off-centre angle represents the idea that things are out of proportion and so something needs to be solved. In the mise en scene, we see a school bus. This sets the scene and shows that one of the primary locations is at a school and so the character in the shot is likely to be a student.
This shot shows many people –both students, and teachers- going in and out of what we can assume is the school by way of continuity. The low angle in this shot provides an air of mystery to the audience; the school is made to look grand and intimidating through the angle of the camera. These first two shots help follow the codes and conventions of the paranormal aspect of the genre.
Here, a long shot is used to distinguish the protagonist from the other students. Because he is in the centre of the frame, the audience will notice him first. Also, the facial expression of the protagonist is quite dark and, once again, mysterious. This again meets the typical connotations of the paranormal/thriller genre. This shot invites the audience to question the thought processes of the main character, this spark of curiosity draws them into the trailer.
This high angle shot is very important to the trailer and further pushes the audience to become more curious as to what “it” was that this person has done. The high angle emphasizes the higher power that surrounds the characters in the movie and makes these characters seem weak and vulnerable. Also, the way they’re standing around it, suggests that they fear the scene they’re in.
The mid-shot in this scene puts further emphasis on the paranormal aspect of this genre as it clearly shows the protagonist with some sort of unique ability. The confused facial expression on the character provokes further curiosity within the audience. The character is looking into a mirror and of course, the mirror is the camera and thus creates another mysterious illusion as it creates the effect that someone or something is watching the character. The wall tiles and towels promote the surface realism as these are the common objects a bathroom would contain.
This shot is another mid-shot and more-or-less mirrors the previous one in the way that the character is posed. This is done to provoke a sense of shock within the audience due to its ghastly form. The reason it strikes the same pose as the previous shot is to juxtapose the two characters and by comparison makes this character seem more shocking. This is the first time in the trailer that we are introduced to this character and is designed to look abnormal to highlight the paranormal genre.
The shots that follow are all used to portray the idea of the paranormal / thriller genre. This is done with the iconography of the “time travel” book in the second picture, the mysterious font of the text in the first picture, and in the two remaining screenshots, the protagonist is emitting some sort of bubble-like trail. Once again the eerie facial expression on the character provokes curiosity as to what his motives are.
This high angle shot of a woman crouched down with fear is significant. The height of the angle shows her vulnerability and her worried facial expression emphasizes this. Feminists such as Naomi Wolf would be against using a shot like this as it presents women as vulnerable, weak and in dire need of a strong male in order to be rescued. In most of the trailers that I have analysed, it is a common theme to use a female figure as a victim in distress. Although feminists would condemn portraying women in this way, it has become the social norm to accept this. Being that feminists are a minority in terms of a target audience, I would certainly consider following this theme rather than challenging it.
This close up is used to identify the significance of the object in the mise en scene. The iconography of the knife represents the thriller aspect of the genre. The dark and gloomy surroundings show that this knife is being used for something criminal rather than a kitchen utensil. Also, the sound behind this scene is of a mysterious and monotonous drone that increases in tempo as the trailer goes on. This is done to provide a crescendo of tension within the audience.
At this point in the trailer, the music has built to its crescendo and then the title “Donnie Darko” appears in the same mysterious, paranormal font as before. This is the point where the audience is most tense and depending on their interests will want to watch the full film.
the next series of shots involve the same font displaying the actors name followed by a shot in which the appropriate actor is in. Using Vladimir Propp’s character theory, the characters used in these shots would represent a certain style or motive such as the hero which would usually be the protagonist in the movie e.g. “Jake Gyllenhaal” and the princess and the donor/helper which would be one of the female characters below, because of the youth and beauty of the 2nd character, it is likely that she will play the role of the princess in Propp’s theory.
This opening shot is a mid-long shot of a classroom in the year 1959 as the text shows. The fact that the date is shown suggests that the film is set either before or after this time, otherwise the audience would be left to assume the era by way of iconography, mise en scene etc. there is a strong surface realism here as the costumes and props used clearly represents a historical era.
This shot is a bird’s-eye-view of a time capsule being unveiled. It is evident that the time has now progressed and this is emphasized through the use of a sound bridge of the 50’s teacher talking about what to put into the capsule. “what you think the future will look like” are the instructions she gives. We can see on the capsule that the year is now 2009.
here we are introduced to the protagonist, it is a wide shot with the main character standing very central in order to catch the audience’s eye and establish him as the main character. This shot also presents accurate continuity as the characters in the mise en scene are wearing costumes that are appropriate to the year they are now in. (2009)
This mid-long shot shows, what the audience would assume to be, the deuteroganist who is opening an envelope from the time capsule. The wide, open space behind this character gives the sense of isolation and provides an air of mystery. This helps meet the typical connotations of the paranormal/thriller genre.
This close up – also used as a match on action – shows the contents of the envelope. As this item is shown a slight zoom is used to intrigue the audience as well as an eerie sound effect used in synchronisation to the sudden change of contrast in the 2ndscreenshot. This is used to provoke curiosity within the audience, allowing them to question what these numbers mean, at the same time emphasizing the mystery of the scene.
A long shot is then used to once again put the protagonist under the spotlight, this is highlighted with the use of depth of field, blurring out the unnecessary characters surrounding him. Despite the many faces bustling around the scene, the depth of field allows the effect of isolation to once again be used.
Once again we see the deuteroganist now in a close up in order to allow the audience to see the worried facial expression. This makes the audience want to find out what the numbers mean and why it has left this character so concerned. It also highlights the mystery and helps build up to the codes and conventions of a paranormal/thriller.
An over-the-shoulder shot is used and this shows the protagonist obsessing over the numbers desperate to find out what they mean, at the same time causing the audience to take on the same characteristics.
A fast paced montage is used showing images of disasters whereby many people have died. At the same time a, high tempo beat is played in synchronisation with the changing of images. This creates tension within the audience, another connotation of a thriller. On top of this, a sound bridge of the protagonist’s voice is playing, depicting the link between the disasters and the numbers. “Ive matched these numbers to the dates of every major disaster in the last 50 years.”
The concerned facial expression on this character, makes her seem vulnerable and weak. In terms of stereotypical roles of gender, this matches up well. The feminist point of view would be one of disapproval, as they fight to be treated equally to men.
The low angle here makes the male protagonist seem strong and powerful, this further emphasizes the previous shot in which feminists would react strongly to.
The over the shoulder shot here once again shows the concerned facial expression of this character. “what happens when the numbers run out?” is the dialogue used in this shot. This creates a vast sense of intrigue within the audience as they too will be asking that question. In typical thrillers, there is usually a twist in the plot of the movie, this line seems like it could be a hint at what that twist might entail.
As with almost all film trailers, the title is revealed last. The font, and effects surrounding the text, have a paranormal glow about it and help construct the conventions of a film of this genre.