Mis En Scene
The Mis en scene is the primary source of representation in this thriller opening as it consists
of a variety of different locations including dark prison cells, shadowed spiral stairs and
ominous alleyways. They all cause the audience to feel unsettled and anxious as they cannot
see what's in the shadows. At 0.05 seconds in we have a birds-eye-view of a spiral staircase
which is extremely uncomfortable for the audience because they have been put into the
perspective of someone falling through the middle. It breaks the comfort of sitting in a safe
cinema or on a cosy sofa. This really makes the audience feel involved in the film by giving this
P.O.V. shot. This foreshadows the theme of violence and murder in the film suggesting that
there will be an antagonist. The staircase is also only partially illuminated and a majority of
the structure is too dark to see which makes the overall vibe seem mysterious. It connotes that
something is being concealed in the film. The use of a staircase indicates that there will be
either an ascent or a gradual build up to a scary denouement (finale of a dramatic plot).
Overall, there is a very high use of dark colours such as crimson which is associated with blood
connoting violence, and the contrast of vibrant white on the emotionless black which
connotes innocence being overpowered by evil.
This thriller opening is very implicit in terms of events, themes and characters because it
doesn’t feature much of them. It has still been presented in a typical conventional way as it
shows several intimidating, mysterious locations as opposed to The Shining’s opening
sequence which completely discarded these conventions to represent the thriller genre.
However, Shutter Island is very careful not to expose the plot in it’s opening sequence by
providing short individual, enigmatic clips that all together make no logical sense. Each clip is
completely different to the last and continues to shock/surprise the audience from it’s
randomness. They all contribute to represent the thriller theme and foreshadow the following
key events in the film. However, although we do not see any explicit murders or chase scenes
we are hinted to the involvement of death and crime by the short clip at 0:31. It depicts some
ones foot discretely moving a gun out of view which could signify a murder and establishes the
involvement of an antagonist.
In addition; 5 seconds into the film opening; the camera is placed above a spiral
staircase in an aerial shot. It spins at a violently fast pace which could represent
some one falling down it do their inevitable death. The spiralling is very
disorientating and generates a sense of discomfort as the audience’s view have been
directed to the centre of the spiralling to try and regain focus on something. The fast
paced rotating motion of the camera connotes confusion and visual impairment. It
resembles the spiral used to hypnotise people and could represent the characters
being hypnotised to confess to something or confront a past experience that has
been forgotten or hidden. It supports the genre of Psychological thriller as it delves
within the subject of the mind and state of mind.
The sound is very mixed in terms of pitch and volume in this sequence. It tends to
build up dramatically and then fade gently in a repetitive way. This causes the
audience to anticipate some kind of shock. It features major keys from trumpets
and drums and minor keys from piano’s. Together they build tension but falsely
prepare the audience for a jump scare that doesn’t happen. Which represents
how the film itself will feature a lot of unanticipated plot twists. There are no
diegetic and non-diegetic sounds or ambience in this clip which force the
audience to directly focus on the score. The score is what conveys all the emotion
and instead of providing a clip of an empty cell with an eerily quiet ambience, it
fills the locations with these organic instruments to give each place emotion and
a haunting past.
The first titles begin in a red colour with menacing, flickering animations. However, as the
sequence plays, the titles become calmer and turn white. This could represent the
involvement of a character who is deranged and has frequent changes of personality, i.e.
An alter ego. The red colour of the titles at the start connote strong feelings of anger and
could be representing blood and gore. In contrast the white titles connote feelings of
emptiness and could be representing the supernatural element like ghosts. The typography
is very bold and every letter has been capitalised which represents urgency and
foreshadow how events will unexpectedly jump out.
The editing in this opening sequence is an important feature because each individual clip
conveys a certain cryptic message. For example, the clip at 0.16 is a juxtaposition of the
other clips as the setting composition and lighting contrasts with the rest. It shows clear,
bright skies and illuminated surroundings whereas, the other clips are extreme close ups of
dark, ominous objects or locations. It establishes the location but generates a sense of
mystery and suggests that although, the exterior of the location seems elegant and
harmless, it remains to have a dark truth behind the doors.
The character who’s perspective is privileged remains unidentified for this sequence as the
camera doesn’t film any one’s face at all. This introduces mystery as a common theme in
this thriller film and even represents the confusion of self identity.