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Shutter Island Analysis

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A short powerpoint analysing the Mise en scene, editing, camerawork, characters/events, soundtrack and titles for Shutter Island's opening sequence.

Published in: Entertainment & Humor
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Shutter Island Analysis

  1. 1. 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.
  2. 2. Events/Themes/Characters 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.
  3. 3. Camerawork 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.
  4. 4. Sound 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.
  5. 5. Titles/Credits 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.
  6. 6. Editing 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.

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