Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Batman - A batboy's journey through adolescence, and into the Major League

‘Batman Begins’: how it all began; from little Brucie, all the way to billionaire Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego Batman. This movie is a gem for symbolism searchers, or in other words, students in a film studies class. Jam packed with symbolism, there are a few symbols I would like to explore in this blog entry.
The first symbol, and also the most evident, are the bats. Naturally, a Batman movie cannot be without bats (then again…If a Batman movie can include ‘Shark Spray’…I guess it could exclude bats all together). Little Brucies first encounter with bats are when he falls into an old abandoned well, which is connected to a large underground cavern…Conveniently enough, a home for thousands of bats. This event is what causes Bruce Wayne’s crippling fear of bats. As the movie progresses, Bruce Wayne teaches himself to use this fear to inspire fear into his enemies. As we progress in the film, Bruce Wayne’s fear is reduced to a cool confidence, as displayed when he stands in the midst of a bat swarm.
Masks, masks, and more masks! Well...Only two that have a significant role. Their purpose is to disguise their owner, allowing them to reveal their true beings. Bruce Wayne, the spoiled, rich, bachelor is able to reveal his ambitions and passion for fighting crime. Whereas we have Dr. Crane (and no, not the brother of Niles), who is an intelligent, yet weak, psychiatrist at the Arkham Asylum, is able to reveal his psychotic personality. They’re both otherwise incapable of fighting crime or intimidating people, but with their masks, they’re at the top of class.
The tramway...Oh the tramway. The tramway was built by Bruce’s father, a symbol of productivity and growth. It links the town together, and ideally, brings people together. It was the kind of transportation you could be proud of, seeing as Wayne Sr. himself took it quite often. However, with the death of Bruce’s father, the tramway rusted away. Now, it is as scummy as any other tramway, graphitized, and a haven for the sketchy folks of Gotham city. Bruce himself (that we know of) never stepped into the tramway since before his father died. However, by the end of the film, the ‘big fight’ between him and the League of Shadows takes place on the tramway. The tramway was a symbol of Gotham’s fall from grace.
The arrowhead...You don’t remember it that well? Well, that’s because it’s a subtle piece of symbology. At the beginning of the film, Rachel Dawes has in her hand an arrowhead that she found on the grounds. Well, being a young child, who most likely ‘likes’ Rachel, decides to steal it (yes...Another strange courting/mating ritual of the male species). After stealing the arrowhead, he plunges into the abandoned well. There is a nice slice of irony here, seeing as Bruce, who will eventually become the crime-fighting hero, is stealing himself. Because of this arrowhead, Bruce encounters the bats for the first time, instilling within him that crippling fear.
Batman Begins is a film ripe with symbology. So ripe, that if it were a banana, the banana would be half brown, half yellow. Though some of the symbology in the film is subtle, some of it is blatantly obvious.

...That's about all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Misery - A dual-meaning title?

When someone is taking care of you, you naturally expect them to be caring, sweet and loving, right? You'd expect nothing less if this person were a nurse, but that isn't the case with Paul Sheldon (James Caan). After a nearly dying in a blizzard, he is brought to safety and placed under the care of Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), a former nurse. It is there where Paul Sheldon's miserable experience begins. The camera angles used in Misery are arguably the most effective techniques used in the film. The low and high angle shots were the two most commonly used angles in the entire film.
Used almost constantly on Kathy Bates, the low angle shot gave her an almost constant superior, controlling, and intimidating air to her character. Combined with lighting and music, Kathy Bates, who has a very kind face, is transformed into a character straight from our midnight terrors. When she is hunched over Paul Sheldon's bed, slamming it up and down, furious and distraught over Misery's fictional death, a low angle is all we need to create the desired effect.
Seeing as Annie Wilkes is he dominating antagonist, it seems only fitting that Paul Sheldon, her ‘patient’, gets all of the high angel shots. High angel shots make you look small, powerless, weak, and insignificant. All of which describe Paul Sheldon and his situation. There are only a handful of low angel shots used on Paul Sheldon, but the vast majority are high angel shots.
Now we move on to framing, and as I’ve previously mentioned, it is one of my most favourite shots. In Misery, we have a rather evident frame shot, and this is when Paul Sheldon is exploring the house for the first time (Annie is at the general store picking up Paul Sheldon’s precious paper). As he enters the living room, we are seeing him from outside, through a window. The window on its own would give a feeling of imprisonment, but Annie Wilkes even has bars on her widows, making that feeling of imprisonment all the more potent. What does this signify? Well, most obviously that it is like a prison, that he is trapped there, and there is very little chance of escape.
Point of view: Ever wonder what it’s like to be a crazed, obsessed; portly, controlling nurse taking care of her favourite author? Well, if you’re like me, you can now find out!! There are only a handful of point of view shots, and they’re mainly used to create suspense (of course). As Annie Wilkes is approaching the front steps, with Paul out of his bedroom, we see the approach through Annie Wilkes eyes. The reason being is that it would be much more effective and suspenseful as opposed to not showing her at all, or even just a simple pan, or various cuts.
The, of course, is the ever popular canted angel. My favourite of which was used in Paul Sheldon’s first venture outside of the bedroom. As Paul Sheldon is crawling in the kitchen, the camera is tilted ever so slightly, and just enough to give an added sense of difficulty to his crawl. As he is crawling, it looks as if he is crawling up-hill.
...That about sums it up.