Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Analysis of a Film's Opening Sequence

For my analysis of the opening of a film I chose American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, starring Christian Bale and brought to screen by Mary Harron. The film tells the tale of Wall street businessman Patrick Bateman and his descent into madness, resulting in murderous frenzies. Below I'll be analysing the first two and a half minutes of the film and out lining the themes that it touches upon that hint at the events yet to happen in the film.

Opening with a white background, the type fades in and out and appears perfectly uniform. This represents Patrick Bateman's life style in design choices for wanting things neat, tidy and minimal. The design also emulates the aesthetic style of the business featured in the film. Droplets a red fall from the top to the bottom of the screen, this creates a stark contrast with the white background but also gives the suggestion of blood being spilt. This continues with the credits appearing and the droplets increasing with frequency as the score builds.

A droplet suddenly lands on the white background with a splash, further concreting the concept that the red droplets are supposed to represent blood. The Title of the film appears in the dead centre of the screen in a thin type with a standard version being used for the word "American" and bold being used on "Psycho", this is to highlight the difference between the two words or to merely empathises the "Psycho" part of the title. The title sequence still portrays the meticulously clean life style that Batemen leads.

The title fades as the red sauce is poured into a design in a decorative style, this is to represent the delacasies that Bateman is used to in his life. The red most likely symbolises the murders that are soon to happen. A hand holder a knife similar to the one used by Micheal Myers in the Halloween series of films appears briefly moving from the bottom to the top of the screen, this is most likely to draw the connection between Bateman and other movie monsters, Chrisitan Bale's name appears after this confirming that he is in the starring role of Bateman.

A hand holding the knife comes down on a portion of meat thats clearly been prepared for a meal, after which another actor's name, Willem Dafoe appears. Couples with the previous images and the slowly building score it's suggested that Bateman does something more with his victims than just murder them. It also suggests that the character that Dafoe plays could be a potential victim for Bateman.

The camera pans out to a close-up mid shot revealing that everything prior was all in the name of the preperation of what appears to be a high class meal, this is then placed at a table with expensive silver ware. This is to show that the film will be dealing with atleast one character of high society or of a large income. The music here changes to a classical motif to further establish the theme of high society.

The camera contiues to pan across tables showing the variety of food that the restaurant has to offer. Everything is placed neatly and nothing is messy or out of place. The food is all placed in the centre of the plates, this again establishes Bateman's need for order in his life, not just social order but also physical order.

The camera contiues to pan across tables of food until eventually it pans upwards to a mid shot of a couple speaking. The two are dressed very formally discussing what to order. The scene then changes to a waiter informing another couple of what the house special is. These scenes are to bring the audience into the world that Bateman occupies, one filled with reservations and etiquette. These shots continue for 50 seconds with close ups of the waiters as they speak. This is merely for narration and not much else, whats important to note is that most of the occupants of the restaurant are all couples, whom dress in a similar fashion to one an other, representing the weird facelessness of identity that the film tackles with later.

The camera follows a waiter as he crosses a room, eventually panning on to a table of three gentlemen talking amoungst themselves. They've clearly finished eating as there are no forks or knives on the table only spoons. Bateman is holding his playing with it potentially giving a sense of either boredom or unnervingness, this could a be a hint that he is not content with his life, explaining the actions that are to follow. The three chat in a very casual way signifying that they're friends. Whilst each one wear suits only Batemen's is a dark colour hinting towards a darker side to his personality. The scene ends with a fourth friend returning from the bathroom implying it 'wasn't good enough to do coke in' and they leave after paying the bill stating $570 is resonable.

This opening scene is more a mood setter for the film with hints of foreshadowing, it establishes the lifestyle of the main character and those around him but also hints at the dark undertones that will rise to the surface as the film progresses. The score works well to play with expectations of the viewer starting off with a moody and dark slow melody building up into a classical overture really melds together the themes that will be dealt with in this film. Overall a fantastic opening full of sutble hints and nods.

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