Today, we were shown the opening sequences of two gangster movies, and we were asked to record how camera, mise-en-scene, editing/special effects and sound were used to enhance the genre.
We first watched the opening sequence to 'The Godfather' (1972) - until 2 minutes, 50 seconds in ;
I observed that the use of the backward-creep (camera) doesnt reveal the 'Godfather's' face, or identity - leaving him completely anonymous to the audience; which adds to his devious reputation. Also, dark lighting demonstrates the aggressive nature of both the conversation, and the film itself. Mise-en-scene compliments the lighting, in that dark costumes such as black suits are used, and also descreet settings are presented perhaps as a visual metaphor to demonstrate the secracy/privacy of the situation.
Our second opening sequence was 'Goodfellas' (1990) -until 2 minutes, 5 seconds in;
After watching this opening sequence, I took note that the lighting (similar to 'The Godfather's' opening sequence) was dark and dangerous, which again; suggested the further events to come to be just as dark/dangerous. The use of the voice-oever at the end, gives the main charactor (Ray Liotta) an identity, perhaps a more reliable one than the other gangmembers, who remain unrelatable to the audience. Again, mise-en-scene consisted of dark suits, that connote business and proffessionalism - which was used also in 'The Godfather's' opening sequence. Camera angles/shots/movement varied from shot-reverse-shot, to long shot - all to give the audience a full view of what is happening, and also to involve them in the story; this encourages them to continue watching.
For further research, I watched three more gangster opening sequences and trailers - just to fully grasp the conventions/features of a gangster movie.
These gangster films were; 'Casino' (1995), 'Donnie Brasco' (1997) and 'The Departed' (2006).
Here is the trailer for 'Casino' (1995);
Throughout this trailer, I spotted that the two main charactors, also starred in 'Goodfella's' - Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci - which infers that these two actors are commonly associated with gangster movies, and when the audience see them, they'll instantly think of their past films together that were successful, and would be more encouraged to watch it.
I also noticed a pattern in costume, as most of the cast are wearing suits and are dressed respectfully, again enhancing their image of powerful and proffessional; and also connoting wealth and high status.
Special effects such as car explosions and bombs heighten the intensity and adrenaline that the film produces, and also entices the audience to watch it, as the special effects make it interesting - and keeps them on the edge of their seat.
Voiceovers again give certain characters an identity, as part of their narrative taken from the actual film is played over the trailer - this gives a personal touch to it, which again, strengthens the importance of the narrative/film.
The second opening sequence that I watched, was 'Donnie Brasco' (1997) ;
This opening sequence was set apart from the rest, in the aspect that the storyline is more detective-based and perhaps more involving of personal relationships, than it is agressiveness and gang violence.
However, the pattern of mise-en-scene still occurs, as suits are seen, alchohol being drunk casually and goods being sold/stolen openly.
Lighting is diverse and more lighted than the other sequences that I've explored above, and its a clear seperation between daytime and nighttime - also, inside bars/resturants/gyms lighting is varied according to the mood/atmosphere - this can also foreshadow what is about to happen. For example, if its dark lighting - then something bad is likely to happen.
In the beginning, the main actor (Johnny Depp) is seen in deep-thought, while different clips and images form a montage, this encapsulates the thoughts and feelings of the character, and prove to be quite complex - but all the same draw in the audience.
Another pattern seems to have erupted, as I've noticed that mostly all of the characters speak with dark and unsettling tones of voice, and often with an accent - that being American, or (a British) cockney, or (Mafia films) Italian accents. This can be seen as a form of race/identity that seperates them from other gangs/groups.
The last opening sequence that I watched was 'The Departed' (2006);
This opening sequence carried out the same pattern as the others, in that the voiceover narrated his side of the story, his personal take on things - giving the audience a sense of his identity. Overal the character was the typical 'badguy' by the way he bullied locals, and mocked them; knowing that they couldn't stand against him.
However, suits and proffessional costumes are not present in this sequence, I believe, for two reasons; - the first being that this film was released in 2006, and the traditional gangster take on things wasnt used as frequently, as a more modern take was used instead. Which shows how gangsters changed/progressed through time and became more modern. And secondly, it could be used as a false image of the character, meaning that his casual jeans and shirt portrayed inncoence and a neutral vibe - whereas, looking indepth, and listening to his narrative (voiceover in the beginning) we know that he is indeed the 'badguy'.
Similar to 'Donnie Brasco' - the opening sequence features a montage of different images and clips - to show the passing of time/development/downfall of the nation/area; with narrative played over it, to direct the audience.
Camera movement follows the main charactor, almost to the extent of point-of-view, until the camera performs a backwards-creep, and reveals the main charactor infront. This was used so that the audience could clearly see how people feared/respected him by the way they looked in the camera's direction with worried expressions.
Overall, I've gathered a range of information about gangster films, and the conventions that they stick to;
- (depending on the period of time) Suits and proffessional costumes are used.
- Local settings such as bars,casino's,gyms -- or private settings, such as private bars, offices, secret locations.
- Constant inferation of money/power/high status.
- Violence/aggressiveness/malitious behaviour or speech.
- Camera shots/movement/angles; track (following action/actors) and pan (moving left to right).
- Significant roles of power/leadership.
- Weaponry such as guns, knives, baseball bats etc.
- Alcohol being commonly drunk, bars,casino's,offices.
- Dark lighting, saturated colours.