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FILM
. . . a study of elements
LIGHTING
During the trial of O.J. Simpson, TIME magazine received
widespread criticism for manipulating a cover
photograph of O.J. Simpson's police mug shot -intentionally altered to make Simpson look darker and
more menacing. Not only were there concerns
regarding Simpson's right to a fair trial, but these
images also fed public debate about racial
stereotyping.
TIME darkened the handout photo creating a five o'clock
shadow and a more sinister look. They darkened the
top of the photo and made the police line-up numbers
smaller. They decided Simpson was guilty so they
made him look guilty.
In an editorial the next week, TIME's managing editor
wrote, "The harshness of the mug shot - the merciless
bright light, the stubble on Simpson's face, the cold
specificity of the picture - had been subtly smoothed
and shaped into an icon of tragedy." In other words,
they changed the photo from what it was (a document)
into what they wanted it to be. TIME was making an
editorial statement, not reporting the news. They
presented what looked like a real photograph and it
turned out not to be real; the public felt deceived, and
rightly so. By doing this, TIME damaged their credibility
and the credibility of all journalists.
Questions to ask about lighting when viewing a film…
• Are the scenes brightly lit?
• Is there much shadow and darkness?
• What is the purpose of such lighting?
• Does lighting focus on a character or object? Why?
• Is the source of the lighting realistic, symbolic, designed to draw the
audience's attention to detail, or used to augment a character or the
personality of the star?
• Are shadows used to conceal, to dramatize or to symbolize aspects of
character, action and theme?
COLOUR
Steven Spielberg elected to film Schindler’s List in black-and-white. Effective use of shadow and
light has been used, meticulously limiting the application of colour. The opening scene is in
colour, as is the closing sequence (which features the surviving "Schindler Jews", each
accompanied by the actor who played their character, placing a stone on their saviour's grave).
There are also two instances when color is allowed to bleed into the blacks, whites, and grays.
One little girl's jacket appears red so that she stands out from the masses, and a pair of candles
burn with orange flames. When color is used, it makes a point and an impression.
Sam Raimi elected to film Spider-Man in bright colours, aiming to stay true to the story’s comic book
origins.
Gus Van Sant elected to film Finding Forrester in colour. Consider some of the choices made – their
purposes and effects.
Questions to ask about colour when viewing a film…
• How is colour applied to the overall "look" of the film, to character, to
costuming and to props?
• Is there a symbolic and/or atmospheric purpose?
• What colour contrasts are present from one scene to another, and
what is the purpose?
MUSIC
Music -- particularly without lyrics – plays on human emotion. The brain processes
sound. The sound of music is even more concentrated than the film experience
itself. And the music of a single short song can be viewed as an even greater
concentration of emotion. When lyrics area added to the music, viewers are given a
direction for the emotion of the music. If there is a sense of story, it comes from
those lyrics. The purpose of music and lyrics is to give a defined emotional state to
the atmosphere that is created. The music connects the viewer to the story.
Questions to ask about music when viewing a film…
• How does the music define the atmosphere, mood and tone of a
scene?
• Does music comment on a character?
• Does music define or identify characters?
• How does music unify disparate shots?
• Does music assist the transition of time?
• Is the music a marketing tool?
. . . writing an essay . . .
After having viewed Finding Forrester for the second time and taking
notes while watching, you will now present your findings in an essay
of at least five paragraphs.
Your essay will discuss the use of lighting, music, and/or colour in
Finding Forrester.
You may consider one, two or three of these elements. It is NOT
necessary to write your essay on all three - choose the element(s)
with which you are the most comfortable.
Using the preceding questions and your notes as a guide, discuss the
intended purpose and effect of one or more of these elements.