Exploring the Epic ensemble film from Paul Thomas Anderson, ‘Magnolia.’
A discussion about the creative process and resources that have been helpful in my recent writing efforts.
Shame ‘opening shot’ film analysis
The story of ‘Shame’ is important and tragic one, but the filmmaking choices of Steve McQueen make this a film worthy of Study and analysis.
We will be exploring the opening shot which lasts around a minute in length, but the amount of information in that subtle shot out weight its screen time.
Most of this information is evident after watching the film a few times and being aware of the themes, plot and eventually outcome for our character Brandon.
The first point to note is the heavy amount of Blue that fills the screen, Blue has been used repeatedly by David Lynch as the cinematic colour which represents ‘Secrets’
The off centred framing of the shot and use of space around brandon suggest that there was someone else in his bed, perhaps the night before and his hand position indicates his two driving forces in the film.
One hand around his genitalia, consumed by sex and the other in the emptiness of the bed which is Brandon’s struggle for whats missing in his life.
Another interesting camera choice is the overhead position looking down on Brandon, used by other filmmakers as a point of Judgment, Martin Scorsese Famously used this at the end of Taxi Drive in a long moving shot after the final shoot out.
Before he moves or begins to get up, we are drawn to the length of motionless time as our introduction to the character and this instantly raises questions and concerns what what lies ahead.
This next part is my favourite, as he gets up the his actions and the choices by McQueen act as an almost prologue to the interior film, by foreshadow Brandon whole character arc.
As he moves out of the shot the camera interesting stays focused on the bed, almost like Brandon can start his day but his mind can’t escape and is still focused on the action of sex in his bed.
Brandon opens the blinds which sheds light on his bed, telling us that throughout the story Brandon’s actions and nature as a sex addict represented by his bed will be exposed, he will be judged and this will ultimately bring him SHAME.
Hence the title, its position and timing as the result of Brandon’s exposure.
The amazing things to note about this short scene. It took me more time to explain these choices that its actual screen time.
And within the first 1minute of a film the Director has managed to reveal character, foreshadow the whole story and subtly state the characters conflict.
There are plenty of Director that craft their films so that every shot has multiple levels of information and meaning.
This shot from The shining for example is a basic conversation between Halloran and Danny, but the knives about Danny’s head foreshadow his danger later in the story as well as setting the up as a prop for Wendy to use later. Also note worthy is the fact that Danny’s back points towards the exits and he will ultimately escape and Halleron’s back is towards the freezer as he his fate is more tragic.
Another of my favourite examples is this shot from the Graduate. I love shots that basically sum out the interior conflict and themes of the films in a single shot.
It sums up the trapping of a naive young man by an older woman. He is ‘prey’ in her jungle, hence the plants everywhere and Mrs Robinson always wears some sort of leopard print design, as a predator in this situation.
Let me know what you think of this mini analysis format and if you’d more ‘in-between-isodes’ as this was a fun little video to make.
And let me know your thoughts on Shame, as a whole of just that first shot!
Thanks for watching.