Back to the Fututre – The Econemy of Stortelling
Welcome to MUST SEE FILMS, My names Darren and this channel is helping you see films differently.
I recently revisited a childhood favourite of mine, ‘Back to the Future’ and it still holds up as a fun filled adventure, a sci fi masterpiece and at the same time an initimate family drama.
One of the most overloooked achievements of this film is the films opening shot. It manages to convey an incredible amount of information to the audience in a very short time, not to mention the technical execution of the shot its self.
As the film opens we hear the ticking of clocks, tying into the the theme of the overall narrative.
The most impressive part about this sequence is that it really serves as a character introduction for Doc Brown without actually revealing his charcter.
Another great example of a scene that conveys information to the audience about a character before they arrive in the story is the build up to Quawella Devils.
1st a conversation, a song, a vechicle, a siloutte until final, as the character first arrives on screen the audience now have a sense of who they are.
So we learn that Doc Brown is obbessed with time. This is also setting up an experiment which Pay offs shortly after causing Marty to be late for school.
This clock shows a classic image from ‘Safety Last’ 1923 and also foreshadows the climax of the film.
Next we get some evidence of backstory, we learn that Doc was once rich, hes an inventor and because of perhaps an explosive experinemt or in an aim to fund his latets project he has sold his grounds.
But the even more telling aspect of this item is that he has kept these specific pages, displays them on his walls, perhaps as a reminder of how much he has sacrificed for his vision like the greats.
Among his role models are the likes of Thomas Edison, Benjamin Frankilin and Albert Einstein as seen in these portaits above his now humble living quarters.
Also note, the appearance of the JVC video device which will be a cruical element to the story later on.
The raido gives us our first gounding in time, OCT 1985, the date is presents later again when it becomes more improtant but just note that within minutes the audience has an understand of WHEN they are.
The pilled up mail, smoking toast, coffee machine on auto and the pilled up dog food indicates that he hasn’t been home in some time and raised the question of why has all his equipment been let ON? This is answered shortly after this opening shot.
The case of the missing plutonium is presented here, again raising questions in the mind of the audience.
The dog bowl just reinforces the idea of an inventor who names his pet Einstin and that they both havent been there for a while.
Unlike the intentional mistry created around Doc Brown, Marty is the audiences first character, putting us in his shoes early on lets us been taken on this jounrey of time travel and adventure. We also see his 80’s cloths and sets him up as a skateboarder which pays off later.
The knowlegde of the key and casual nature of his entry shows the closeness of Marty and Docs relationship,
Concluing this incredible shot by paying of the issue of the missing plutoinum, this doesn’t satisfy the audience but only creates more curosity.
If we ignore the studio advertisments at the start, its amazing to note that this sequence last 2:52 seconds. Its taken more time to exmaple the content and meaning of this thoroughly crafted shot. Making this an incredibly economic way of telling a story on film.
Now if we compare this to the opening of Back to the Future 2, We see the final few minutes from the end of the first film as a prologue and this Point of View shot as the delorian flies through the sky.
Im not saying every film needs to start this way, but if the puprose of the beginning of a film is to draw you in, raise questions, introduce character, and layer each moment with thematically rich content, then Back to the Future is a prime example of this.
This last little easter egg is moments after the opening shot. Its interesting to note that the label from the music system reads CRM 114, which is supposedly Speilbergs doing, this is referrence to several Kubrick films which also feature the same short code.
Iv been fascinated with the opening of films recently and I’d love to hear your favoruite examples which you think are worth invesigation.
-maybe your not ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love. Music!