Thursday, 23 January 2014

Black Swan


Black Swan is a psychological thriller film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman. The film was released on 17th December 2010. Natalie Portman plays ballet dancer Nina Sayers who wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette. However she slowly begins to lose her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.

Analysis of Narrative Structure

At the start of the film we are in a state of equilibrium with our protagonist auditioning for the role of the play Swan Lake. She has not faced death or the death of another and comes across as a level headed individual who is passionate about her dancing.  Nina auditions for the part of the White Swan, but doesn't get it easy due to her strict boss and the threat of another dancer named Lily who has a bolder more carefree attitude than that of Nina. It could be said that her boss and the other girl, Lily, are the strong forces or the antagonists that she must oppose. The quest that Nina is going through is defifnitely focused on a character however there isnt really a huge mystery to be solved. whilst there are events at the end of the film whih cause Nina to question herself, she is genreally focused on just learning and accurately portraying the White Swan for play. The narrative is from Nina's perspective certainately but the element of justice seems to be absent from this film however there are strong moral challenges and there is an overwhelming sense of innocence that envelopes Nina. At the films end Nina engages in a battle that reveals to be with herself, which is similar to the resolution in Shutter Island.

Character Study: Nina Sayers

Nina Sayers is an innocent young woman who just wants to be the perfect ballet dancer, pushing herself to the limit to achieve that goal. The revelation that her dance company will be performing Swan Lake is what drives Nina to to show off her her talent  as the perfect dancer for the role of Princess Odette- the White Swan. Her relationship with the rebellious Lily causes her attitude to change, challenging her slightly possessive mother and exploring her sexual interests with Lily. This combined with her infatuation for the White Swan causes her to lose her innocence and slowly delve into the Black Swan. Nina changes from a caring, polite girl to a possessive and dark young woman.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Shutter Island


Shutter Island is a psychological thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film was released on February 19th 2010. Leonardo DeCaprio plays US Marshal Teddy Daniels who is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from a Mental Institute on Shutter Island. But as Teddy delves deeper into the mystery the lines begin to blur and he starts to question his identity and sanity.

Analysis of Narrative Structure

Shutter Island in fact features all of the narrative features listed in my previous post on thriller films and their characters, making this film a perfect one to analyse when applying the narrative conventions.

From the very start of the film we are informed as an audience that Teddy has faced death, inn this case the death of another. Straight away this makes our protagonist vulnerable and is already at a disadvantage to any villains' or foes he may face. The opposing forces to Teddy are arguably stronger as they make him abide by the laws of the hospital and applying laws to him even though he is a law enforcement officer. Teddy follows a quest and is tasked with solving a mystery, which is indeed dominated by his point of view. As he is an agent for the law the idea of justice is obviously present and Teddy does indeed face moral challenges. There is an element of innocence for Teddy and the final battle does indeed end in him facing his enemy on a mental level.

Character Study: Teddy Daniels (SPOILERS)

Teddy Daniels is an interesting character and one that we initially feel comfortable and safe with as he is a US Marshal, a symbol standing for justice and ultimately 'good'. However as the mystery thickens Teddy begins to lose himself and the cracks start to show. We learn that the MacGuffin within the film this "patient 67" is actually Teddy himself and that the mental challenge and enemy he faces is really within his own mind. It is a clever twist and one that sees our hero actually become a man drowned in guilt and in denial of his criminal actions.

Psychology of Characters and Narrative Conventions

Characters in the thriller genre usually include criminals, stalkersassassins, innocent victims (often on the run), menaced women, characters with deep dark pasts, psychotic individuals, spree killerssociopathsagents, terrorists, cops and escaped consprivate eyes, people involved in twisted relationships, world-weary men and women, psycho-fiends, and more. The themes frequently include terrorism, political conspiracy, pursuit, or romantic triangles leading to murder.

The protagonists are frequently ordinary citizens unaccustomed to danger, although commonly in crime thrillers, they may also be "hard men" accustomed to danger such as police officers and detectives. While protagonists of thrillers have traditionally been men, women lead characters are increasingly common. 
Psychological Thriller
In psychological thrillers, the protagonists are reliant on their mental resources, whether it be by battling wits with the antagonist or by battling for equilibrium in the character's own mind. The suspense often comes from two or more characters preying upon one another's minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by merely trying to demolish the other's mental state.

The Primary Elements of the Thriller Genre
  • The protagonist(s) faces death, either his and/or her or somebody else's.
  • The force(s) of the antagonist's must initially be cleverer and/or stronger than the protagonist's.
  • The main storyline for the protagonist is either a quest or a character that cannot be put down.
  • The main plotline focuses on a mystery that must be solved.
  • The film's narrative construction is dominated by the protagonist's point of view.
  • The two major themes that underpin the thriller genre are the desire for justice and the morality of individuals.
  • One small, but significant, aspect of a thriller is the presence of innocence in what is seen as an essentially corrupt world.
  • The protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) may battle, themselves and each other, not just on a physical level, but on a mental one as well.

Monday, 6 January 2014

REC Discussion

REC is a 2007 spanish horror film. It is filmed in a P.O.V (Point of View) style that seems to be a popular style that has been adopted by many contemporary horror films. The film has two sequels and a fourth film which will be released later this year.

Firstly I would like to say that REC is a great horror film, that is quite truly terrifying. For a zombie film it is set on a fairly small scale, utilising only an apartment block as its set, but this is in fact one of the key aspects that actually makes the film scary and feel somewhat realistic. This feature in it self could be a convention of the horror genre as it brings in the key conventions of isolation and tight claustrophobic areas. The point of view from the cameraman (who is called Pablo but is only ever offscreen) makes the film unique in its style and often puts the audience at the front of the action, adding to the tension and atmosphere of the film. The scares with the exception of one are unexpected and shocking, not particuarly bloody, but terrifying enough to makeyou feel engaged and frightened out of your wits.

I look forward to seeing the following films in the series and hope that they follow a similar formula and style to the first. My genreal consensus is that REC is a zombie film that feels fresh and unique, and utilises powerful atmospehre combined with clever and skillful camerawork to create scares that do not feel cheap or tacky... well except one but it doesn't really change much.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Descent: Part 2, Discussion and Comparison

As discussed in a previous blog, The Descent is a British horror film about a group of 6 friends who go down into an uncharted cave system only to find that the cave are home to a hive of bloodthirsty creatures. One by one they end up falling but not all by the monsters...

The Descent is probably one of my favourite films, especially in the horror genre, and the discovery that there was a second film was an interesting and exciting prospect. The first film ends with a shock and a neat twist that gets your brain turning and trying to make sense out of the events that just occurred. Hopes for the Descent Part 2 giving some more answers to the mystery set up by the first film were high, even though warnings given by an experienced and knowledgeable source said otherwise. Of course, curiosity got the best of me and I was greatly disappointed.

The film starts off a couple of days after the events of its predecessor with our surviving hero Sarah being plunged back into the caves she just escaped from, this time accompanied by a search and rescue team and some cops. They descend into the caves to look for Sarah's missing friends and find mixed results. Delving even deeper ends up getting with the group becoming separated and fighting for their lives against a returning enemy, one which Sarah is all too familiar with.

Positives. There are very few that I can take from this film, but the first is the creatures themselves. They still look as impressively frightening as they did in the first film, attacking their victims with the same ferocity as before. Whilst the scares that they try and pull on the audience are predictable and weak, their presence is the most welcome aspect of the film, teasing their victims at times and increasing the pace of the film. The other positive is linked with this strongly and it is the fight scenes between our human group and the underground creatures. The engagements are tight and fierce with the blood and gore effects being focused upon in close-up shots similar to the first film. This is nice as it shows a respect for the first films presentation in showing the fighting and the blood, which I liked.

Negatives. A huge factor that was completely missed form the Part 2 was the lighting. In the first film you had a strong focus on red lighting that made the settings look as if they had been bathed in blood, and in alternative parts there was a wash of green lighting. These colours made the film more intense and strangely beautiful and also strongly foreshadowed future events in the film. Additionally the ending scene is awash in a blue colour that gives a refreshing feel to the end of the film. This was not carried through to the second film, with the lighting looking flat and uninteresting. Pale yellows and faded brown is how the film settings looked and this on a personal level was highly disappointing. The scares too were also very predictable and felt rehashed form the first film, which made the film feel a little boring. Lastly and probably the most annoying thing, is the narrative of the film. It does little to give an explanation to the existence of the monsters and the big surprise could be seen form a mile away. The weird 'hallucination's' from the first film were not played upon in the second and this did not allow the audience to simply think or interpret Sarah's survival for ourselves. Females are strongly represented in this film which is great, however a new character faces exactly the same struggles that Sarah faces herself and is not really that interesting. Her own 'escape' is almost a complete copy of Sarah's, just filmed from the opposite side.

All in all the film looks dull and fails to really think of new ways to scare the audience. The story is simple and very uninteresting, with loads of opportunities to hint or suggest answers about the cave and monsters being missed. I would give this film a 4/10.