Choose three techniques used by Gary Sinise, the director of the film ‘Of Mice And Men’ and explain how he uses them to create the opening of the film.
In the film ‘Of mice and men’, the director, Gary Sinise, uses several methods to construct the opening part of the film. He uses lighting, camera angles, soundtrack, background and dialogue.
The three most important techniques used are camera angles, soundtrack, and background. The purpose of the opening is to introduce the main characters and the storyline and also to invoke tension, mystery, and confusion so that the audience will become curious and get hooked.
The start of the film is a flashback but the viewer doesn’t know this and doesn’t know that they need to know the first vital stages of the film.
The different camera angles used are: short, snappy shots, panning, close-ups and zooming.
When the film begins, the camera is in a set position, on the slats of the train. Then it slowly moves away and gradually focuses upon an unknown man, whose eyes are glinting in the light. The director doesn’t want to reveal who anyone is before the film gets going because it creates mystery when the viewer doesn’t know who anyone is and it gets them thinking what will happen next?
This man’s expression looks as if he’s remembering something and as we can’t see who it is just by his outline the camera then zooms so the audience can see more clues. One of which can be seen that his face looks sinister, which may give important first impressions of the man, which Sinise intended, to confuse and intrigue the audience by creating mystery.
When the scene changes to a girl running through a cornfield, the camera is at a distance to begin with then she runs towards the camera. Then the focus is on the man from the beginning of the film with another man we also don’t know. They are also running, but as it’s the start of the film with no help for the storyline we don’t know if they are chasing the girl as the scenery seems to be the same or if they are all running away from something because they all seem to be running.
Then she runs out of the shot, and then next is of the two men again still running despairingly. For the next few minutes of the film, the camera shots go quickly from one thing to another, so for the audience, concentration is needed to keep up all what’s going on.
The camera is focusing on people’s legs, so the audience can see a pattern emerging. First, the shot is of the unknown men’s’ legs, then later on the camera is on the mob’s and the dogs’ legs. The director’s intention of this effect is to create panic and confusion to the spectators.
When the girl’s back is to the camera, she is seen running towards a group of field workers, subsequently the camera pans from the fleeing girl to the men at the ranch.
The next image is of the men and their dogs running. The only idea the viewer has is to think they are chasing the two men. Firstly, we see the dogs’ legs, as I said the shots follow in a pattern, then the camera closes in on the men’s’ faces, they look nasty.
Next, we see the two groups running through forests, where we only see shots of them for a small amount of time. This generates tension for the audience because they want to know if they get caught.
We know the distance between them, as the camera is close up and also the camera shot of the mob being far away is the same as when the girl was running towards the camera earlier on.
The two men are then seen jumping into a river, the man from the start of the film jumps in first, front view and then the other man jumps in after but from a side view.
The camera is used as one of the men’s view, to the audience; it helps them to feel how the men are feeling. It creates confusion because at first the audience may not know whose view it is and what they are looking at and because the men are in hiding and the viewer can see the weeds overhanging in front of them, this also creates suspense as the audience can see the two men’s’ point of view of the situation.
Soundtrack creates atmosphere and generates different kind of moods to set the scene, this is done by music and the sounds of the train, dogs and crickets.
At the very start of the film, slow music is played deliberately in time with the motion of the train. This shows reflection and sadness so that the audience knows the atmosphere of the next few scenes shows that something disheartening has happened. At one point the music stops and starts up again as the camera moves away from the train panels.
When the new scene appears of the girl is fleeing across the field, totally different music is played. It’s a thriller beat, which coincides with the running young woman. This effective method is used to create tension for the viewer, and so that the beat in the music can be felt as the beat of the girl’s heart racing.
Whilst the mob is running, sounds of barking, pounding of hooves and feet, and shouting add to the tension to the get away of the two men.
When the two men have jumped into the river, it’s daytime and we know that they have been waiting a while for the mob to go because when the camera shot has changed, we can hear crickets croaking.
The following scene is of the two men chasing a stream train. The viewer can hear the train at the very last few seconds of the river scene. The director, Gary Sinise, does this effect because it gives the viewer an instinct of what is going to come next and they wonder if the train is for the two men’s escape route.
The background tells us about the setting, place and time of the storyline. The film is set in the 1930’s, the audience know this because the girl is seen wearing a red dress when running through the cornfields and that was their dress sense then. The men’s clothes aren’t 21st century clothing either, so this gives us an idea of what time the film is around.
At the end of the opening, an American steam train arrives. This also tells us that it’s set in the 1930’s because nowadays, we don’t have steam trains.
The setting is in North America as the place where the film is shot is in cornfields, and also because we can see an American train, which gives it away. The men working on the ranch also tell us it’s in America because America is the only place known for men to work that way.
The girl in the red dress is an ordinary looking girl, nothing special about her. Red is an emotional colour and it contrasts against the field. Gary intentionally makes her look average because in those days, loud make-up and clothing weren’t around, so making her look out of place would make the audience confused.
Overall, these three techniques used, make the film really effective and they create an extraordinary opening for the audience. It causes confusion when you don’t know what’s happening or what’s going to happen, mystery when everyone seems to be running and tension when you realise the mob are chasing the two men, and they wait conscientiously in the river.