Monday, October 20, 2014

Living the Dream

In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, everything was about life. The main themes were living life to its fullest and getting out of the mundane world. The film also showed how there are endless opportunities for people to break out of their shells and get out into the world and live their daydreams. Walter Mitty finally got to live the life he was always dreaming about, and with excellent mise en scene the movie took the audience along for the journey. Towards the beginning of the film, there were a lot of linear, angular shots, but as the movie progressed there were more open, wide shots that brought the audience to Iceland and Afghanistan. Using these tricks and more, the movie felt like an adventure for everyone who was watching, and left an inspiring message to live the dream. Having a classical film approach, the movie uses more and more aleatory technique as it progresses, making it feel all the more real. Using mise en scene, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty takes the audience from feeling trapped in Walter's small world to freeing themselves along with him.

Towards the beginning of the movie, everything is very letterboxed and tightly framed. There is a working order to things, and there is always a plan. Pretty much every shot looks exactly the same.  When Walter is first in his workplace, his sister shows up and hands him a bright orange cake. That cake is the only thing that has color in Walter's workplace, and he's supposed to be working for LIFE Magazine. In theory, everything would be as lively as the little orange cake, but everything is drab and shades of blue or gray. Walter's birthday brings a dominant contrast into the frame, and it becomes clear how boring everything else is. Even the past covers of LIFE, which should represent life, are boring and dull, part of the background of Walter's world, a subsidiary contrast. There is one shot where he is looking around the corner at Cheryl, the object of his affection. In that shot, there is a wall so close to his face. It feels awkward to be looking around that wall. The aspect ratio is such that the wall is out of focus, but it still makes the scene feel closed form. The proxemic pattern is also social, and doesn't lend a lot of personality to the encounter. This is also an example of an anticipatory shot, which again removes the scene from being personal and renders it almost idle, a pastime that has become a habit, though not necessarily a good one. Finally, as Walter embraces adventure in a "screw
you" gesture towards his transition manager, he runs past several of the past covers from LIFE. They sort of start to blur together and at the end, Walter's face is on the last cover. This shows how he is finally living the life he's been printing pictures about for the past fifteen years. It shows how he is literally going to fly into the unknown just for a cover photo. Since the photo is of himself, he is really going out there to save himself from getting lost in the gray world he's found himself in.

Now that Walter has left his boring old world, the shots open up. Everything starts to be more loosely framed, long shots that take in the sweeping, colorful landscape. There starts to be more density of texture. The shots have more depth and more weight. Things seem to be more spontaneous as well. Walter winds up with a red sweater. This seems unimportant, but it allows him to be the dominant contrast in the palette of greens and browns, so for once in his life, he stands out. He also gets to use some of his skills that have lain dormant for some time, such as his skateboarding ability. Being out of his cubicle and therefore outside his box offers him greater freedom and shows him that everything he can do is important. He's not just the negative assets manager that nobody appreciates because they don't see what he does. Now, he doesn't need a specific skill set. Now he knows that he can be important for everything that he can do. Of course, there are some things he can't do. Although Walter is very neat
and balances his checkbook frequently, before his adventure he never would have had to climb a mountain. But he will do anything to find this mysterious photographer. There is an interesting bit of parallelism from a fantasy Walter had at the beginning of the film. He imagines himself as a wild, foreign mountain man, come to sweep Cheryl off her feet. But at this point in the movie he is on the mountain for a whole host of reasons other than Cheryl. This kind of parallelism is fascinating because before, it was a workplace daydream, but now it's reality. Usually it happens the other way around, but here, it makes it clear that Walter is stepping into his daydreams and living life for himself and loving it. What will happen when he reaches the end of his quest, though? He finds the old photographer. He has to go back to his boring
old world. So now what? Well, it's not like he just ignores everything that has happened to him.
Despite being back in a symmetrical, boxed-in environment, he takes those experiences and keeps them, because he knows what it means to really live life. Walter knows he can do anything he wants to now. And who knows? Anything can happen. He knows he can do all these things now, so there's nothing that's stopping him from going out and doing them besides himself.

In the end, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a truly inspiring movie that helps the audience believe that anything is possible.  With amazing mise en scene to further the story and make it feel that much more relatable and real, the movie makes its point in a beautiful way that leads all the senses to believe the many life truths it presents. Walter Mitty makes a beautiful journey from a boring, average Joe that is relatable to many audience members to a more adventurous, outgoing person who can live their fantasies. Using mise en scene to bring the audience along for the journey, the film takes someone ordinary, someone who very well could have just walked into the theatre, and shows how amazing life could be. By starting with everything very planned and anticipatory, but moving into a more spontaneous and aleatory style, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty brings everyone on an adventure that helps people to realize their full potential. The framing and shots in the movie are what made the journey so much more believable, and everyone watching the movie makes the journey right along with Walter.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mystic River

In Mystic River, the idea of a cross was brought up a lot. Jimmy, of the three main characters, had the most crosses with him in the shots. He always had another obstacle to overcome, something to crucify him. At the end of the film, he is shown with a Celtic cross on his back. The way he is framed suggests that he is alone and struggling a lot with what he's done. He has just killed his friend. By keeping the shot asymmetrical and having him be in darkness, this shot shows how much Jimmy is upset about what he has done and how he is suffering. In the shadows, with a cross on his back. He has a cross to bear, and that is the murder of someone who, as it turned out, was innocent. Before that, there is a shot of him walking down the street, arms outstretched. Jimmy is once again being crucified in this imagery. This shot is different, however, because it is a symmetrical design. This reinforces the feeling of parallelism. On this same street, Dave dies the first time when the molesters take him away. On this street, Jimmy is tortured with the guilt of killing Dave a second time. Jimmy is dying himself in a way, because he has killed a man for something he didn't really do. In the Crucifixion in the Bible, Jesus died to bring peace and forgiveness to everyone. Jimmy is being crucified because he brought Dave the peace that only death could bring. In this film, everybody had their crosses to bear. Jimmy's was one of the heaviest.

Dave also had a lot of pain in his life. In his childhood, he was kidnapped by a pair of men pretending to be police officers and molested. The shot of one of them leaning around the seat and putting his hand up, revealing a ring with a cross on it, has a lot of significance. Not only does it represents what Dave is about to go through, something that will scar him for his entire life, but it also the perversion of something pure, like the church, which also signifies what he is going to go through. The shot is sort of a dramatic contrast between the ring, which should mean something good, and the fake officer, who is anything but. Towards the end of the movie, the two Savage brothers take Dave to the bar in much the same way he was taken from his friends when he was a kid. This parallel editing shows how something bad is going to happen to Dave, because when he was taken like that the first time, it did not go very well for him. Once they are in the bar, Dave seems boxed in, surrounded by people who are supposed to be his friends but who can't quite reach him. The shot has a lot of density and texture, making the viewer feel as heavy and intoxicated as Dave. Dave's discomfort at the bar directly translates to what happens next, which is him being betrayed by a friend and killed. Like in the car at the beginning of the movie, he dies, only instead of just his childhood dying he loses everything. Dave lost a lot in this movie, and he was on a cross from when he was just a child, suffering through it all.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums showed just how dysfunctional a family could get. For example, the father, Royal Tenenbaum himself, always introduced his daughter Margot as his "adopted daughter". This isolated her completely from the rest of the family. One trick the director used to emphasize this was to always put Margot in the back corner of a shot, except when she was with Richie. Richie was sort of like her excuse to be a part of the family. He helped her through a lot. But any time Margot was without him, she was tucked away in the corner. This showed how separate she was from the rest of them. She had her own agenda, she was doing her own thing regardless of what the family wanted her to do. When the whole family visited the grandmother's grave, Royal says Margot never got invited because it wasn't her real grandmother. At the graveyard, she distances herself from everybody and doesn't even appear in the same shots as anyone except for Chas's children. She is kept very separate.

Eli Cash played an interesting part in the movie. He wasn't really a Tenenbaum, but he desperately wanted to be. This played out with him having an affair with Margot and sending Etheline his newspaper clippings. He is very conflicted throughout the film, and this is conveyed by always having him surrounded by odd things. There is always something behind him, there is always something going on in the background, and it feels very chaotic. He also always has an air that he doesn't quite belong. This is shown with his cowboy hat never leaving his person, even when he is hiding in Margot's closet. Eli always has to be wearing his cowboy costume, even though he doesn't quite fit in with it on, because that is who he would like to be. This represents how he wants to become a Tenenbaum but just never quite fits in with the rest of them.