Friday, 8 May 2009

Analysis of a scene from Beetlejuice (Camera work and Editing)

Sorry it's been a while, I've actually been having a social life. Anyway, here's an analysis of the key Beetlejuice scene, but from a camera work and editing perspective.

The difference between the two factors of this analysis is camera involves the filming of the scene; what angles they use, what movement the director creates etc. The editing is how those scenes that were filmed are put together, and what special effects occur to give the scene full impact.

We see an ELS (Establishing shot) of the huge white house. The function of this particular shot is to give the audience a full understanding of the surroundings, and where the action is taking place so they will not be disorientated when introduced to more close framed filming. When the camera cuts to a shot of the couple walking out of the door, it is a LS (long-shot), low angle position. The LS provides a full picture of what the couple are dressed as, and also provides the surrounding picture, again to focus on where they are. A low angle position often gives the feel that those being filmed in this way are of dominance, as they look bigger and more powerful. However, the two characters are going to be in trouble later on during the film, so the fact that Tim Burton chose to have a low angle shot is quite interesting. Typically a director would have the shot high angle, making the characters look vulnerable, signifying they are not as confident as they should be, but as it is low angle it creates a more dramatic effect when you realise the two characters actually are dead. But then again, this film does focus on the two characters the whole way through showing they still are of importance to the storyline.

The camera then tracks the couple to the car (meaning the camera is on tracks, being moved across the floor to create a smooth, following gaze at the couple) and pauses once they reach the car. It still all remains in LS, meaning they have no immediate emotional attachment to the filming, but see their movement and surroundings. Once the car drives off, the camera is left lingering on the house possibly suggesting the importance of the house to this role, as the camera makes sure the audience understand this is the couple's home.

After this shot of the house, the camera then cuts to the couple in the car. It is centre framed, with both Barbara and Adam in the scene. This is known as a two-shot. It often provides the audience with a sense of the character's relationship with each other. And as it is so focused on the two, with the couple laughing and looking very much in love, the viewers get a real sense of how close these two are with each other. But cutting from this is another ELS of the vehicle driving through the dominant red covered bridge.
It is an ELS to show whereabouts the couple are, and makes the car look very small. Here is the indicator that something isn't quite right. The bridge looks so big, making the car look very vulnerable, along with not being able to see the passengers inside. This all adds to an almost uncomfortable shot, as you only see the car driving through, you do not see any emotion, the surrounding scene in tranquil, yet this huge bridge is clearly present in the scene.

All through these scenes mentioned there are no special effects. The only real special effects that occur happen later on during the film, when the afterlife becomes present, and you're given the shots of monsters and all sorts. It is mainly the cutting of shots that is the editing present in this analysis. As the cuts are infrequent, the sense of action is minimal. Only when the audience are presented with a number of different shots in a short amount of time does the scene start to become exciting, but I will get to that later.

Going back to the scene, we are next presented with another tracking shot following the car this time. Again it remains in LS, just to establish the mise-en-scene. But through this shot, a local man is cleaning his statues outside his house. He is placed on the 'golden mean' which means he is in one third of the shot, with the another two thirds of the shot free. But interestingly enough, the dog appears in high angle. Now, being the fact that the dog is the main instigator of the trouble, it would be more necessary to have him in low angle. But this would look very odd to the audience, and to create that dramatic effect, the dog is made to look as if he were not present which provides a very good cinematic give away - Everything in the scene is important. You shouldn't ever underestimate something put in a scene, but the audience are made to so don't feel too bad. It's all very subtle.

Carrying on from this, the car carries on being tracked, more likely on the crane this time as the shot is quite distant, and we are presented with ELS's of the hairdressers and shop, all again in LS just providing the audience with the scene. It is only when the camera remains static, and focuses on the car driving back, do the shots become slightly more exciting.

The camera cuts to a shot of the dog walking into the bridge, lining up the scene so the audience know how the dog got in there, and as the camera remains still, the car drives into the bridge. The camera cuts back to a two-shot of the couple in the car again, similar to before, and again cuts back to this apparent insignificant dog walking in the bridge. The camera cuts back to a reaction shot of the couple seeing the dog, and cuts to an interesting OTS (over the shoulder) from inside the car, when it is spinning - Notice how the cuts become more frequent? They are meant to, in a high action film, match the rate of your heartbeat to intensify the action. They almost become blurred with each other but give away so much detail - This is why an action scene is so intense.

From this the camera quickly cuts to a CU (close-up) reaction shot of Adam, then to Barbara screaming. These shots give the audience emotion that a scene needs. It makes audiences relate to the character's emotions, making you worried, scared and anxious. All what the scene needs in order to have the most impact.

The camera cuts away to another ELS of the car breaking through the bridge. You see all the detail; the wood falling, the car steaming and hanging on, all that make the action as realistic as possible. From another angle, an OTS of the car breaking through the bridge occurs, just so the audience can gain an almost point of view from the characters, but still see Adam and Barbara's bodily reactions to the crash.

We're suddenly presented with a low angle shot of the car balancing on the bridge. The camera remains still, and after having all these cuts makes it very uncomfortable to watch. We then see the dog on the golden mean, with the car in the other two thirds, balancing on a piece of wood, balancing the car on the bridge. With a slightly lingering shot of this makes it almost unbearable to watch. We then cut to an MS (middle shot) of the couple's reaction as the dog jumps off the wood. The MS provides close reactions as well as surroundings which is needed in this intense bridge scene. We then see that ELS shot again of the car falling into the water and sinking slowly. The camera remains static, so the audience take everything from the scene in.

It then ends with a low angle shot of the dog looking down - This epitomises the use of low angle. The dog looks dominant as he is the main instigator of all this mess, and remains alive.


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