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Essay/Term paper: Film openings

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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The opening scenes of a feature film can play a major role in establishing key elements that parallel throughout the rest of the film. The three key elements are settings, characters and plot. The film "Dead Poet's Society" shall be used as an example throughout this essay.

The first scene in "Dead Poet's Society" is in a dim room with a candle being lit by boys in school uniform. Although very brief, this scene is symbolic of many things. The candle being lit symbolises knowledge, which is backed up by the boys' school uniform. The boys with their college uniforms straight away state that they are in a school. The darkness of the room is also symbolic of the boys' unhappiness. The candle may also be symbolic of the light to guide them out of their misery, which is Mr Keating who appears in the following scene, which incorporates symbolic, technical and audio codes to establish setting and characters.

Scene two is situated in a large assembly area much set out similar to a church with hundreds of boys in uniform seated in rows with the room quite brightly lit. One of the cameras is set so that it is positioned high above the front stage, looking down on all the boys in the assembly area. This implies that all the boys are small and easy to conquer or squash. It is symbolic of their overall weakness, even as a large group. There is a murmur of talking that is symbolic of all the boys being merged into one unit and their lack of individuality. The boys are all wearing identical uniform which again is symbolic of the boys having no individuality and their likeness to an army which is usually thought of with a negative feeling. In this scene there is no sign of any females or any female symbols such as flowers, which indicates that the school is strictly for boys. When the boys' come down the aisle playing instruments and holding flags up high, this is also somewhat representative of an army soldier blowing a beagle introducing the sergeant or whoever is in charge. In this instance, it is introducing the principal of the school who is portrayed in a negative light.

The flags carried are symbolic of ancient times, which along with it carries tradition. This is also backed up by the fact that bagpipes are being played which symbolise the very religious and traditional Scotsmen and Irishmen. When the camera focuses on the principle, it is shot from the ground up, looking up at the principal making him look big being symbolic of his power over the students. The principal is dressed in a preacher's robe, which represents the school being very religious. The boys all chant the three pillars of the school, in complete unison, tradition, discipline, honour and excellence. The four pillars being chanted in unison reinforce the fact that the school is a very traditional, religious and strict school.

The room is brightly lit as this is where the first character portrayed in a positive light is introduced, Mr Keating. There are many techniques used when Mr Keating is introduced, to let the viewer be aware that he is in great contrast compared to the other teachers. One of these techniques is the contrast of age between Mr Keating and the other teachers. He is very young compared to the others. When Mr Keating stands up, he gives a smile to everyone that is something no other teacher does in the film.

Themes are brought forward through the use of thematic devices. Such devices can be found in opening scenes to establish a possible plot involving themes and issues. An example of this is the first scene of "Dead Poet's Society" when the candle is being lit and light is symbolic of knowledge. In the next scene there are many boys in uniforms and teachers with stern faces. In another scene, the character Neil is being yelled at by his father and Neil does little about it and there is a scene where the boys make fun of the four pillars. When combined all of these scenes together, a likely plot emerges of an unhappy boy going to a school that he doesn't like and unable to have a say in his own life. From here, the viewer can move on to assume that the most probable source of conflict will be the boys' parents and mainly focusing on Neil's father. From this possible plot, the viewer can then assume particular themes associated with the film such as how far should a parent go just to try and do what's best for their children.

The producer of films such as "Dead Poet's Society" place much emphasis on symbolic, technical and audio codes in the opening scenes of film. This is so that the viewer can establish a basic idea of the setting, characters and plot involved to spark their interest towards the film.


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