Monday, 20 February 2012

Analysis of the Opening Sequence of Once Upon a Time in America (1984, Directed by Sergio Leone)

The first shot is of a woman's shadow. This silhouette and the noir lighting (created by the dimly lit room)immediately establilsh the film as a thriller, with the dark feel and generic noir lighting.

Eve entering the dimly lit room - the lack of light makes the lighting noir-like
When the light is turned on, you see the woman who is wearing a fur coat and pearls - immediately esdtablishing her character as a femme fatale figure, another thriller convention. Within seconds, you know that the film is thriller.

The light that is turned on to reveal the character, Eve, creates chiaroscuro light, establishing an uneasy, unsettling area. As Eve pulls back the covers to find the drawn shape of a body on the bed, the radio in the background pays "God Bless America". This provides irony and juxtaposition, as Eve is discovering a crime at the same time the song is praising America. The over the shoulder shot here (as seen below) helps you to relate with the character and understand her situation and feelings. It also makes you emphasize with the character and want to support her, which makes her death soon after this shot have more of an impact than if a random woman who you have no connection with had been shot at the start of the film.

Eve discovering the shape of a body on the bed
When Eve is cornered by the men (who are wearing stereotypical gangster costumes, establishing their characters straight away), many close-up shots are used to help involve you in the scene and make you feel as if you are there. This gives the events of this opening scene more impact. The aforementioned costumes, which support the generic thriller characters (glamorous, attractive femme fatale and wealthy, arrogant gangsters who can buy expensive clothes), help to establish the genre of the film. The costumes and what they connote (femme fatale and gangster) immediately tell you that this film is a thriller.

1 comment:

  1. Some useful comments about costume. Could you note for further posts and your evaluation:

    Stereotype applies to specific social groups/people.

    When disucssing costume or other generic features use the term "convention". In other words the trilby hat and long overcoat are conventions of the thriller genre.

    Re Eve as the femme fatale, you could say this is another convention of the genre rather than stereotype.