Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Setting of the Queen

In Stephen Fears' movie The Queen, Hellen Mirren portrays The Elizabeth II at the time of Princess Diana's death. The new Prime Minister Tony Blair  has to take his new responsibilities and direct the queen during the hard time for the Britain. The Queen does not want to make a public thing out of Diana's death, and that gets a lot of negative response from the people. The main idea that the movie explores how even the monarchs have to do not what they want, and how the traditions, etiquette, and manners shape their thinking about the world.

The setting of the movie helps to show the distinction between the monarchy and a common man. Queen has a number of palaces:  the Buckingham Palace, and the other huge mansion in Scotland where the main story is being developed. Both of these manors have hundreds of rooms, and each of those rooms is huge. We see Queen's room a couple of times in the palace with a nice king bed, about 10 pillows on it, and nice Victorian age bedding. The room is neat, though it reflects the older times (contributes to the idea of older Elizabeth's point of view toward modern things.) The fact that everything is so old there adds up to the fact that nothing is changing neither at the Buckingham, nor at that other palace. Neither does queen, and her perception of this world. She is always a formal monarch. We don't see her showing any deep emotional relationship with any of the main characters. Although she talks less formally with her husband and the mother, it is still not how we would talk to our relatives. We know the time depicted in the movie is hard for her,  but she is still always to the point, and nothing more. That vastness of the palace takes out the warmness and cosiness that once again point to the colder relationships in the families that used to be normal in older centuries.

The room where she meets with Tony Blair is huge. The walls are crowded with dozens of pictures, golden decorations, statues, couches, tables... When the prime minister Tony Blair enters the room for the first time, the look on his face shows that he has never seen such an extravagance. Later in the movie we see his home - not elaborate at all, his family, the relationships between the members. It's so different from what we see in the royal manor. Tony stands as a common man, represents the majority of the country and the modern way of living. His children have much more freedom than the two boys in the royal family. His wife is cooking the meal, not the 20 chefs that we see working in enormously huge queen's kitchen. As a result, this shows why the queen is one against all - she is different, her life is different, and shows the older regime, and older way of making decisions.  Tony Blair and the setting of the environment where he lives contributes to this distinction, and the explanation of why such difference exists.

Overall, the setting of the movie makes a good job conveying the queen's personality, reason, and the explanation of her actions. Also, it nicely juxtaposes the lives of those who are governed by her. Without a successful setting, the main conflict would lose a bunch of earned obstacles that are fundamental. Fears' Queen is unique, and does a wonderful job revealing the hard life of those who have responsibilities for their country just because they were born as the kings.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Extraordinary set of Lars von Trier's Dogville

      The first shot of the movie is from above, and it looks like a map, showing the setting of the world that at first can be quite hard to gasp. This is how we are introduced to The Dogville - a small town with a population of 15 people.

The story begins with the writer named Tom Edison, however, everything shifts when a runaway Grace Mulligan shows up at this desolate town. Tom decides to help Grace, who is running away from the gangster, and suggests her to stay at the Dogville. Grace agrees.  Through doing manual jobs for the people of Dogville, Grace gets the part in the small town's society. However, Grace differs from the rest of the characters, because the relationships that she made with the people of the town change through the movie and not to the better side. The extraordinary set helps to highlight the importance of that change to the story as the whole.

Dogville is not like other movies, and the director Lars von Trier creates the story, the conflict, escalation and other necessary fragments of the dramatic movie without using many props or extravagant sets.  The movie was shot in and confined to one space. We don't leave the sound stage where the movie was filmed. The set uses only 3 backgrounds: white for day, black for night, and red for the ending of the film. The small town is also "empty". We only see white lines that determine the boundaries of buildings or streets. Also, white words that indicate where we are in space (for example - Elm st. or Tom's house). The words can also specify the objects like "the dog", or "the bush". Overall, pretty much all the details are left for the audience's imagination: the look of the buildings, complete rooms, walls etc. We see only plain characters and their actions in the movie. This contributes to the director's goal for the audience to get to know the characters only through their personalities and actions.  No unnecessary interior details are added to help to convey the feelings or emotions.

At the beginning, Grace is loved. Everyone seems happy that she's there, but the story continues. As there are no walls and no restrictions, people seem to know everything: they should see what's happening at each of their neighbor's house. Everything seems pretty normal until we go into the second part of the movie. That's when we start to get what emotional impact the movie with this type of setting is able to convey.  The dramatic scene when we see Grace lying on the floor, the man raping her, and the rest of the town - just feet away, in the same shot, brings an awful feeling. Though some of us would justify the town's actions because allegedly there were invisible walls; however, everything changes when we move forward...

When it's revealed that the town knows about Grace being constantly raped by the men who live in the Dogville, we notice that town's obliviousness is still there. They don't care about Grace at all, and we realize the change of how they were treating her at the beginning, and at the second part of the movie. This happened just because of setting, and just because we were focusing on the personalities, specifics of the acting performance and the emotions of the scenes. The importance of this would be diminished, or at least not as huge as now, if there were a lot of additional stuff added to the film.

Overall, the movie is one of its kind and it's mostly because of the set and its design. There is a lack of objects, but this does not interfere with what the movie conveys, or its main dramatic purpose. In some cases even otherwise: it stands out and shows the tone of the movie. Helps to see the progress of the story, and how it switches from being a sad, but not really terrific to a completely devastating and mind-blowing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

M. Scorsese's Life Lessons

Color. Emotion. Music. These are the three words that can easily describe Martin Scorsese's short film Life Lessons. In the movie, we meet a painter Lionel Dobie who (like a stereotypical middle aged artist) has his inspirational muse Paulette. The girl wants to leave him, however, he is able to pursue her to stay, as she is the only one that can make Lionel stay inspired  and  paint. Though everything changes when Paulette comes back, at the beginning we are still introduced to the fact that Lionel has an artistic crisis and is not able to paint. A story is centered around him trying to maintain the balance between his feelings for Paulette and the meaning of her stay for Lionel.
What really strikes out in the movie is the camera movement.  When there is a scene with a dramatic scent,  camera moves. One example is when Dobie comes to pick Paulette in the airport. They reach the blue truck, and Lionel tries to pursue Paulette to stay with him. There is nice transitional swing around Dobie while he is talking. We stay motivated and the main driving element stays on Dobie.

The portraits of the characters determine the tone they bring to the movie as well. Firstly, Dobie is not a likeable character. The way he looks, dresses, talks, acts, does not really help to sympathize with him. We feel more for Paulette. Her wish to become a better artist and her trying to figure out if it's worth doing. Although Lionel is the main character of the of the piece, he is quite antagonistic and that is really reflected if we think about the tone of the movie: artsy, unprecedented.

The quick montages, added in the editing with Lionel painting, also contributes to the unity of the film. Through the specific color mixing, through the passion level Lionel gives to the work, we can easily identify whether he is sad, or anxious, or inspired. That earns the answer why we still stay with Lionel through the entire film, why it's his story, and asserts why the movie is about Lionel and what drives him in his art.

The soundtrack/musical background that is being used in the movie also reflects a lot of Dobie's emotions. Music genre switches from popular pop to classical/opera songs that is a parallel between Lionel being powered up and inspired to paint, or emotionally devastated and sad (like in the shot him in the armchair just looking at one point). Usually,  the music is in parallel with the montage of him painting, so these two cinematic tools fulfill and empower each other pretty well.

Another tool that I believe is worth to mention: the space and set's supplements chosen to use in the specific scenes. Lionel's apartment is pale. Colorless. It contradicts with the colorfulness that drives the movie forward. At the same time, it adds the better view to the characters and their relationships to the things they are doing in the movie in the first place. In addition to that, we also see how the space intensifies and takes out the pressure of the dramatic moments. Like the huge bathroom and Paulette and Dobie talking before the birthday party, and in the couple of moments at the party, also in the bathroom, but this time a couple of times smaller bathroom and the topic is much more dramatic.

The nice switch in the movie happens when we realize how Paulette starts to use an advantage she has. Paulette starts to manipulate Lionel. Shot design, color, camera movement, music and tone - everything switches up when in the story Paulette rebels against Lionel: she takes the guy home, she leaves Lionel with policemen... They become more Paulette revealing. More close-ups, more distinct color (like red); however, the story does not jump and does not become hers. It becomes a bigger motivator for Lionel's behavior.

Story is finished by Paulette leaving and Lionel finding a new muse. It holds the rhythm. Through showing us,  but not telling, Scorsese reveals the continuation of the story. Lionel hasn't changed as a character, but he has learned a valuable life lesson that everything sooner or later comes to the end. That it what happened to his obsession with Paulette.