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A microanalysis of the opening three minutes of 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

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The Royal Tenebaums a micro analysis of the opening sequence For this essay I have chosen the first three minutes of 'The Royal Tenebaums'. I have chosen this sequence because I think it is full of meaning and sets the audience up well for the rest of the film. I will be focusing particularly on camerawork and mise-en-scene I will relate these two to meaning making and audience response. We begin the film with a bird's eye view of the book 'The Royal Tenebaums', it is being taken out of a library. This is the establishing shot for the film it's as if we are taking the book out of the library ourselves and reading it, except by reading it we are actually watching the film. This idea continues throughout the film, which is structured as a book with chapters and narration. The use of the bird's eye view shot is noticeable it places the book in the centre of the screen facing us we can see it and are then prepared to be absorbed by its contents. The next shot shows a layout of many copies of the book used a background in front of which production companies names are credited. We jump forwards, to a much closer view of the layout. The way the layout makes a background looks as though this is the front cover for the whole film. In the fourth shot, significantly the cover of the book, a shot of a dinner table against dark green curtains with a dinner invitation on it and a Dalmatian mouse by the side, becomes a real scene. ...read more.


The camera pans out to the street we see Royal (the father) walking up the steps to the house. The camera pans to the street symbolising his separation from the family and his rejection to the street. The movement of the camera also gives pace to the shot which works well in accordance with the massive amount of information we are being introduced to. In the next scene Royal is facing his children at the dinner table, he is telling them he's leaving. They are shown in a low-angle shot united at the end of the table; there are two symmetrically placed candles behind them. This symmetry continues in later shots and represents the controlled environment the children live in, not oppressive but ordered. The low - angle shot shows the children to be imposing especially Chas who sits middle of shot with his arms crossed. Royal is seen at the other end of the table he is further away and looks small in comparison with Chas this shows Chas's defiance of his father. There are empty chairs symmetrically either side of Royal, pointing out he is alone. He is wearing sunglasses in doors, his hair is slicked back, there is an ash tray with a cigarette in it next to him and his moustache give him the appearance of a wild character. Royal is first playing with his ring - he is nervous. Margot has her arms under the table and is looking down - she is upset. ...read more.


We jib down his wall of six mice cages, he is feeding them using pipits and test tubes, they are his business, to be sold, not his pets. When he is getting dressed we can see in his closet he has many of the same suit and shirt and tie. We tilt down from an eye-level view of detailed exercise plans to see Chas bench pressing still in shirt and done up tie. All of this mix of typically business things going on in such a young person's bed room the audience will find comical. It is important because this is how Chas is a 'genius'. Establishing shot of the family's country house on Eagles Island, which Chas negotiated the buying of. The house has a turret similar to the tower on their main house. The fact they can afford two houses again shows there wealth. It is late afternoon, shadows are long. We cut to a POV of Chas looking out from a bush at his brother and brother's friend they are playing a gun game. The camera zooms in from the bush to the two boys as if they've been spotted. Chas get's ready to shot, we have a mid-length shot and can see the bush he's behind. Royal at this point tells Chas to stop and aims at him from the roof of the house, we see Royal from a low-angle view. We view Chas's reaction shot from a high-angle these two work together. Behind Royal on the turret we can see the families pennant. Royal shots Chas with a BB gun. ...read more.

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