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Compare and contrast the ways in which the director, Phillip Noyce, creates tension and suspense in the film 'Dead Calm'

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Introduction

How does Phillip Noyce sustain a sense of fear and suspense in the film 'dead calm'? The film 'dead calm is a dramatic thriller starring Nicole Kidman, Sam Neil, and Billy Zane. It was filmed in 1988 and directed by Australian film maker Phillip Noyce. The director uses various camera angles, sound effects and visual aids to create fear and suspense in this film. Throughout the film there are constant feelings of isolation and helplessness in the vast open ocean, which creates a great sense of suspense and definitely keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. Surprisingly the film maintains an air of suspense and terror although there are only three central characters in the main body of the film. The film started with John Ingram, and officer in the Australian navy, coming hone for the Christmas holidays only to find that both Rae, his wife, and his 4 year old son Danny have been in a car accident, which resulted in Danny dying on impact, and Rae being seriously injured. With Rae needing a lot of rest and medical treatment, the couple decided to take a sea cruise on their yacht, the 'Saracen'. Little did they know that this cruise would ultimately almost cost them both their lives. Picking up a stranger named 'Hughie' rowing alone on the vast ocean, the Ingram's (Nicole Kidman, Sam Neil) give the man water and a place to stay until they can sail to shore on their yacht. ...read more.

Middle

This suggests she is in control of the situation and has power over him. It also shows that she has hope that she will find john again. She also changes back to a black dressing gown after sleeping with Hughie, which suggests that she feels violated and ashamed at what she has done. The contrasting colours of the two boats also have a strong impact on the visual element. Hughie's ship, the Orpheus is coloured black which suggests elements of danger, death and evil, and that there is nothing good to come from visiting the ship. The Ingram's ship however is coloured white, which reflects their innocence and this also stands for a symbol of hope when Rae is looking for John. The weather in the film also plays a major role in adding tension and creating suspense. At the beginning, you see Rae driving in the car with her son, while there is a storm outside. The fact that it is raining heavily makes the scene tense, and also makes you suspect that something bad is going to happen, which of course It does. There is also an element of chilling music in the background. The title of the film 'Dead Calm' is in a way very ironic, as there is only a small part of the film where the weather is actually dead calm. From when you first see the Ingram's on their boat, until just before Hughie arrives the weather is calm, but once he arrives the weather gradually starts to deteriorate. ...read more.

Conclusion

Other close ups that are used really quite effectively are of the blood dripping from the door, when Rae shoots the dog, and when Hughie jumps out at her and tries to strangle her, as this makes the viewer jump. It is really quite a shocking image, as by this time he is starting to feel the effects of the pills and this makes his body language quite strange. One of the shots that really make the viewer gasp is when Hughie's blood stained hands start to wash Rae's hair as the camera zooms in on his hands, which has a disturbing impact, and this terrifies the viewer. The key scenes in this film are the ones that give the audience a feeling of anxiousness and terror, and give the whole film a disturbing quality. Most of the scenes involve the audience being shocked, such as when the rope swings down at John when he is on the Orpheus and when Hughie jumps out at Rae and tries to strangle her. Overall Phillip Noyce uses many different and effective ways to create tension, suspense and to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. His wide use of colour aesthetically alerts the viewer to the danger that is apparent in most of the film. The clever use of technical elements like camera angles and music, create the constant effect of fear, and make sure that the viewer never misses a piece of the action. ...read more.

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