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Which film version of Great Expectations is more effective and why?

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Introduction

Which film version of Great Expectations is more effective and why? The aims of a film's opening scene include: introduction to characters; establishing the setting; introducing the plotline; building suspense and achieving dramatic impact. I think that the most important element in the opening of a film is how well the director builds suspense and creates a dramatic impact, because these are the factors that will retain the audience's interest. I believe that the Lean version develops suspense well and this is achieved because there is an eerie delay before the audience meets Magwitch. The suspense is heightened by sound effects of trees creaking and the wind whistling along with shots that demonstrate Pip's anxiety through close-ups of the actor's facial features. Undeniably the shots and overall look of the film are crucial components of an effective opening. Moreover, I feel that the artistry in Lean's film is superior because there are numerous wide shots of vivid landscapes with bold horizontal lines which will have a dramatic effect on the audience. I feel that the music which accompanied the title credits in the Lean version is very effective because it creates a joyful and light atmosphere. This ambience directly and sharply contrasts with what the audience feels when Pip is in the graveyard. This distinction creates tension because of how fast the transition is. There is no more music after the opening credits and this makes the sudden change so much more evident and disturbing for the audience. ...read more.

Middle

The 1946 Lean version incorporates both characterisation and maintaining the audience's interest (done through dialogue rather than just one dramatic word). Therefore, I would argue it is more effective. The sound effects used in both films are dramatic and each has moments where the sounds used are more effective than the other film. For example, Lean's film makes use of trees creaking, wind whistling, a short sharp scream and loud lonely bird calls. These sounds build up the effect of loneliness and solitude surrounding Pip. This is effective because it allows the audience to become emotionally attached to the character which makes it more dramatic when Pip meets Magwitch. On the other hand, the 1999 version of the film makes use of heavy breathing and very loud sudden bird calls. These sound effects are mote dramatic than the other film's effects because the birds and heavy breathing are very loud and upfront rather than subtle. They really add to the scene and so I believe both the films have equally effective sound effects. A heavy use of symbolism is evident in both films. In the Lean version some symbolism used includes the book at the beginning. This represents that a story is about to be retold and the pages of the book turning suggest that the audience are being immersed into a story. The book may also be a subtle tribute to Dickens from Lean who acknowledges that the film is based on a novel. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is editing where there is flicking from one shot to another and this builds tension and creates confusion. This is used in the dialogue between Pip and Magwitch to show the urgency of the situation. Between this rapid editing the shots are mainly extreme close ups of Magwitch's face to create fear and close-ups of Pip so his emotions are very clear to the audience. The 1946 film has a lot of variations in shot however; the 1999 film mainly uses point of view and mid-shots which are interesting because they allow the audience to stay close to what is going on. Yet the variety in the Lean film keeps the audience's interest engaged. There would not have been a choice at the time the film was made but because the film is in black and white it is often very striking as the black white and grey seem minimalist but they still strongly contrast. Lean uses the black and white to create stark contrasts in the sky and background to emphasise the eeriness and loneliness of the setting. So although he can not make full use of the colour that the later film can Lean uses the contrasts in symbolism. Overall, I would say that although both films have very good openings the earlier one has more ways that make it a better introduction to the story as a whole. Generally I feel that the Lean film has shots that allow for more characterisation and development of plot while also making the vital dramatic impact that is imperative to retain the interest of an audience. ...read more.

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