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Consider how effectively does David Lean creates an atmosphere of fear and suspense in the opening sequence of 'Great Expectations'

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Introduction

Consider how effectively does David Lean creates an atmosphere of fear and suspense in the opening sequence of 'Great Expectations' Welcome to the new monthly section of The Film Watchers' Journal in which we discuss a question asked to us by a reader. As it is nearly Halloween, our topic for this month will be, 'What is the best way to create an atmosphere of fear and suspense in a film?' To do this I will first discuss my personal views on this question and then we will take a deeper study of the classic suspenseful opening of the 1945 film 'Great Expectations', directed by the great David Lean and the Academy Award Winner of Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction in 1946. To start with, let's consider what makes a film scary and suspenseful. Some may say that it is outright scares and jumps, though I believe that it is more than that. Something within us needs to feel the fear of the characters and there are many techniques a director can use to achieve that. One of the main causes of fear is the music. Large periods of silence can really get you feeling scared as you wait for something to happen, but equally I also would say that it ...read more.

Middle

us just how scary and big this world is, especially to a child, and straight away lead us to empathise with him and therefore feel his fear. Again this use of size is echoed later in the scene when Pip meets the convict, with the convict always towering over him in a way that makes him seem very weak and in peril. At some points we cannot even see the convict's head as it is looming so high above him that it does not fit in the frame. It could be said that this is just for practicality but I think it is important because in quite a lot of the time we can be more scared by what we cannot see that what we can see and the fact that his head is not in the shot makes it seem all the more frustrating as we do not feel that we can see the whole picture and therefore it scares us as the unknown is a massive factor in how we get scared.. Another more subtle way that this film gets into our subconscious is through very clever lighting which can be seen as very symbolic. ...read more.

Conclusion

The shots stay quite fast as he has his conversation with the convict which I feel reflects his own fear in the situation and again, because we have already built up some form of empathy for Pip's character during the short time before, we begin to worry what will happen as well. So there it is, I can answer the question that in this old classic the way that David Lean thinks that a film can be made suspenseful and fearful is mainly by slowly getting us to feel for a character and build up imagery of death and subconsciously keep feeding us fearful pictures and sounds so that when the climax of the fear comes we are equally as shocked as Pip is. Although modern audiences might scoff at this movie as it is not as scary by today's standards, I think that it is a very clever piece of film in making you scared without being too obvious about it and that if you look carefully in more contemporary films you will see that even then the same techniques are generally used. That's it for this month's film question, but please write in with responses or suggestions for November, and keep an eye out for these techniques when you are next watching a scary film! ?? ?? ?? ?? Harriet Blair 11R ...read more.

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