Analyze the opening sequences of David Lean and Alfonso Cuaron's film version of 'Great Expectations' commenting in detail on the similarities and differences in their techniques and impact both have upon the audience.
In this media assignment I shall be analyzing and comparing the similarities and differences of two famous directors’ film versions of ‘Great Expectations’. The two directors are David Lean and Alfonso Cuaron. David Lean’s version was more popular and well known than Alfonso Cuaron’s because Lean was the first director to actually direct ‘Great Expectations’. This made it more difficult for Alfonso Cuaron because he had to bring the film up to date by making the film more modern and there have also been 10 other films based on the novel ‘Great Expectations’. David Lean had directed his version of ‘Great Expectations’ in 1946 and Alfonso had directed his version in 1998.
Both film versions of ‘Great Expectations’ begin with the opening credits which let the audience know the producers, executive producers etc… the opening credits of both movies have some similarities and differences.
In Alfonso Cuaron’s version of ‘Great Expectations’ the credits are shown in a rippled effect, which gives the audience hints that the opening scene might be set in a beach or a place with water surrounding it, such as a port or harbur. In the background of the credits there are sketches of people and fishes, there is also a dark green background, which is symbolic of envy. The reaction of this towards the audience might be that the film could have scenes of a horror genre and a sinister atmosphere, which keeps them attracted to the film.
In David Lean’s version of ‘Great Expectations’ he reveals his opening credits with also the main characters, producers etc… the background shows clouds, which seems to look like smoke. There is also orchestral music, which is played in the background that changes from a cheerful piece of music to a more dramatic and sinister theme. This is revealing to the audience that the film fits into the horror genre and is giving the audience clues about what the film will include, such as an ominous atmosphere and scenes of violence and gore. Lean has created this mood and theme so that the audience would want to know what the film actually contains, whether it is horror or drama.
David Lean and Alfonso Cuaron are using the different techniques to keep the audience interested in the movie. The soundtrack of both versions is different because Alfonso Cuaron has played music throughout his opening frames. He has introduced sound effects such as waves that give the audience a pleasant sound to their ears; this same effect is employed with seagulls. The music that is actually played has a joyful and happy mood, which encourages the audience to think that the film is a non-violent film. But when Magwitch appears from underneath the water in the tenth frame and grabs Pip, at this point the music changes from joyful and happy to dramatic and shocking. Cuaron deliberately did this to shock and alarm the audience from a happy and cheerful atmosphere to an explicit and up-tempo atmosphere, this technique also keeps you interested in the film.
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On the other hand David Lean has only played music in his opening credits and left the rest of his opening without music but with sound effects such as, the howling wind, owls screeching, trees creaking and the scream from Pip. This gives the audience hints that something terrible is going to happen to Pip, so Lean is trying to create a sinister and ominous atmosphere. But the main aspect which Lean is concentrating on here is the fact that he is using the weather to create atmosphere, which also means that he been very faithful to the text of ‘Great Expectations’ because ‘Charles Dickens’ also used the description of the weather in his novel ‘Great Expectations’ to create an atmosphere.
The build up of tension in both versions, in my opinion is different. This is because Alfonso Cuaron builds up his tension in a different way, he does it by creating, firstly a sinister atmosphere then a happy and finally dramatic one. He does this by shocking the audience after he was convinced them that the scene is a non-violent one (with just a boy fishing), when Magwitch jumps out of the water, is the part when the audience are most startled. This same atmosphere is created by the music, when it changes from cheerful to shocking. The technique used is successful because it firstly convinces the audience that there will be nothing bad occurring and then suddenly there is something shocking happening, which grabs the audiences attention.
In David Lean’s version there is a slight change of build up of tension because the tension has built up throughout the opening frames. When Pip runs through the marshes there is tension building up here because of the howling wind, the gibbets and the ghostly atmosphere. During the next few frames there are other horror genre types of noises such as a tree creaking and a owl screeching which also builds up tension because the noises signify to the audience that something shocking is going to happen. We then realize that Pip is in a graveyard and is about to put a tatty bunch of flowers on his dead parents grave and there is a shot with a church in the background with a mid-shot of Pip kneeling down next to his parent’s tombstone. This creates tension because it sets an eerie atmosphere and an ominous one. Finally the most tension is caused when the owl screeches and the tree starts to creek because this makes Pip get up and start to run but as he runs he constantly pivots his head round, which persuades the audience to think that something is bound to happen to Pip. This technique in which Lean has used here is effective because it builds up tension as the frames go by which suggests to the audience that there is something bad going to happen to Pip.
Both film versions use many different camera shots, which involve the audience emotionally, and also create a visual image in their mind towards the particular scene. Alfonso Cuaron first uses Extreme Long Shot (ELS), which is also known as the establishing shot. This lets the audience know what the scene is bound to contain and also sets the opening frame or scene. There is also one particular frame when there is an Extreme Close Up (ECU) on the boy’s face, which signifies to the audience that there is some faithfulness to the text because David Lean also uses this technique and he is faithful to the text. The impact of this is that the audience is involved in the film because the ECU provides a Point Of View (POV) angle expression on the boys face.
David Lean also uses similar camera angles but involves the audience in a different way. The main focus point of David Leans POV angle is when Pip is looking up at the creaking tree, which looks like a person or a person, stood behind the tree. This is because the POV angle is so the audience is in Pips position in the film by making the camera look up at the tree. This makes the audience feel empathy towards Pip by putting the audience in his position.
Alfonso Cuaron and David Lean have both used ELS’s, ECU, MS, LS, Panning etc… but they have used their POV angles differently because Alfonso Cuaron uses a ECU for his main focus point but David Lean uses a low POV angle for his main focus point.
The two film versions of ‘Great Expectations’ both gave different landscapes within their films. Alfonso Cuaron reveals his landscape to the audience by using an Extreme Long Shot (ELS), David Leans version also uses the same type of shot. The location or setting of both films are different, Alfonso Cuaron’s is set in a port or beach with daylight, which is also a typical contemporary set in Florida. The reason why Cuaron has done this is because he wants the audience to feel, as there is nothing alarming which might occur, he also had to do this as it was modernized.
But David Lean has set his opening scene in the marshes of a churchyard in which his dead parents are buried. It is also dark which creates a sinister and ominous atmosphere. The impact of this is the audience feels as if there is something bad and shocking, which is going to happen to Pip. The technique that Alfonso Cuaron is using is to make the audience think that there is nothing bad going to happen to the boy, but David Lean does the opposite by creating a sinister and ominous atmosphere.
Alfonso Cuaron and David Lean both use similar lighting. Alfonso Cuaron uses natural light but David Lean chooses not to, but instead uses a dark strong sky about the churchyard, which creates a sinister atmosphere. The reason why Alfonso Cuaron uses natural light is because as I have mentioned before, he wants the audience to feel calm and relaxed as if nothing shocking will happen in the film but it does. The technique, which both directors use are successful because Alfonso Cuaron fools the audience and David Lean, keeps in building and creating an atmosphere, which the audience shall be expecting.
There is a similar sense of innocence created with both directors’ film versions. Cuaron and Lean both use a fair-haired boy in the role of Pip, who is alone in both films, which males the audience feel empathy towards both boys. This is because in David Lean’s version the boy, Pip, is alone in the marshes in the dark, but in Alfonso Cuaron’s version the boy is alone but in natural daylight which persuades the audience to feel more sympathy towards the boy because they are engaged to the film. Lean also uses lighting effects to make the audience feel a sense of innocence for the boy by focusing light on his hair and face because it looks as if there is a figure behind Pip.
There is flashback in both films but they are presented differently. David Lean presents his flashback in the second frame on his film. He incorporates by a voice-over which is suppose to be the protagonist Pip talking in the future but telling the story in his voice-over. There is also another sign of a flash-back occurring which is in the same frame, this is shown with pages in the novel flicking forwards as he reads it, then the frame fades away into the next one. On the other hard Alfonso Cuaron shows his flashback in a completely different technique but there is one similarity, which is that there is also a voice-over, which says, “There either is or is not away things are but I’m going to tell you it the way I remember it”. This also signifies that there is a flashback. The techniques in which both directors use are different but there is a slight similarity with in the voice=over, this is that the voice-over symbolizes a flashback.
The sound effects in both films are different, in Cuaron’s version there are no sound effects but instead he decides to play calming music all the way through his opening scenes, which also calms the audience. But David Lean uses many different sounds such as the hauling, creaking tree, and owl shrieking and whistling. This creates an up-tempo atmosphere, which also builds up tension.
The technique of both versions is good because the music of Cuaron’s film calms the audience but Lean’s film builds up an up-tempo atmosphere and tension.
Finally the dislodge in my eyes is different and similar because they have the same effect on both boys in the films but Alfonso Cuaron’s is much more aggressive because the modern audience like aggression and violence. There is also a great deal of bad language in his film.
Lean’s version is also slightly aggressive but nowhere as near as much, and there was no strong language in the dialogue because the audience in them day’s were much more civilized and strict.
In my opinion I think that I would still prefer to watch Alfonso Cuaron’s version because as a modern audience I am used to the aggression and violence of modern films and novels. The language in the original film versions is more true to the novel, but is therefore more difficult to understand, as it is old-fashioned.
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