Analysis of Mise en scene & Cinematography: Swordfish, opening sequence.

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Analysis of Mise en scene and cinematography; Swordfish (Dominic Sena, 2001)

The purpose of any opening sequence is to establish the films context and allow the audience to grasp a sense of the film in order to be intrigued by it and continue to watch. An essential element in doing this is the Mise en scene – literally translated as ‘put into scene’ it encompasses the visual aesthetic of the film. Combined with cinematography the Mise en scene generates meaning for the audience and can connote anything from the actual historical setting of a film to the characters state of mind.

I will go through the sequence systematically picking out elements of the cinematography in particular which add to the overall effect of the Mise-en-Scene. The reason that I will go through the sequence in order as opposed to picking out individual elements is that the sequence is so intricately woven by its director that the separate symbolic, audio and visual codes all combine in a structured increasing fashion as the sequence advances (in itself connoting the rising suspense of the sequence)

There are no opening credits to the film apart from the production logo’s (Warner bros’ and village road show) and the title of the film, because of this the creative elements of the Mise en scene start to come into play prior to the opening image of the film, for instance the production logos flicker in and out as if they were on a malfunctioning computer and the title is ‘typed’ along the screen. The theme then continues into the opening shot which is a close up of Gabriel speaking at the camera – the shot too is filtered in order so that it flickers as though it was appearing on a malfunctioning computer, this effect immediately lets the audience know that there will be a technological component to the plot and also attempts to capture their interest from the opening credits by creating several enigma codes in order so that they will be intrigued as the film starts instead of attempting to gage their interest and set the scene at the same time.

In the opening shot Gabriel is delivering a diatribe to the camera, he is lit with a key light on his face behind his the background is dark and out of focus. The camera is slightly tilted and appears to be a HHC although it remains static; this immediately connotes a sense of darkness and danger about not only the sequence but his character. His relaxed mannerisms and body language allow the audience to understand that he is very much in control of the situation, he is not panicked by the darkness surrounding him indicating he is the one in control of it. The colours around him – the black and the greens are often used within spy films and therefore connote to the audience that the film will share some similar elements (most likely technology) with a spy film.

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Within a few moments the flickering stops and Gabriel comes into full focus talking to the camera then he continues to move very subtly in and out of focus. The fact that he is talking to the camera initially indicates to the audience he is talking to them, this then means that Gabriel forms a relationship with the audience where they empathise with him for this moment, however then the camera starts to tilt more and Gabriel’s head changes position within the frame we then hear diegetic laughter and the audience start to become aware than Gabriel is not ...

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