How do the makers of Shrek subvert the usual conventions of a fairytale using presentational devices?
How do the makers of Shrek subvert the usual conventions of a fairytale using presentational devices?
In this essay I am going to discuss how the makers of Shrek overturned the expected characteristics of a fairytale. They do this by using presentational devices such as lighting, music, camera angles and visual effect. In my opinion if the film did not use these presentational devices the way they did, it would not be as successful and people would see it in a totally different way.
The producers of Shrek took conventional well-known fairytale characters and changed them to make them humorous, for example the three little pigs were given stereotypical homosexual voices. Other characters in the film were Tinkerbell, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears and many more. They also added and changed well known phrases from fairytale films. For example the Three Little Pigs don’t say, “ He huffed and he puffed and blew the house down” they say, “He huffed and he puffed and signed the eviction notice” When they do this I think it adds a lot of humour to the film. With the phrases they don’t change they put them into a different context. For example when Donkey is trying to get out of trouble he says ”oh! What big eyes you have” and so on, which is from Little Red Riding Hood. When Donkey is complementing Dragon she starts to fall for his charm, and their relationship grows stronger throughout the film. We see this when Donkey needs to help Shrek and he whistles for Dragon and she is there willing to help. Also on the special features at the end of the film they sing together looking at each other lovingly. I think it is very humorous and Dragon turns into someone special for Donkey, as at the beginning of the film neither Shrek nor Donkey have anybody unique for them, until Shrek falls in love with Fiona.
I will now talk about how factors from the conventional fairytale is used and changed in the film. From knowing how the conventional fairytale goes Shrek knows he will find Princess Fiona in the “Highest room in the tallest tower” However Shrek is not a conventional hero. We see this when Shrek finds the princess and is supposed to wake her with a kiss, however Shrek shakes her franticly. We all know you are supposed to slay the dragon before you save the princess, whereas Shrek doesn’t even do that. This is when Princess Fiona knows something is wrong and says, “This isn’t right” and she later says, “Should it not be a wonderful, romantic moment?” At this point in the film we think Princess Fiona is a conventional princess and wants it to go the way she has planned for many years.
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Later on in the film we find out that Princess Fiona is not the conventional princess we thought she was. As she was bad mannered, fought Robin Hoods merry men and ate rats, which makes her very different from other fairytale heroines, as they are very polite, very pathetic and wouldn’t dream of touching a rat.
I will now analyse the presentational devices used in the film. The Presentational devices are some of the things that subvert Shrek from being a conventional fairytale and adds brilliant effects. A really good example is when Shrek and Donkey are climbing the rocks up to the castle. The first shot we see is of their hands and the dark background, so we know they are approaching the evil castle. The next shot is of their shocked faces, which builds tension, as the audience wants to know what they are looking at. The rocks in this scene look really realistic and the darkness adds a lot of tension. After that we see the gloomy castle and bubbling larva also the rickety bridge. The larva looks really hot and realistic as it is bubbling and is a bright colour. The audience also wonders and fears about how they are going to cross the bridge to get to the castle. There are also great camera angles used in this scene, an example of this is when Donkey is bravely crossing the bridge to the castle. To show the fact that Donkey was scared and to add tension the producers used an over shoulder shot, from Donkeys point of view. Using this shot enables the audience to see how fast the bridge is swaying. Another advantage of using this shot is that we see what donkey sees. An example of this is when they’re crossing the bridge and a section breaks off so when Donkey looks down, we also see the bubbling larva from his point of view which adds tension and also makes the audience scared, as if that was them on the bridge. That is why I think it is such a high-quality shot to use and a great presentational device.
There is brilliant music throughout the film, especially at the beginning and end as that is when it subverts the film. Right at the beginning there is soft fairytale music until we see Shrek and realise he is very unconventional, when the music becomes very upbeat. One of the lyrics is “Only shooting stars break the mould”. This goes really well with the film and Shrek, as they are both very unconventional and break the mould just like it says in song. The music in the last scene is also upbeat and you would also associate it with Shrek as one of the lyrics is “I’m a believer!” and at the beginning of the film we see Shrek pull out a page of a fairytale book and say “ yer like that’s ever gonna happen!” and it does as at the end as he is the hero and he gets the girl. The music subverts the film, as in conventional fairytales the music is always soft and romantic.
Lighting is a big part in any film, and is a great presentational device. It is also used really well in this film. An example of this is when Princess Fiona turns permanently into an ogre in the chapel. As Fiona turns into an ogre a bright white light comes beaming through the chapel windows, just like in the film you want to cover your eyes as it is so bright as do the people in the chapel. The bright light has an effect that something magical is going to happen. There were over thirty-four different locations in Shrek, which is a lot of scenery and settings that have different effects on the audience. For example the castle equals tension and the chapel equals magic and fantasy. When watching the film you see that the swamp and all around it has light colours, but when traveling to the castle the colours would change to dark scary colours as the villains are associated with dark cold colours and the hero is associated with bright warm colours.
When we’re asked to think of a hero we don’t think of Shrek, we think of conventional heroes from fairytales such as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the seven dwarfs. The heroes in these fairytales are tall handsome white men who are royalty or upper class and are usually looking for love. Not green ugly ogres who live in swamps with no manners and are nowhere near upper class. However, in Shrek you do. In this film Shrek is described as a “freak” as he is so different. Donkey also describes him as a “green mean fighting machine”. Shrek is also a very private person, we see this when Shrek says, “I like my privacy” I think this is because he feels that he is unacceptable because of the way he looks and this is because of the community around him. As a result of how the community treated him, I believe it would be very weird for Shrek, if someone wanted to get to know him. It isn’t just the way Shrek looks that overturns the film, its also presentational devices such as lighting and visual effects, because its these things that make someone look ugly, scary or even pretty.
At one point in the film Shrek tries to explain to Donkey that there is more to him than what people think, “Onions have layers. Ogres have layers.” I think he repeats the word “layers” so it emphasises to Donkey and the audience that they are connected. When Shrek says this, I think he is trying to say that if you look beneath the ugly exterior you will find another side to Shrek that no one has stayed around long enough to find, a kind caring side. However Donkey does not realise what Shrek is trying to say and makes a humorous remark.
The heroes in fairytales don’t usually have sidekicks however Shrek does, Donkey. When Donkey meets Shrek all he wants to do is make a new friend however Shrek doesn’t, and tries to push him away. We see this when Shrek says, “What am I?” When Shrek says this I think he is trying to tell Donkey that he is an ogre and everyone is scared of ogres so he should leave him alone. However Donkey doesn’t realise this and says, “Your really tall” Donkey doesn’t care that Shrek is an ogre, I think this is because he is also very different. Donkey’s character is very funny and adds a lot of humour to the film. As well as having many funny lines it helps that Donkey's voice is played by Eddie Murphy who has a very well known voice and who is very well associated with humour. In the film Donkey is described as “The valiant steed” This makes Donkey very proud as all he wants to do is help Shrek. Donkeys humour and wit makes him different from other conventional sidekicks.
I will now talk about the villain in the film Lord Farquaad. Lords Farquaad’s appearance makes him different from other villains, as he is very small. Conventional villains are tall dark and frightening with pointy features and can sometimes be magical. However Lord Farquaad is so short it makes you want to burst out laughing when you see him, instead of hide behind the sofa. The producers used great camera angles to exaggerate his height. We see this when we first meet Lord Farquaad and the camera shows us different parts of his body, using various camera angles such as close-ups, medium shot also medium close-up. These shots gives the impression that he is very big and important as he marches down the corridor, but when we find out how small he actually is it is very funny. In my opinion the producers chose brilliant shots as this scene has a lot of humour.
In conclusion the presentational devices subvert Shrek from the usual conventions of a fairytale as they help create the characters. In my opinion the makers have been triumphant in producing a fairytale with a twist, as the film has been very successful worldwide.
By Jamie whitehead 10T