English / How Do Narrative And Genre Features Create Meaning And Generate Response In A Film Clip From ‘Saw’?

How Do Narrative And Genre Features Create Meaning And Generate Response In A Film Clip From ‘Saw’?

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Autor:  anton  01 April 2011
Tags:  Narrative,  Features,  Create,  Meaning
Words: 1921   |   Pages: 8
Views: 311

AS Film Studies

How do narrative and genre features create meaning and generate response in a film clip from ‘Saw’?

As film audiences we have an expectation of particular conventions, which certain film genres work with and if these expectations are met, then viewing pleasure is certified. This is a result of our understanding of generic conventions, which derives from past experiences with films we have seen. The film industry understands this, but is however, constantly attempting to ‘extend’ these genres sometimes for artistic reasons and sometimes to secure financial revenue. The narrative of a film is the sequence of events which are organised in a structure to tell and develop a plot. It is just as important in function as the genre is, with regard to securing audiences and satisfying their expectations and audiences will have particular anticipations for a narrative’s different segments. By this we can observe that a film producer is dependent

at least partly on the satisfaction of the film’s target audience for the proceeds at the box office. This essay will discuss how a 10-minute sequence from James Wan’s ‘Saw’ (2004), uses many conventions from a few different genres and it considers how the narrative ties in with this.

The film in itself illustrates so many of the conventional rules attached to a thriller, that we have learnt to accept as ‘normal’. I would describe this sequence as a pastiche as it is not only thrillerish but there are also elements of detective genre. These are all traits within a horror movie. The clip begins with what we believe is detective Tapp carrying out surveillance on Dr. Gordon’s house. He is filming their bedroom window and talking, but to whom we have no knowledge. As the camera moves from the television screen to a side wall, the frame reveals a compilation of images, of who we assume to be Dr. Gordon. It also shows that he has perhaps been recording phone calls from within Dr. Gordon’s household. The mise-en-scene (stacks of empty coffee cups and take away trays) illustrates that detective Tapp has been there for quite some time, and it is now evident that he is in fact alone. Suddenly, we are confronted with a wall plastered in a mass of newspaper clippings. We realise that this is not official police work, it could be stalking. This convention of the obsessed detective is a usual element of thriller films as well as in crime films. A cross fade is the utilised for the introduction of the next frame. Fades are usually employed to suggest a flashback or for the use of moving forward in time, but in this case we consider that it is a flashback, though we are still uncertain.

This car scene involves Dr. Gordon being taken home by detective Tapp. Unlike others, this film concentrates solely on the plot and the characters and the director ensures this through the way there is never or rarely any background situations which might distract the audience. Everything excluding the characters is darkened out, leaving the audience nothing to observe but them and their conversation. The next scene reveals Tapp at his desk, watching evidence from the ‘jigsaw case’, we can see that his desk lamp is focused on a mound of file work which may be more significant than the ‘jigsaw case’, - work which he evidently does not see as priority. Detective Tapp’s back is turned to this mound of work and he is focused on the television screen, scrutinizing the video tape. Also, the mise-en-scene shows only a few newspaper clippings on the side of his work space in this scene, which might be suggesting this is the beginning of his ‘stalking’ behaviour. With one desk lamp on in the entire room it is evident that all of his other colleagues are going or have already gone home. This type of behaviour (working over hours when everyone else has left) is suggestive of reclusive characters with little or no social or family life, having nothing but work to look forward to and these characters are usually found in crime-thriller movies or psychological-thriller movies. This ‘work obsessed’ character is reinforced when his work colleagues invite him to accompany them and he declines without even removing his gaze from the television screen. The character of Tapp is played by the actor Danny Glover, frequently associated with the action-crime-thriller sequel films ‘Lethal Weapon’. In these films he also plays a detective officer often involved in action, so it comes as no surprise that we have expectation of the narrative to place him in a place of police action. Again, the background is dark, suggesting that nothing else matters to this character, including his partner, Sing, who remains behind. Sing’s demeanour implies that Tapps behaviour is possibly recent and unusual, transpiring only, through the ‘jigsaw case’. The frame illustrating half of the light on Sing may bring connotations that he is in half a mind about Tapp, he is unsure about what has happened to him and why.

After noticing something about the evidence, Tapp hurriedly beckons Sing back. In this scene we see Sing under a more (although not much more) prominent light in contrast to before. Tapp is still the one mostly saturated in light, he is the one with the information and we see that as Sing learns and gains more information, the light shed on him also increases. The snapshots that the clip uses of the derelict warehouses, remind us of a stalker – the way that detective Tapp stalks Dr. Gordon and the way ‘jigsaw’ stalks his victims. This type of stalking behaviour again, links in with the conventions of the thriller genre. The next frame portrays both Tapp and Sing looking onto a map, both saturated in an equal amount of light. They are just as important as each other here; they need each other to make a break through. This is reflected in their names, Tapp and Sing – when combined unified it creates rhythm and music, an outcome. This convention of crime/detective partners having a connection between their names, and their names revealing traits of their characters when they are together, is usually found in detective-thriller/action genre films, e.g. in the action –crime-thriller ‘Lethal Weapon’ the main characters are called ‘Martin Riggs and ‘Roger Murtauth’. The way that the first letters of their names are arranged, mirrors the way that the characters work in opposite ways (M.R. as oppose to R.M).

On the car journey to the derelict factory, everything in the background is darkened out, thus creating the feeling of suspense and mystery. Also, with barely any street lighting, it could be proposed that this road is not popularly accessed by the public, signifying there could be danger here. These are all generic conventions of a thriller film. The mise-en-scene mainly supplies us with dark and dull colours, i.e. black and metal grey, which run throughout the film, connotating mystery, a cold and possibly even pain and depressing feelings, which create the theme for the entire movie. As the two detectives ascend the stairs, they are entering darkness; again a sign that they don’t know what is ahead of them. The use of a handheld camera panning the scene allows for a sense of first hand experience to take place, again correlated with thriller films, i.e.; ‘The Blair Witch Project’. As they approach the ‘workspace’ of this scene, we notice how lighting is positioned over specific areas, where there are ‘projects’ developing. Each of these are covered by a red cloth. To some, i.e. the police characters and some audiences, the colour red would have connotations of danger. In this case, the colour red signifies passion. The red cloth is used by ‘jigsaw’ to signify passion for the projects that he has covered in the cloth. One main theme can be found in all of the characters in this clip – they are all deeply passionate and devoted to their work. Conventions of a horror genre can be found in the next upcoming scene. Here we witness the detectives discover a seemingly insignificant man entrapped in a death contraption and we soon after determine when ‘jigsaw’ returns, that this merely a ‘test run’ for a later purpose. Sinisterly, ‘jigsaw’ wears a cloak with a strip of the same cloth that he has used to cover his projects, he is truly devoted to this work and the matching cloak almost makes it seem like this is his ‘team’. As the detectives leap out of their hiding places and confront him, ‘jigsaw’ stamps the contraption to a start, leaving the detectives panicking and him in control of the situation. Again, by using a hand-held camera with an over the shoulder shot behind the ‘jigsaw’, the audience sees the ‘jigsaw’ as the largest figure and therefore the dominant party in this scene; consequently the detectives literally look small in this scene, clueless under the grasp of this psycho. This hand-held camera technique also delivers a sense of panic to the audience. Subsequently, fast editing shots build suspense and panic, leading to the peak where one person on each side of the room manages to escape – the victim escapes his death, and ‘jigsaw’ escapes the detectives, one a split second after the other. For that minute split second we have the high hope that the detectives have gained control of this situation. Our hopes are sunk however as Tapp is slashed across the throat and ‘jigsaw’ escapes. This is an expectation that audiences have become acquired with in thriller movie narratives. This film delivers many expectations as well

as offering new interweaves that may never have been supplied to a thriller audience before.

In this next frame which shows Sing running along a corridor, two main genres come into place; horror and action thriller. The frame shows conventions of horror films through its use of the green coloured steam coming from the mouldy pipes along this gory corridor. The narrative of a police officer chasing a criminal is typical of an action thriller film. The scene where Sing is trying to protrude through the cobwebs to get to ‘jigsaw’ as he lays ‘dead’ on the floor is significant. This barricade of cobwebs is an illusion to cover the trip-wire which will be the cause of Sings death. This illusion is a reminder that nothing is as it may seem, a principle of psychological-thriller films. As Sing collapses dying, ‘jigsaw’ rises, obviously still alive - another illusion.

The last scene of this clip begins with a close up of the scar on Tapps neck, gained when he was slashed by ‘jigsaw’. At this instant, our prior belief’s that this was all a flashback are confirmed. A scar takes time to heal and where Tapp’s physical scars have healed, his mental scars have not. We see him frantically talking to a framed picture of Sing, as well

as talking to himself. A framed picture usually contains family or friends - people who are close to you, and so, it is reinforced to us that Sing was his only family. Tapp blames himself for the death of Sing, perhaps why, although he has already been discharged from the force, he feels he needs to close this case as he owes it to Sing.

Word count: 1,927.



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