By Amy Payne
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By Amy Payne
The film begins with white lettering, and a black background behind it. The lettering appears to be old-fashioned and Asian looking, which gives the impression that the film will be based around past events of the Samurai era. The words then cut to more words; the transitions are short and sharp with invisible editing, which suggests how the Ronin are perhaps dangerous characters who work together as one unit. As the words change for the first time onscreen, a drum roll sound is used. It has similarities to temple music, temples are part of an Asian religion, and so it suggests that the film involves the theme of religion. Then, a cymbal is layered on top of the drum rolls, which creates suspense for the audience, there are completely unaware of what to expect- but they get the sense from the cymbal that some chaotic event will soon happen in the film. The sound of monks singing in unison is then added, the singing is in a low pitch; it is again related to the theme of religion but is ironic in the respect that it has a threatening quality to it. However, the combination of the monks and threatening singing could also mean that the characters in the film have some form of religious views, and are willing to do anything to protect their beliefs. As the text is still changing onscreen, the next sound used is of metal reverberating, which sounds like weaponry being sharpened. The sound is fairly high pitched, similar to sounds used in horror films. The monks singing and metal noise have a contrast to suggest that the plot will not fall into place as the audience may think, religion and violence will coincide throughout. The next sound used is a moaning echo, possibly of wind which sounds desolate and unsettling. The sound gets increasingly louder, as if building to a climax- the sound is used to suggest how the mood is one of anger or violence, or possibly that the Ronin characters are becoming stronger. As the word “Ronin” appears on the screen, the sound used is high-pitched singing, sounding angelic. Angels are a sign of religion, but also peace and harmony- which is ironic, the film is unlikely to be serene throughout as it would not follow the key conventions of a thriller. Going back to the visuals onscreen of the word “Ronin”, the text is put in a red box, red has connotations of blood (in particular violence and death) but also passion. The passion could be to represent the strong beliefs of religion that some of the characters have. The font used has an oriental look, but also looks like the text has been made from sword slashes- like a Samurai sword. By doing the font in this way, it implies that the Ronin are out to cause deaths, they are not characters that should be liked or trusted by the audience.
These opening titles are then faded into the first shot: a lit domed church in Paris at night. To the audience, this is an unexpected choice of location, from the titles we get the impression that it would be set in Asia, it does not follow the typical ancient and oriental ideology of what the preceding text implied. Also, using Paris as the location is ironic in the sense that Paris is typically known as the city of love, and is known as being peaceful and serene; in this film it seems unlikely to include those aspects. The shot make the church look pleasant, to suggest that religion is a positive way of life. As the opening shot of the church is onscreen, the drums get louder again, to remind the audience that the action will begin soon, but it is still unknown. The shot then pans from the church downwards to the dingy and dark side streets of Paris. Apart from the lit church, a staircase in the alleys is the only other part of the frame to be lit, and so the audience is visually focused on it. An anonymous man is stood at the top of the stairs, which could be a reflection of how the man is a religious character and will act on behalf of his beliefs throughout the film. The filmmakers have deliberately chosen to pan from the church to the staircase, instead of cutting from one to the other. By doing this, it slows down the pace of the film- this usually would give a relaxed atmosphere. However, as the setting is at night: dark and mysterious, it keeps the audience curious as to what will happen. The sound of drums returns, which sounds like footsteps (non-diagetic), which is implying that we as an audience are getting the story from the anonymous character’s point of view, the shots are subjective. The strong beat suggests that he is a powerful and courageous figure in the film; because of this it could indicate to the audience that the character is a key protagonist/antagonist. An alternative interpretation of the drum sound is that it has similarities to war, like soldiers marching into battle, implying that violence and fighting scenes are soon to follow in the film. As the man begins to walk down the stairs, the shot makes him look small in comparison to his surroundings, which suggests that he plays a small part in an organization. However, he also remains unknown to the audience- the effect of this is that it keeps the audience intrigued and curious, so that they are not bored at the beginning of the film. A non-diagetic sound of a clarinet is used, with no other instruments accompanying it. The sound is soft, to perhaps imply that the man is not entirely aggressive; he has a gentle quality about him as well. Because the clarinet sound is used alone, this could also reflect how the man works solo, and so he is an independent and distant character.
It then cuts to a mid-shot of him walking, in which the audience sees the man properly for the first time. The shot has at the right of the frame, because he is not centred it demonstrates that he is perhaps not self-centred, humble in what he does. On the other hand, it could be to show how he is not the most significant or powerful character in the film- the filmmakers are trying to keep the audience confused as to who he is, if he is doing work for good purposes or not. As he is walking, the camera is tracking him, and so all focus is on him. Because the audience’s attention is solely directed on him, the shot is subjective and so we feel closer to him as a character. Although the shot is in front of him as he walks, he also appears higher in shot than the audience, and so he is portrayed as being superior to us. The background behind him is a stretch of wall, worn and dirty looking, with graffiti over it. By doing this, it reminds the audience that the film is set in a modern environment, it is not made to look like a perfect world- maybe to suggest that the characters are not perfect in themselves; they have personal flaws as everyone does. Also, graffiti is a form of art- the previous shot of the church and the graffiti contrast each other, but at the same time religion and art go hand in hand, giving the film a cultural reference. By doing this, it implicates that although the film is action and violence based, they include other aspects of life as well. Not only that, but the walls have barred windows on them, barred windows have connotations of imprisonment and criminals. As the man is not centred in the shots, the filmmakers are implying that crime is a dominant theme in the film. The character’s costume consists of a shirt, tie, beige overcoat and flat cap. Even though the man is in an unpleasant area of Paris, his smart tie and shirt indicates that he is part of a business, and on duty. The cap he wears shadows his eyes, to keep him mysterious but to also imply how he is an unpredictable character. His coat is beige, old fashioned and extremely plain and indistinct, giving the impression that he is not a materialistic man, he has a basic standard of living. On the other hand, beige is a neutral colour, so that the audience still does not know if he has good intentions or not. His coat is done up tightly, suggesting that he is a recluse, he prefers to be alone and shut off from the rest of the world. As he is walking, he keeps his hands in his coat pockets, which could indicate that he is confident in his stride, well presentable and poised. However, it could be interpreted that he is insecure, like he tries to hide himself from the spotlight. We do not expect this character to look as he does, it contradicts the ideology what the title creates: an oriental Samurai character.
A matched cut is used to switch to more of an eye level shot of the character. He becomes nervous, and moves away from the camera. The previous signs indicate that he is a solitary character, and so by getting physically and emotionally closer to him using shots, he almost reacts to it by moving away. As he steps away, he moves into the shadows of a wall- he is still on the right hand side of the frame. The filmmakers have put him in the shadows to keep attention on him, we should be watching him, and him only. The shot goes into a close up of his face, by doing this we form more of a bond with his character. He seems to be looking at something that is not in frame; a reaction shot. His face is half in shadow, half in light which keeps his personality unknown, we are ambiguous as to who he is. So far, he is filmed walking down stairs, and looking at someone or something from behind a wall, giving the impression that he is perhaps a stalker, a bad character. However, he then steps fully into the light- this goes against the ideology that he is a creepy and to be avoided character, light connotes purity and innocence. The music that is used throughout this section of film gets higher in pitch, reflecting his emotions: perhaps he feels more uplifted or excited at what he is looking at. The drums then return, to remind the audience that the scene that follows is likely to contain fighting and action. The drum seems more constant in rhythm, to imply he has become more composed and in control of his thoughts- and is now focused on what he is staring at. The shot then has a motivated cut to what the man is looking at, as we seem to be on his side, it is like he is allowing us to be part of his plans. The angle is high, looking down the stairs at a van. This gives the impression that the man is superior to whomever he is looking at, as are the audience. The shot used is not a point of view shot, but appears to be behind him, slightly to the left of his shoulder, which implies that we are a supporting role to him, and so we make a stronger connection with the character. In the centre of the frame is the wall, creating a barrier between him and the van. The angle of the wall directs the audience’s attention to the brightly lit sign, which the van drives near. The filmmakers have subtly made the audience focus on the van, indicating that whoever is inside is of importance to the film. In the frame, the man is in darkness, the street below is lit, making it a safer place to be. The weather in the scene is damp, from where it has rained, creating a subdued atmosphere. The van appears to be the only aspect that moves in the frame, and so it we are focused solely on it, perhaps to indicate that the character inside is of importance to the plot. As the van is black, it has connotations of death, linking to a hearse, it is a possibility that the character is in some way mournful. Another interpretation is that the character will be very much involved in causing deaths: a villain.
It then cuts to a mid shot of a blonde woman looking out from inside of the van, so the audience can finally see who is in the car. However it is slightly shocking to the audience, she looks very innocent and feminine. Therefore, we cannot imagine her becoming involved in any violence or action, almost worrying for her safety. The car window distances us from her, and so we do not make a connection with her. As the car pulls up in front the bar, the woman opens the car door, removing the barrier between her and the audience. By doing this, it makes her seem more open to danger, she immediately more vulnerable. The driver remains shadowed and unknown, this implies that the woman’s life is secretive and that she prefers to remain in the shadows. The music used during the shots of the man continues on throughout the shots of the woman, to perhaps show a connection between the two characters. Another interpretation of the music being constant is that the man on the stairs is still there, waiting patiently, reminding the audience not to forget his presence. The woman is then shot walking towards the bar, the camera tracks her from behind as she walks. This makes her seem vulnerable, like a stereotypical shot of a helpless victim. As she is walking, an iconic war poster of Paris is displayed to the left of her, on the bar door. The poster gives the ideology of the classic and relaxed Paris, which contrasts with the location of the bar- the bar is on the lonely outskirts of the city. The door is in the centre of the frame, the girl is slightly to the right of the frame, suggesting how she is an important character, but does not have as much authority and power as some of the other characters. In terms of lighting, the bar appears to be extremely lit in comparison to the girl and the outside of the bar. Because she is on her way into the bar (and therefore into light), this reassures the audience she is going into a more safe and secure place. At this point we are unsure about why the man is watching her, and so we fear for her welfare. An alternative interpretation is that because the camera is tracking the woman, it is as if we are cornering her, sending her into a trap.
The camera cuts to a reaction shot of the spying man, the angle is slightly below his eye level, making him seem a little threatening. However, as he is stood in the light, it could indicate how he actually is not that threatening, but is perceived in the wrong way by us. The light suggests that he is more likely to be the key protagonist in the film; he appears to be protecting and monitoring the woman instead of stalking her. Reverberating cymbals return, they are unpleasant and threatening sounding. It seems to reflect the emotion in the man, he could be worried for her safety. The woman is now in the bar, a point of view shot from a man in the bar tracks the woman as she walks behind the bar. As an audience, we feel threatening to her, and so she reacts by creating distance again. Nevertheless, the brightly lit bar, local men and the owner of the bar create a sense of comfort and security for the woman. The ideology that we get of her of being an innocent and fragile character are contradicted as we finally see that she is wearing black- suggesting that she herself may be dangerous and threatening.
Soon after, the camera tracks to the right to reveal a man in the foreground. He appears to be isolated and not communicating with anybody like the locals appear to be. Because he is in the foreground of the frame, our eyes are drawn to him, giving the impression that he is a man of dominance and power. The audience continues to feel concerned for the woman, the man seems to be staring at her. However, she does not realize this as she is half facing away from him and the camera. Also, the locals have their back to her and the camera and so she is still oblivious to any danger, she is an easy target. The shot changes to a mid-shot of the man smoking, he contrasts with the woman as he appears to be relaxed and able to protect himself. The music gets louder to reflect the anxiety of the characters, or maybe even our nervousness for the woman. As the sound is non-diagetic, the characters are oblivious to the danger and panic we are sensing. The man appears to not be looking at the camera, but beyond it at the woman. As he is not looking at us, we do not form a relationship with him, and so he is likely to be a villainous character. The shot reveals him wearing a mid grey shirt, with a black jacket on top. The grey shirt is dull and plain, perhaps to reflect his emotions of feeling depressed or miserable. The black jacket gives him more of a threatening edge, black connotes death and destruction, makes him seem like an ominous character. However, the woman is also wearing black, perhaps connecting the two characters. A matched cut is used to show a reaction shot of the woman so that we take notice of her emotions. She appears to be taking off her jacket to reveal a large grey and white knitted jumper. She appears to be swamped by the jumper, making her seem even more vulnerable like a child dressing up in their parent’s clothes. It is like she is trying to act more mature and confident than she actually is. Locals in the background still have their back to her, she is lacking contact with those around her and so we notice that although she surrounded by others, nobody is protecting her. The music continues to stay strong in beat, suggesting that the atmosphere has not relaxed, but is to get worse.
The shot cuts back to the protagonist who is still on the stairs outside, the shot acts as a reminder to the audience that he is there, and so perhaps the woman is not completely isolated. However, the shot makes him seem like he is not anywhere near to the woman, he is still in a cold, damp and lonely area. Although the bar is just down the staircase, the contrast of locations makes it seem like he could never save her in time. He steps fully out from behind the wall, a long shot at a low angle. As he is higher than us, he theoretically is more superior- but the shot makes him seem insignificant and unnoticeable due how small he is in the frame, he has no physical presence. He begins to walk down the stairs away from the church above, symbolizing that he is going further away from religion and God, towards hell. The long shot distances us from him, and so we are uncertain of his intentions.
It cuts again to outside of the bar, but now a man in a beanie hat is in frame instead. The shot is significant in the way that it reminds us of what the other characters are doing. As he walks towards the bar door, he is a completely solid black silhouette, perhaps a man who is very concealed and mysterious in profile. The camera tracks him as he walks, as it did with the woman previously, possibly to show a link between the two characters. He appears to be holding the door open for the audience, suggesting that he is a welcoming character. Sounds of drums return, perhaps reflecting that it is his heartbeat, he is becoming increasingly nervous). The mid shot used shows the new man in the hat and the woman, with the smoking man sat down behind, but appears to be in-between them. This shot is used to allow the audience to see the three characters, perhaps they are working together. To emphasize the fact that he is present in the background reverberating cymbals are used, suggesting that he is a dangerous character. The camera cuts to a mid-shot of the man, smoking alone at the side of the bar. The mid shot does not make us physically close to him, indicating that we should therefore not be emotionally close to him either. To the right of him is a no-smoking sign, indicating that he is somewhat of a rebellious character, willing to break laws and rules for his own needs. Matched cuts are used of both the man in the hat and the man smoking, both alone in the frames. By doing this, it suggests that they consider the situation as a competition or challenge, possibly they are rivals. The man smoking looks over at the woman again, she is still unaware of them both looking at her and so she is still susceptible to danger.
The key protagonist is then is frame, as we cut back to him walking down the stairs in the form of a mid-long shot. Because it cuts to him straight after the shot of the innocent woman, it is as if he is going to the bar to defend her. Once he is at the bottom of the stairs, a motivated cut is used so that we again are part of his actions and so we have more of a bond with him. It shows that he is looking at the woman through a window, curtains either side of her. Bars of another staircase are also in front of the window, implying that she is imprisoned, no escape. The curtains put emphasis on her face and she has all attention on her, like a face tracker. Modern guns and weaponry have face trackers, giving the impression that she is a target. Although he appears to be the key protagonist, the fact that he cannot see the other two men in the bar implies that his intentions are not good; he is almost aiming to hurt her. She still seems unaware that three men are all now watching her intently; the effect on the audience is that she is becoming easy prey; she is very likely to be targeted.
It cuts back to a close up her so that the audience can now see how she is feeling. The cut makes her seem more vulnerable than ever as the previous shot indicated that the protagonist appears to be against her. Still unaware, the man in the hat talks to her. It then cuts back to the man outside who is watching, to demonstrate how he still has some curiosity for her. A diagetic sound of a light fizzling out is used, suggesting that the woman’s time is up, her safety is now permanently at risk. An alternative interpretation is that the buzzing has suddenly cut out and so reflects the man’s patience, he can no longer hold back in the shadows. He begins to walk around the back of the bar; the camera tracks him as he does so, we are a supporting role to him and therefore we follow him. The setting of the back of the bar is even more dirty and grimy than the location he was in before, which implies that he is venturing further into a metaphorical hell. To contrast with the mise-en-scene, the music appears to be softer, string instruments are used. The sound seems more upbeat, which is confusing to the audience as to whether the protagonist is walking into a dangerous situation or not. Because of the sound used, it implies that actually the protagonist is there to save the woman, and not hurt her like other signs previously have suggested. The camera then zooms inwards to a close up of his face, indicating that he has realized or thought about something of significance. The shot then cuts to a pan of the location, from the protagonist’s point of view. By doing this, the audience feels personally involved with what he is doing, and so they continue to have a bond with his character. It then changes to him pacing back and forth behind the pub. The camera tracks him so that we are connected to him, we accept his frustration and impatience. This slows down the pace of the scene dramatically, as there are no other characters onscreen. The audience is compelled to focus on him, making him seem like a dominant figure. Also, it could be to reflect the idea of him waiting, and so the audience also made to wait. Another interpretation is that it is echoing his thought processes, he appears to be calm and collected, thinking things through before acting.
The shot cuts to a close up of a gun in his hand, used to shock the audience. The gun is the first sign of violence, as it is so large in the frame it directly signals that the pace and action is increasing. It is also paired with the reverberating cymbal sounds. The sounds give the impression of danger, suggesting that he is perhaps a villainous character after all. His face appears shadowed, to imply that he prefers to keep business (the gun) separate from his personal life, and so is a respectable and professional role in the film. A high angle shot of him knelt down on the floor is used, circling around the back of him. By doing this, it makes us feel like we are a supporting friend of his, watching what he is doing. The shot appears to be tracking the gun and not him, demonstrating that violence and death are dominant themes in the film. As he stands up, the camera stays at a low angle on the ground, and so he is now superior to us. Because of this, it implies that he is still in power, even if he no longer is armed with his weapon.
The protagonist walks away from the camera and into the light, suggesting that he is a religious man, acting on behalf of his beliefs. It then cuts to back the interaction in the bar, which is happening in parallel with the man outside. By doing this, it creates a connection between the characters inside and the protagonist outside; perhaps they are working together as one. A man with a beard at the bar is zoomed in on using a camera on rails, which draws attention to him. This indicates he may be a character of importance and that he is powerful and dominating. The pace of the shot is slow to indicate that he is very calm and controlled in his thoughts, thinking carefully about his actions before he acts upon them. A motivated cut of what the men at the bar are looking at reveals the protagonist, walking into the bar. The camera cuts quickly between the protagonist at the door and the characters in the bar, implying that since the protagonist has entered the action is increasing in pace. Because of this, it is implied that he has conflict with the other characters. Therefore, we understand that he is likely to be involved in fights and action during the film.
It then cuts to a mid-shot of the man smoking in the background, the bar man in the middle and the woman in the foreground at the bar. The focus switches to each of them individually by slight movement of the camera. By doing this it is drawing attention to each of them equally, implying that they are all equally involved in the action and perhaps that they are working together. The following shot shows the bar mirror with the woman reflected in it. Not only that, but it also reflects the man in the hat with his back to the audience. Because his back is to us, it shows that all of the characters that have been introduced are all looking at the protagonist, they are all working against him. The effect of this is that it makes him seem more innocent and targetable. The characters in the bar do not all react to his presence simultaneously but at slightly different times. By doing this it indicates that although they may be working together, they are still individuals. The shot cuts back to the protagonist stood near the door, it is a matched cut of the character’s reactions. This is demonstrating that he is truly alone and he has no other characters to support him. A long shot is then used, of all of the characters that were initially in the bar, with their backs to us. They are all looking in the direction of the protagonist. The shot is from the point of view of a stock character in the bar, the audience is apparently on their side and not the protagonist’s. However, another interpretation is that because their backs are to us they are distant and so we do not bond with them. The characters with their backs to us are portrayed in black costumes, suggesting that they are perhaps not doing actions out of good. Also, as the colour scheme is constant in the choice of clothing, it gives the impression that they work as one unit. The protagonist’s costume contrasts with their costumes as he is still wearing the beige overcoat which implies that he intends to act out of good.
The non-diagetic music almost stops completely at this point, which reflects the lack emotion of the characters. Maybe they do not want to act instinctively because they are nervous or uninterested in the situation. A woman stood at the bar in a hat and the man with the beard are now also intently watching the protagonist. This suggests that although they do not seem directly involved, they cannot help but pry. The woman behind the bar and the man in the hat are now not watching the protagonist. The telephone suddenly rings, breaking the awkward silence in the bar. The woman goes to answer the telephone. Although the other speaker is not heard, it is presumed that it is to inform her that the van is waiting outside. Even though we do not know why the van is waiting, it implies that the action is building rapidly. The music returns of a low rumbling sound, which reflects the emotions of the protagonist. As he appears to be unsupported, he could therefore be nervous and anxious about the position he is in. The camera cuts to the protagonist walking out of the bar and being tracked from in front, we are ahead of him. He walks towards the camera and opens a door, holding it ajar. By doing this, it suggests that he is holding it open for the audience as we are a supporting friend role to him. The camera pans in a circular motion around the back of him, as if we are watching what he is doing and assisting him. Reverberating cymbals are used as the camera pans around him, giving the impression that he is panicked that people in the bar are watching him. This indicates to the audience that he is doing something out of secrecy and obviously does not want the other characters to know.
The scene cuts to a long shot of the bar doors, the man in the beard watching him from inside. The shot is from the protagonist’s point of view, he is checking to see if he is still spying on him. The bar door has a frosted pattern on it which slightly hides the protagonist from being seen, he remains secretive in whatever he is trying to do. After this shot the camera tracks the protagonist walking towards the toilet, abruptly closing the door. The closing of the door is followed by a quick cut back into the bar, the other characters appear to be waiting for the protagonist. Low pitched music then creeps back into the scene, a warning to the audience that the plot is about to become more intense. Minor characters that were previously seen have now gone, drawing focus to the remaining characters. The next shot is a mid-shot of the bar mirror showing the woman, the man in the hat and the man smoking. However the camera is now tracking the woman, as if the men are watching her. This suggests that she is not safe, even though she appears to be in a cosy and well lit environment. The music now begins to get louder, more instruments are being added. Because of this, it is reflects how the protagonist is perhaps becoming increasingly isolated, the amount of instruments symbolizes the amount of characters who appear to be against him. On the other hand, as the shot that was just used, it could be to indicate how the woman’s safety is at risk, and more so now that the protagonist is not present. The next shot is a mid-close up of the smoking man, who is now at the bar. The background behind him is out of focus, and so he becomes dominant in the frame. By doing this, it suggests that he is a more influential character than the others in the scene. However he is not looking into the camera, but looking at something out of frame. This distances him from us, subtly telling the audience not to form a connection with him as he is an unpredictable character.
A mid-close up shot of the woman is then shown after a cut with the man in the hat in the background. She appears to be the focus of the shot, but the man behind her creates a sense of threat and danger. A shot of her putting her coat back on is then used, she takes up a large portion of the frame. Because of this, we are directed into watching her to show that she might be a character of importance. However the man in the hat is still in the shot- blurred and in centre frame. This changes our view of her, she is not as strong and dominant as she seems. When she is putting her coat on, she reveals a gun. Whilst she is putting it into her coat pocket, the camera tracks the gun by tilting. This demonstrates how violence is dominant, and even female characters are involved in it. In terms of what the film previously suggested about her character, the revealing of the gun opposes her stereotype. She is portrayed as being an innocent women who is possibly being targeted by the men around her. Now, she seems to be dangerous and just as powerful as the others. By doing this it is indicating that gender is not a divide in the film and so anybody can be threatening. Also, as we do not expect her to do this it signals that the following scenes will contain surprises to keep the audience intrigued. The camera moves slightly, making her entirely dominant in the frame. The revealing of the gun is a turning point for her as a character, we now see her for who she truly is-confident and powerful. The sounds of drums are used, a steady rhythm. By using this when she is in centre frame, it gives the impression that she is ready to fight and be a part of the battle. A motivated cut shows the protagonist, returning from the toilet. The shot positions him to be in the mid ground, and so he is not physically close to the audience. However this also goes to show that he is becoming more isolated as time passes, we do not seem to be supporting him in the way that was indicated earlier on.