Consider the opening scenes to Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple.” Analyse the visual and sound techniques he uses to portray the character of Celie. Evaluate the response they provide in you, the audience, and how they provoke in you, the audience, and how they contribute to the success of the opening scenes.
Steven Spielberg’s the “The Color Purple” is a film about a young girl called Celie who has to experience a lot of tough challenges in her life mentally and physically. The director Speilberg uses many sound and visual techniques to portray Celie’s character and make a bond between the viewer and her.
Throughout the film Spielberg uses the visual technique composition which has a big part to play showing the power at the time and to help influence your feelings towards Celie in. One example in a shot Celie and Nettie are together on one side of the screen then the father comes into the shot on the other side. In this scene composition is used to show that the sisters are “united” against their father. Spielberg uses composition so the viewer responds to it and takes sides with the sisters rather than the dad. Another use of composition is when in scene five Mister is on the horse and Celie is helping along the cow this reflects the power at the time. Showing how women are second to men which make you sympathise to her even more as women are mistreated. Composition tells us lots about Celie’s it firstly emphases that Celie is the main character and that although she gets a lot of pain in the first scenes that she is a strong character and will get through it.
Another important camera technique that Spielberg uses is the close up. This is used a lot in the film to enforce that Celie is the main character and when she is showing some type of emotion to make it the main focal point and make you sympathise with her. In a very early scene when the two sisters are clapping there is a close up on them showing that they will be very important characters in the film, how important they are to each other and portrays the feeling of happiness between them. In another scene the close up moves to Celie and Nettie with the baby leaving the father out of the shot until you just see his arms grab the baby. Spielberg is very clever, as this will definitely make the viewer take sides with the sisters, hating the father even more. The close up is very good at portraying Celie’s character and makes you sympathise with Celie as she is the only person in the screen and you can see her in detail expressing her feeling.
Some more camera techniques the low-angle shot, high-angle shot. The low-angle and high-angle shot similar to the use of composition is mostly used by Spielberg to portray the types of power people had at his time in society. He uses the low-angle to look up and make the person look big and powerful whereas he uses the high-angle to look down on the person therefore making them look small and less important. In scene three when Celie is walking with her mother’s coffin Spielberg uses the high-angle shot to create the feeling as if God is looking down on her creating more sympathy for Celie. In another scene Mister is on a horse and the low-angle shot is used to make him look big making with Celie small in the distance. Throughout the opening scenes these two angles are mainly used to make Celie look unimportant, this makes you feel sadness for Celie as she has very little power.
The long shot and the wide-angel shot are extremely similar, they are used by Spielberg as they to give a much bigger picture of everything so you can see everything clearly in one shot. These are used in the very first scene when the girls are running to hide Celie’s pregnancy and reflect how everything is perfect. It is made to make you fell happy for they girls, then when Celie comes out the grass it comes as a shock and sympathy for Celie.
Spielberg very effectively uses the camera techniques tracking and panning in the film. Tracking is used to keep move with the action as if you are there in the film with Celie. Panning is used by Spielberg to move from one thing to another in a quick action, he often use this from a happy to sad scene so you your emotions change very quickly creating more shock. Tracking is used in the first scene following the girls, shows they are innocent by skipping. This makes you feel as if you are moving with them and feel happy. The pace of tracking therefore creates lots of energy. Panning occurs in the scene when Celie’ is walking thinking very heavily. She is just walking innocently then the camera quickly pans to the coffin of her mother with immediate action and this makes you feel sympathy for Celie very quickly.
A very subtle visual technique but very effective is editing. Spielberg uses editing very well between the first scene and the second scene. At the end of the first scene it is quite happy in the sunny fields then it changes to Celie in a dark scene screaming. The first scene when it is placed next to the second scene makes the second scene much more dramatic. By using this editing it makes your feelings change very quickly which overall makes you feel more for Celie rather than the if the scenes would have gradually changed.
The pace at which several of the opening scenes is very important. In the first scene the pace is very quick as this is used so you are running with the girls therefore a happy feeling emerging inside you. Whereas in the scene where Celie is walking with her mother’s coffin Spielberg makes the pace much slower as this gives you time to think for Celie and feel for her.
A very big visual technique is symbolism this is when an object is used to represent something else and is done more or less unnoticed to the blind eye throughout the film. Many times in the film blood is used for symbolism as we usually associate blood with evil. Although blood is used many times in the film in the second scene the bad weather is used to symbolise Celie’s pain why she is screaming. Also in the scene there is a bucket or pure water which is Celie then it is shadowed out by thick red blood which is saying something even worse is going to happen to Celie.Spielberg does this to give the viewer littler hints to try and make the viewer think for her or himself instead of just showing all her emotions through her. Therefore this makes the viewer sympathise for Celie even more.
The last visual technique Spielberg uses is text this is only used a few times and this makes the impact of the text better than it does lots of times. In the first scene it says the colour purple in a nice purple colour to show to add happiness. Then in the scene when Celie is having a baby white stone cold lettering is used just saying “winter 1909” similar to the first example this text is used to add extra incentive to the scene making it more dramatic. The dark scene with the cold writing and the warm writing used by Spielberg helps describe the scene how Celie is felling in the scenes.
Visual effects in the opening scenes are used a lot more then sound effects but sound effects still have a big part to play. The Soundtrack makes the scenes a lot more dramatic and makes them feel e.g. more happy or sad etc depending on the scene. This music has an influence on the viewer making them experience stronger feelings.
The Dialogue spoken through out the scenes is mostly spoken by the father while Celie and Nettie are very quiet which is done by Spielberg to show how there is tension between them making the father being disliked. By the father not being liked this makes you like Celie even more. The words chosen that the father say are chosen very carefully as they are used to make the father look very mean to the girls. For example some of the first words he speaks to Celie are “You have the ugliest smile on this side of creation.” The father doesn’t speak a lot but the words he does speak are very mean and insulting making the viewer take sides between the father and Celie.
The voice over sound technique is only used one in the opening scenes. The voice over means that you can listen to Celie’s real feelings which she may not express on the outside. When Celie is walking with her mother’s coffin the voice over is used getting inside her head. The voice used is her voice, which makes the scene even sadder as her voice is very quiet and upset. Spielberg uses this technique to make you to feel for Celie in her present situation.
To conclude I think Spielberg has taken a lot of thought to use these visual and sound techniques very well to portray Celie’s character and done it very successfully. The scenes don’t all follow the same mood and often change and by making Celie receive a lot of pain this makes the viewer to carry on watching. To see if Celie overcomes her trauma and gets revenge on her father.