During the opening sequences of Dracula and Frankenstein, the director positions us very precisely so that we are mentally forced to continue watching.
But what makes a good film opening? An opening for a movie has got to interest the watcher enough to continue watching; otherwise the film will be for void. Therefore, it is one of the most important pieces in the movie jigsaw. We are usually captivated to watch on by our curiosity. For example, in the opening of “four brothers” we are interested to find out what is to happen to the old Mrs. Mercer, who is trapped by two life threatening thugs. Similarly, in Dracula and in Frankenstein we are tipped off with too little which leaves us asking for more. In Dracula we wonder what happens to Dracula after he has drank the blood within the grail. “Is this the point where he turns evil?” “Will he die? Live? Or something else?” These are all questions that flutter through our heads. As with Frankenstein, from when we see an unknown creature terrorizing the snow, automatically we say, “What is that?” It is this temporary thirst for trivial knowledge that keeps our eyes glued to the screen.
As with all films, a camera is essential and 99.9% of the time used in the same way, but it’s the style of angles that makes a movie different from the rest. Different angles convey different perspectives of a subject. For example, a low angle shot would make the subject seem large, powerful, destructive. This makes the viewer feel threatened and small, placing them in a position of inferiority. A close up shot shows best the expression on a person’s face, which helps us to feel empathy for character, or to give us a clear idea of the emotions a person is feeling in a certain situation. In the case of Dracula, a close up is used during the passionate kiss between Dracula and Isabella. This makes us feel closer to the scene and gives us a much clearer idea of the emotions the characters are feeling, also instructing us what to feel ourselves.
Also in Dracula, when we see a close up of Dracula’s face after he has seen the late Isabella, it makes us sympathise with Dracula, which leads to our empathy towards why he chose to go against his own church and become a vampire. In Frankenstein the close up shot is used similarly. When we see the stranded crew’s terrified faces we instantly receive fear ourselves. Though we are not actually in danger, the close up scene makes us feel as though we are actually there, in the midst of an unknown monster attack. The extreme close ups in the very first scene of Frankenstein were used hectically and haphazardly. This doesn’t add too much to the emotions but more towards the action that’s taking place on the ship. It makes it seem as though so much is happening at one time, yet we cant manage to see it all at once, which gives us a unique need to see more of the goings on on the ship, forcing us to watch on.
Panning shots are used mainly to establish setting, but can also be used to follow action, in which case in becomes a tracking shot, or to improve an action in a scene. Tracking shots are used in Dracula to follow the war silhouette scene as it moves east towards its gory climax; this gives us a little bit more out of what could have been a small, tedious clip. A long shot is also combined with the tracking shot in this scene too. Though pointless in establishing setting because of the incredibly plain background, it is extremely useful in instituting the character’s placement on stage. In Frankenstein, as the director already knows we have a thirst to see more of the surroundings, he finally gives us our wish, by using a panning shot which spans north from south to the top of the ship. This relaxes the anxiousness slightly, in all causing more room for more intense action.
Aside from Camera, colour also sets a mood in it’s own unique way, hand in hand with lightening. Colour can tend to instill certain feelings in a viewer, depending on their average definition of it. Lighting can work with colour to reinforce its mood or weaken it depending on what the director wants. An example of colour’s power in Dracula is the first war scene. The background is pure deep crimson, only obscured by jet-black silhouettes of fighting or dying warriors. Colour’s effect is that we instantly get the feeling of danger. This is because wherever we are in life red means trouble; blood, fire, warning signs are all red, so we tend to go through life in fear of this shade. The blood red accentuates the feeling of danger in the scene as the shadowed fighters attack each other. The silhouettes are metaphorically highlighted against this background, which makes it clear what the director wants us to focus on. Shadowed people also help to instil fear, as we cannot at all see their faces so we take on the horror of all humans – the fear of the unknown.
“What could these people do to us” “Who are these monsters?” All planned questions by the director that we formulate ourselves. Moreover in Frankenstein it is more the lighting that takes control of mood. For instance in the very first action scene, the lighting is incredibly dim with only relatively bright light coming from the small number of rocking lamps along the ship. This instils the same fear as the one caused by the silhouettes in Dracula – the fear of the unknown. No one has seen what truly lurks in the sea so nobody knows what could come to attack him or her next: that is what we feel for ourselves. The orange lamps seem like the only place where you can be truly safe, so we feel a need to want to stay near to them, yet we know that a light can’t protect us from evil. This mixed feeling is also illustrated in the light itself, as it illuminates orange. As orange is a mixture of red, a dangerous colour normally, as well as yellow, a colour usually associated with safety. This shows that the director had this in mind to sub-consciously trick us into confusion of a secure site.
The things we see also position the audience according to the director’s wishes, whether they somehow let on something, or whether they create additional atmosphere or mood. For example, in the very first scene of Dracula we see a cross on top a church spire. The effect of this is that instantly we know that this movie is going to have something to do with religion or God. It also gets our mind working through the denotation to connotation process. The average denotation is a cross, however it’s the connotation the director wants us to see. Connotation, Jesus, Christianity, religion, sacrifice. It is these connotations that we run through the possibilities of the film within our minds. Another example is the background of a scene which has a handwritten map on it.
Again, denotation: map. Connotation: a quest, treasure, something to hide, something to find, a place to go or meet up in. One of the most important examples in Dracula is that of the final scene of the opening, when the candles bleed. The denotation is a bleeding candle, but the connotation is one that the story of Dracula itself runs on; new life being killed and the start of an evil beginning. Before the opening, we are to think Dracula was a very chivalrous, brave and respectable man, yet after this, he is untrustworthy, murderous and deplorable. Frankenstein’s symbolic nature is infrequent compared to Dracula’s yet more potent. In Frankenstein we are shown the moon, an object worshipped by ancient tribes. The denotation is simple, just the moon; the connotation however is by far the most important to the opening story. The connotation is that it is said to be the ruler of the seas. The next scene is one where a ship is ravaged by the sea’s harsh and utterly destructive nature. Because these two scenes are adjacent to each other it gives us a place to drop blame as we watch the action, now without the weight of the “who did it?” question.
The symbols in the movie would not be possible without mise en scene, the technical expression for what is put on stage. The audience cannot be positioned in any manner without proper mise en scene, as it would not at all be believable. Mise en scene covers a variety of film instruments, including props, background, lighting, colour, character costumes and acting styles, movement of actors and even make-up. First up: background. The many backgrounds in Dracula drastically affect the effect that a scene has. For instance, in the church, the many religious designs, symbols and object make us know it’s a church and so makes our minds to predict what is to happen here.
The director’s positioning of the audience depends on this. Typically you would expect something clichï¿½, such as Dracula coming to worship, but you are quickly surprised and horrified at what actually happens. The feeling of insecurity runs through your body, leaving you wishing for more twists; now you feel as though you don’t know what can happen next – this is where the director positioned you. In Frankenstein, after the ship fighting the waves the ship ends up in a snow scene. Every inch of eyesight is covered with snow, apart from the ship and a few crewmates. It is expected that nothing will happen and that the ship will be fixed in due course, yet once again the director proves us wrong. An unknown monster attacks, which is completely out of the status quo in a snow wasteland. The director has positioned us in the same way as the director of Dracula did – we don’t know what could happen.
Another hugely important part of Mise en scene is facial expression and body language. This is a very deciding factor in whether the movie is believable or not, so therefore it is extremely important towards the director’s ability to position the audience. In Dracula, when Dracula discovers that Isabella had killed herself his face was completely blank with shock, first. This is something that would actually happen in real life called an emotive overload, in which there are so many things a person wishes to say or do, that they cannot act on one of them. However, abruptly after Dracula’s overload, he goes into a vigorous frantic rage due to his anger, which is a part of the stages of acceptance.The director realises that the audience knows these facts and uses it to his advantage; this makes them have a tiny thought in their mind that the story may be true and that it could even happen to them. In Frankenstein, the crewmates are deathly frightened when the unknown creature comes to attack them. As I stated before, humans are naturally afraid of the unknown. Clearly the director is aware of this, as the crewmates begin to run with their eyes wide open, mouths agape. They also clamber together in a huddle, trying to get as close to each other yet furthest away from the creature as they can. This is another human reflex which is commonly associated with the phrase, “there’s safety in numbers”. The director knew that there is safety in numbers and was trying to prove that point to the audience, with the purpose to increase the fear in those watching the movie alone.
Music and sound effects seriously affect the reality of a movie and its fear or comfort factor. A slow, soothing melody can calm the soul, yet a thrilling, quick-paced one can electrify it. Not to say that a slow song can’t be frightening though. The most chilling music is found during the war scene and the church scene in Dracula. During the church scene there are many Victorian choirs, which is a clichï¿½ for church area in a horror film, yet subconsciously, it injects fear into you. Though almost 100% of the time not realised the correct music can remind you of things you are scared of and so, makes you fear the music.
The most common is the Victorian music, which takes you back to a time where people were killed unjustifiably and painfully, a world only feared from your history books and never dared to imagine. This type of music also helps to build tension and suspense, all the way up until that all important and devastating climax at the end. Imagine for a second the scene without the choirs in the background. Would it have the same effect? No. Would you be as shocked at the climax as before? No. Would you want to turn away from the screen? Yes. The music is another grip on your eyes created by the director to stick you to your television screens and projection walls. Also in Dracula, the sound effects of the war scene really bring the gory nature to your realisation.
Without those, you would just have visual sensations, which aren’t too much catered for by the movie’s audio-visual capabilities, and to those who look for more “feeling” in a movie. Quite simply, the strength of the scene would be weakened. The gory sound effects also open up the imagination of the audience, causing more of an experience. As the silhouettes have no faces nor expression, the sound effects help to generate additional visual to what the person is feeling, or how they look now. The director purposely does this so that people who watch the film can tell others, that they received “more of a viewing experience”. It makes the audience feel as though they must tell someone else to watch the film, otherwise they are doing an injustice to the world. In Frankenstein, musical is used differently yet similarly. Similar in the way it is to produce an effect; different in the effect that it creates. In Frankenstein music is used in the first scene to promote action and improve tension. The power of a violin is used in quick sudden strikes followed by long lasting chords in the background. The strikes represent the chaos happening on the ship musically.
They appear to sound from everywhere leaving no escape. As the chords come in it makes us feel as though something is to happen in the movie itself, as though a bad act of karma is imminent. Audience members then feel glued to their seats to see what is to happen, and to see whether their self-made predictions were reality. In the next scene of Frankenstein, where the dogs are first attacked in the snow the amount of sound effects were definitely noticeable. This is extremely important not just to the reality of the scene, but the mean of it too. Without the sound effects to accompany the death of the dogs, we would assume that they just died because of the cold. The cold? It seems unthinkable when you have actually seen it with the sound effects. Also, if they died from the cold, there would be no initial alert and possible the Frankenstein tale may not have unfolded.
If a person feels as though what they are watching is not probably what they want to watch, this is because the genre conventions within the film text are opposing to their likings. If a person does not watch the film, it is impossible for the director to position the audience in any way. Horror of course is the dominant genre in Dracula, closely followed by religion and then romance is. We know this because of the conventions of the genre that we find in the movie; for instance, Horror. In a horror movie there is normally human blood everywhere, or death happening now, next and soon. In Dracula, after the cross was stabbed, blood literally started to go everywhere and come out of just about anything – including the candles. Also, there is quite a lot of death in the opening sequences, mainly from war. Though from fighting, the death still counts as death and so furthermore proves horror’s dominant effect in the movie. Religion’s presence is felt from the causes of the war; two contrasting religions, Islam and Christianity.
Also, when Isabella committed suicide it was described to Dracula as “sacrilege”. Sacrilege during life will lead to an eternal afterlife in agony in hell, the complete opposite side to what Christians hope to achieve in death. Romance is discovered when Isabella and Dracula share a very passionate kiss, before Dracula goes off to war. Kissing is a trademark clichï¿½ of romances, and so it’s solid proof that romance exists in this film. Moreover, Isabella kills herself because she fears that Dracula has perished in battle. This shows her real devotion to Dracula that says “if I cant live with you, I may not live at all”. Devotion is yet another marking of romance, which solidifies it’s presence. Frankenstein the novel altogether, is a gothic genre. Although, the opening sequences have the markings of an action film, or a chiller. I say an action film because in the opening, there was (quite frankly) a lot going on. The weather was destructive, the ship was barely staying upright, people were falling off the edges, lamps were rocking like illuminated pendulums, and people were shouting like there was no tomorrow, which for them at that time there probably wasn’t. Many things get destroyed in an exciting manner in action films, usually with people in peril to accompany it. Therefore it is extremely clear towards the possibility of someone watching this opening clip, thinking that they’re in for an action packed adventure ride. This opening also has the chiller factor because of how we see the monster attack the dogs; we do not see the creature at all. We do not see what it looks like or where it is, yet we see one thing: the damage it can do. That fear metaphorically sends a “chill” down your spine leaving you feeling apprehensive and anxious – a characteristic of a chiller film.
Directors also try to send hidden messages in their movies, which you may or may not realize are being sent to you. This makes you feel as though you want to or do not want to be like this person, creating more opportunities for the director to position you or make you feel something. For instance in Dracula, Dracula starts off as a very noble and respectable warrior with a lover. Everyone feels as though they want to be like Dracula for a short while until he discoverers that Isabella has died. Next we feel that a great tragedy has happened to Dracula, so we change our minds to be our normal selves again, yet have sympathy for Dracula. We then lose our sympathy for Dracula when he goes into his rage and stabs the cross but, that sympathy changes into empathy and so we watch on without as much disgust as we would have before. This shows Dracula’s human side, and makes us think about what we would actually do in this situation ourselves. Dracula in this case represents the breaking point of humans, in which that everyone has a limit to as much suffering or injustice that they can take.
In Frankenstein it is a little more difficult to follow a character’s representation, as many characters shift throughout the opening sequences. One of the main characters is the captain of the ship. We feel almost the same as in Dracula here; we admire the captain’s valour in the face of danger, as he successfully survives the storm, to stop at a snow-covered land. Also, when Frankenstein arrives and the monster starts to attack, he admits to nearly no fear. It is this bravery that makes us link with the captain, making us follow his ways throughout the film. The captain represents that people should face their fears no matter what, as most the time it has good results. Another character to follow was Frankenstein. When he first arrives we are very suspicious of him, and we feel a unique amount of mystery emanating from him. We only tend to follow him because of his leadership in face of danger – when the monster attacks. This is because it seems he knows much more about this unknown creature than we do, so it seems right to listen to him. Frankenstein represents the fact that we all can’t know everything at that sometimes it is best to follow someone else’s ways, if you want to survive.
One of the main factors in audience positioning is the narrative perspective. In a novel, the narrative is given by the author through words and phrases. In a movie, the narrative is given by the director, through the lines you hear and the scenes you see. The director has a choice of what to show you or “tell” you, therefore you really get the director’s side of the story rather than an all sided tale; this is the narrative perspective. It allows the director to make you know what he wants you to know, so that parts can be kept secret to build tension. In Dracula, the narrative perspective is given by the fact that the director shows us the story before Dracula turns evil. This runs on the saying “every tree has a root” which basically means everything has a beginning. As the director shows us this it signifies his empathy for Dracula, hopefully making us feel the same thing for him. This makes the sinful events that are to come up in the movie to become softened; this results in Dracula seeming to a soft side, making people much more linkable to him. In Frankenstein, the narrative perspective is given when we see the dogs getting attacked, yet we don’t see the actual attacker. This shows that the director knows of the attacker, but feels as though its identity should stay secret for the moment. Consequently this builds tension until the one point where we finally see the assassin’s visage. Also, it is a “holding factor”, meaning that it is a distinct reason for the audience to watch on, preventing any time for idling during watching.
To Summarise, the opening sequences of Dracula and Frankenstein position the audience in different ways. In Dracula, we are left in a feeling of apprehension, anxiousness and disgust. This is because the director convinces us temporarily that the story is true, then when we’re down, uses camera angles and lighting harmoniously and artistically. He then uses controversial acts toward religious symbols to yank our attention, whilst fear inspiring choirs fill our ears of course, still leaving a message behind which lasts with us throughout the film. In Frankenstein the director gets our hearts racing, as we feel we are actually on a sinking ship, only mother nature herself to save us – then, giving us a healthy dose of fear when an unknown creature attacks.
The director hear leaves us wanting to know much much more, as it appears the movie is going to go into a flashback, which would reveal more of Frankenstein’s past. To compare, both of the films uses similar methods of positioning us to feel exactly what the director wishes, in turn making improving the video a great deal. Personally I feel as though after watch both these openings I wish to not only watch the video, but buy it and get other people too. They are both opening that leave you wanting for more, without putting you too much in the dark, so that you don’t turn away.