Tuesday, 4 December 2012

State of Play textual analysis model

Model Essay: State of Play

The extract immediately positions the audience as close observers of the chase. The medium close ups intercut between two different sets of feet, stylised in highly contrasting footwear – (trainers and polished black shoes), and combine with tracking shots to keep pace with the characters’ movements. The overlaying of diegetic sound in the form of tribal drums makes sense as soon as the handheld close up reveals the character on the run to be black. The music is effective in reinforcing his black identity, particularly through the use of bongo drums, arguably showing disregard for political correctness. The quick pace of the editing allows the director to establish a city location – very probably London – through establishing shots featuring crowds of people, contrasting in their behaviour compared to the black youth. At this point in the first narrative, the director offers a conventional representation as the black character is clearly experiencing disequilibrium (Todorov) and the audience is encouraged to believe this character is in danger. Arguably this supports the cultural view that black youths are both the protagonists of crime but can also be the victims. The director uses mise en scene in the actor’s gesture of looking behind him, with highly anxious facial expression filling the frame, to confirm disorder and vulnerability.
The editing performs a complex role in threading together three disparate narratives that by the end of the opening sequence seem to tie together. Throughout each sequence, representations of class and status are significant. In contrast to the very first narrative the audience are instantly cut to a radically contrasting character – a middle aged, middle class, white male. The director uses every aspect of mise-en-scene, clothing, (his suit, shirt, tie and expensive overcoat), his gestures (confident, strident walking) his props (the Financial Times) to communicate a man of high class and social standing. Mid shots dominate as a means to help communicate body language. He mirrors the first narrative in that he too is on his way somewhere, however his representation is so different to the black boy that the audience is intrigued as to how these two characters could be connected, if at all. To further complicate the sequence, a third narrative is intercut featuring a young girl, who again, through mise en scene is represented as lower class. The setting of the café connotates a working class environment, matched by her clothing and gestures (multiple consumption of cans of coke) indicating that she has been waiting for someone for some time, very probably the black youth. They are linked together through a shared social class. The other man is still at this point disconnected, primarily due to the major contrast in social class.The camera movement is highly significant in the café sequence as the camera steadily pans in on the girl from behind to establish the idea that she is vulnerable and quite literally “needs to watch her back”. Her significance is magnified by the camera tilting downwards to slowly reveal a briefcase, barely concealed by a bin-bag. The length of the edit on the briefcase as a key prop helps the audience to anticipate what is coming to the black youth.
Arguably the most interesting contrast in representation is focussed on the differences between the black youth and his assassin. The director uses close ups to reveal an arguably stereotypical representation of the black youth : gold earring, hoody, trainers , and in contrast the more middle class status of the assassin is more gradually revealed. Costume emerges as a vital aspect of mise en scene in establishing higher status through polished shoes and an expensive woollen overcoat. As his identity is revealed, his calm and controlled gestures  illuminate his experience in killing in cold blood. The medium close up of the assassin, aiming the gun from the point of view of the victim, reinforces his clinical, organised approach. The director uses deliberately complex camera work to build tension for the audience. At the point when the black youth is successfully hiding from the assassin the editing slows down and he fills the frame with the use of a low angle, however this misleads the audience as we see in medium shot the impact of the shooting as he slides down the frame and the camera remains static. In terms of status, the black youth is now defined as a victim, although the audience are compelled to wonder if his own actions have facilitated his violent downfall.
Sound plays an important role in establishing meaning, particularly through non diegetic sound to set the tone and pace of this action-packed sequence. Interestingly the director has chosen to completely avoid diegetic script. Arguably the lack of discourse between the characters forces the audience to rely heavily on visual codes – particularly mise-en- scene and editing – to piece together what promises to be a highly complex and absorbing narrative. The director has been highly successful in establishing representation of class and status as a major source of intrigue, leaving the audience perplexed at how such disparate characters could be interconnected. 
Potential Tasks
·         Highlight all media-specific language

·         Consider the introduction – is the question repeated or is a point made

·         To what extent is analysis balanced across the technical codes

·         The section with the motor-cycle courier has been missed out – is this a problem?

·         The LACK of diegetic script has been discussed – is it useful to sometimes discuss what is NOT THERE

·         Please note – this is NOT A PERFECT TEXTUAL ANALYSIS – what are a) the strengths b) the limitations

·         Think about everything you’ve learned about textual analysis so far – can you come up with the ultimate top ten tips!!!!!!!!!!

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