Mise en Scene – Atonement

VIDEO HERE: http://www.steadishots.org/shots_detail.cfm?shotID=298

The scene I decided to use for this assignment is the 5 and a 1/2 minute long continuous take in Atonement called the Beach at Dunkirk scene. Personally, I love it and for the first time I saw this shot, I was amazed after realizing how long it had been going for and how intricate things started to get. The shot leaves you in awe as it prepares that feeling for the next shot to appropriately break the awe.

The power of keeping a continuous take can be used to maintain a perspective from one given point. By establishing the need to emphasis that whatever on the screen is important, and the concentration of that thought mustn’t be broken by anything else. On the subconscious level, introducing another shot is another perspective to be apprehended and the focus of something, even of the same thing but from a different angle, can break this train of thought. By keeping this continuous shot, the longer it is, the more stronger the emotion and the more complex the idea can be evoked in our audience.

The Beach at Dunkirk scene starts when Robbie played by James McAvoy, after days of battling and being sick from the weather conditions of the war, finally finds the sea where all his ally troops are awaiting to get deployed back home.

The tracking shot starts from a long shot ahead of Robbie and his two fellow soldiers. Every now and then, people and objects occasionally pass through the camera and them to establish this environment and to be conscious of this long take. After passing the burning car, the camera slowly comes around and tracks the three soldiers from directly in front. One of soldiers see that officers are executing sick horses and disappears from the shot, as too the other one as they near the large ship. Robbie’s character eventually comes out of the frame too and the focus of the continuous shot is focused on the soliders at the beach. Soliders being silly, soldiers mourning over the loss ones, soldiers still working out. Eventually, one of our soldiers from the beginning enters the continuous shot again and enters the singing crowd in the opposite direction of the soldier. Just by following the character at first, almost makes us put ourselves in his position as the camera circles around the faces. The camera follows the solider coming out the opposite side along with Robbie, who is back in the presence of the shot. The tracking shot starts again with the characters directly in front of the camera.

Tracking the shot from the front from the back also creates entirely completely different mentalities in judging our character than if the director had decided to track the character from the back. Tracking from the back would have given the audience the perspective that they were in their shoes, and opinions would be created only for the environment. But the director decided to track the characters from the front because then the audience is able to create opinions of the character, who’s constantly facial expressions is tied with the environment. And the audience feeds off of the character’s expressions. Almost telling the audience how we should be feeling. And by establishing this combination of awe, disgust, and grandeur, all those heavy concentrated emotions are all broken down when in the next scene, Robbie cannot deal with everybody getting drunk at a bar anymore when there’s so much going on just outside.

I definitely recommend this movie. Be warned, It’s ridiculously depressing though.


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