Symbolism – Death’s Head Hawk Moth and Assignment Three Thoughts

“Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.” – Manly Hall 

In a Skype conversation my tutor brought to my attention about the symbolism of the Death Hawks Head Moth. As a keen wildlife enthusiast, I had heard of this beautiful creature, however, I did not know of its great role it plays in symbolism. Featured in everything from the Pre Raphelite painting, The Hireling Shepherd by William Holman Hunt to the sickening and twisted movie, the Silence of the Lambs (which I have no wish to watch) Dracula, Un Chien Andalou it’s fluttered its way throughout history as a hidden symbol. The symbol it represents however always has dark connotations. It serves as a symbol of the death of the church in the Hireling Shepherd painting. A dead moth is found in Un Chien Andalou an equally dark movie.

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My tutor suggested including footage of a Deaths Head Hawk Moth in Assignment Three as he felt it would be stronger to have something suggested earlier on about the poison. I wasn’t sure where to find such footage. I have used occasional stock sounds such as the dawn chorus in Assignment Four but felt it would be cheating myself to use stock footage of a moth, plus I wasn’t sure it would be allowed. I considered several ideas of how to incorporate the moth into my assignment. Some of my ideas were.

  • A moth flying by as the man cuts the roses. Or flying generally. Peter said you could even just include it with no reference.
  • The moth featuring as a phone wallpaper. This would involve a new narration or plot though.
  • A moth tattoo on the mans neck which she sees as he walks off in slow motion.
  • The moth on the gift card with a butterfly symbolising resurrection on the other side.

I printed off an image of the moth planning the gift card but as I did so I noticed the sun slanting onto the wall. I held the moth up to the light and it had such a dramatic shadow. The wings of death.

Acherontia lachesis MHNT Female Nîlgîri (Tamil Nadu) Dorsal

Found on Google images

The problem was holding the moth so my hand didn’t show. I held it up with scissors. I dropped it from a height.

Some of the versions that didn’t work. As you can see the moth is washed out under the torch light and you can see my hand in the other picture.

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Eventually I used the ornamental flowers. As I set it up I happened to move the torch and the shadow extended upwards with the moth. This was the shot I needed.

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I removed the shot of the rose being cut and replaced with the moth. It’s very ominous as the thunder strikes. I sent it to my tutor who am I waiting to hear back from.

Here is the finished version –

Assignment Three – ChloeClik from ChloeClik on Vimeo.

Positives.

  • The moth does look quite lifelike
  • The reeds add extra interest.
  • The thunder clap is ominous.

Negatives

  • I wish the shot could be longer but with the time limit I would have to remove something else.
  • Perhaps it appears slightly random the sudden inclusion.

However on conferring with my tutor he said that whilst the idea was good he didn’t think it blended with the film which he felt was more documentary. As such he suggested that I leave it out though leave my analysis and reasons for doing so as above. With this in mind the final version does not include the moth.

Subjective viewpoints

For this project I’ve been studying the differences between shooting objectively and subjectively. It’s an interesting concept. Most movies and TV programmes are shot objectively, that is placing the viewer in front of the action, almost like they are an invisible person watching the events take place (quite creepy really, this random invisible person watching you everywhere you go)  To shoot subjectively is to place the viewer behind the eyes of the characters. It’s effectively as written in books, first person, “I raced over and gave my cat Skye a big hug.”and third person, “Amber raced over and gave her cat Skye a big hug.”

There are not many movies that focus on the subjective, I can think of moments in a movie where the effect has been applied. For instance when a character has been drugged, the frame can switch to their vision to show it blurring or turning to black.

One example is the movie Lady in the Lake. The movie is shot from the POV of the main character Marlowe (played by American actor Robert Montgomery) You only see stolen glances of the narrator in windows or mirrors. It’s really ingenious and as the genre is film noir it seems a very clever presentation, keeping the mystery up of the  murder mystery, never really seeing the main character and instead focusing on everything Marlowe views. It also carries a vulnerable air, you are essentially the main character and whatever happens to Marlowe may feel like it happens to you. However clever it was and a one of a kind the critics didn’t respond to it quite so favourably. The New York times wrote “In making the camera an active participant, rather than an off-side reporter, Mr. Montgomery has, however, failed to exploit the full possibilities suggested by this unusual technique. For after a few minutes of seeing a hand reaching toward a door knob, or lighting a cigarette or lifting a glass, or a door moving toward you as though it might come right out of the screen the novelty begins to wear thin.”

This seems a shame and I wonder how it could have been done to an effect the critics would have approved of?

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The movie The Russian Ark soared into history with it’s unprecedented creation. Just as in Lady in the Lake, The Russian Ark used the subjective viewpoint, this time shot from the viewpoint of a ghost wandering through the Winter Palace of the Russian State with the tale that he had died horribly. This was a high achievement in itself but add to the fact that this was the only movie in film history to film the entire movie in a single shot! Oh and as it was filmed at the Hermitage museum they only had one day to shoot it.

It blows your mind to think of it especially with such a collection of actors and extras, 2,000 (4,500 including everyone backstage) one tiny mistake and the whole reel would have been ruined. I would not liked to have been the film maker who forgot to press record… added to this there were operas and plays featured in this 96 minutes feature and three orchestras. Wikipedia states “...four attempts were made. The first failed at the five-minute mark. After two more failed attempts, they were left with only enough battery power for one final take. The four hours of daylight available were also nearly gone. Fortunately, the final take was a success and the film was completed at 90 minutes. Tilman Büttner, the director of photography and Steadicam operator, executed the shot on 23 December 2001.” 

“In a 2002 interview, Büttner said that film sound was recorded separately. “Every time I did the take, or someone else made a mistake, I would curse, and that would have gotten in, so we did the sound later.”

The critics loved it, Roger Elbert (  ) describing it as “…one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen…. [T]he effect of the unbroken flow of images (experimented with in the past by directors like Hitchcock and Max Ophüls) is uncanny. If cinema is sometimes dreamlike, then every edit is an awakening. Russian Ark spins a daydream made of centuries.”

“As successful as it is ambitious, Russian Ark condenses three centuries of Russian history into a single, uninterrupted, 87-minute take. “ (Wikipedia states it was a 96 minute take though I’m not sure which is correct)

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Focusing on a completely different genre from the two above and a sightly different subjective portrayal, Cloverfield, is a sci-fi horror, a monster movie filmed solely from a handheld camcorder.

Hud, the filmmaker is creating a movie to say bye to his best friend, Rob who is moving from the city. The whole movie is filmed on the camcorder, similar to Super 8 and Earth to Echo. The footage is shaky and jerky capturing the feeling of being right in the action. Due to this it caused a bit of a problem in cinemas, it was the trigger for motion sickness, migraines and vomiting. This was so bad that some cinemas released a warning poster. 440px-Cloverfieldwarning.jpg

The effect of it all being filmed from the POV of Hud also generates a feeling of fear. In first person books it is rare for the first person to die (it has happened though) but in this all the viewer knows they are watching footage from a camcorder and does this mean that the main character will be killed and the tape found…

“Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle called the film “the most intense and original creature feature I’ve seen in my adult moviegoing life […] a pure-blood, grade A, exhilarating monster movie.” He cites Matt Reeves‘ direction, the “whip-smart, stylistically invisible” script and the “nearly subconscious evocation of our current paranoid, terror-phobic times” as the keys to the film’s success, saying that telling the story through the lens of one character’s camera “works fantastically well”

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Another similar and well know movie is the Blair Witch Project and I’m not too proud to admit that I’m way too terrified to research that.

So whilst the subjective viewpoint to film an entire movie is rare, it makes it shine out when something is created like that. From the eerie still shots of Lady in the Lake to the outlandish, motion sickness, rollercoaster esque of Cloverfield this effect brings something very special to motion picture, catapulting the viewer right into the scene of the action, the only way to escape is to close your eyes because the camera certainly isn’t going to do that until the end.

 

Jurassic World – Analysis of opening scenes

Jurassic World was the DVD of the day. It’s a fantastic movie, packed full of powerful CGI imagery, terrifying moments, heart stopping chase sequence all shot against the lush rainforest backdrop of Isla Nublar mixed in with panoramic arial views of the ocean and the island. The colours are bright are bold, the scenes packed with action and character and crammed filled with tiny details so you feel like Jurassic World really does exist.

I decided to analyse just the first few minutes of the movie to see how the main characters were introduced, which shot composition was used and the way each frame motivated the next. I created a storyboard of the first few minutes.

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The opening shot is the most important part of the movie, it has so much to do, it needs to grab the viewers attention, it needs to convey in that one shot the premise of the movie. I was watching this video and it was really interesting seeing how much went into the opening shot. Jurassic World’s opening shot is no exception. It’s around a full minute shot as the camera pans around the laboratory. You only need to say Jurassic Park and the first connotations are dinosaurs. So this is what the viewers are excited to see and we aren’t disappointed. The opening shot begins with a flash of white, at least six seconds long then starts to fade to reveal an extreme close up of a textured surface. A dinosaurs egg. As the viewer watches, a crack splits across the surface of the egg. The titles come up and the viewer is pumped with anticipation. Slow the camera zooms out and we see there are several eggs in the lab. The wide aperture is very effective as the background turns to milky textures so the egg shines out crisp and directs the viewer where to look. As the camera sweeps gently across the eggs like wandering eyes it finally hones in on one in the background. A little claw is scrabbling to tear the egg shell away and finally it does revealing a single reptilian eye blinking. There’s a sense of excitement mixed with danger as we remember the earlier Jurassic Parks and how something always escapes…and now it’s going to start all over again.

The screen overexposes to white and then the jump scene. Hopefully I wasn’t the only person to jump out of my skin when the giant claw comes crashing down into the snow or who felt pretty silly as it zoomed backwards to reveal a humble crow pecking at the snow. I personally love that scene. There is huge debate about how the dinosaurs are linked to birds. The bone structure is more like a bird than a reptile and their bones are also hollow, just like a bird. So the link from the dinosaur into the egg to the crow is a very clever one and one which I was impressed by. We are shown a wide angle shot of the crow flying off which guides the eye to the modern house behind and the women packing the car with suitcases. Instantly our mind processes they’re going on a journey, it’s Winter, Christmas, where are they going? Instead of flicking to the scene inside the house the Mum shouts ‘Boys, let’s do this’ This then motivates the next scene, we’re inside the view master, seeing the clips of dinosaurs as Gray, one of the protagonists looks at the pictures inside. This then shows a wide shot of the young boy, Gray including detail of his bedroom to show his character and interests. His Mum comes in and there is a nice relaxed conversation mixed with humour and also showing Gray’s intelligence as he quotes how many   it will take to get to the airport (we now know they are going to the airport and no prizes for guessing where) his Mum interjects ‘And how long does it take to get that little butt in the car’ he smiles showing a sweet bond between mother and son (A contrast to his older brother who later puts his headphones on to block out his parents) As they leave the room, the bedroom door shuts behind them and there is quick cut to the house door opening, a quick interlude which is fun and nice filming and cutting out any shoe leather, as it would be unnecessary to show them running down the stairs and through the hallway.

As Gray runs outside he passes his older brother Zach who is saying goodbye to his girlfriend. The camera stops panning with Gray and stays on Zach, cleverly linking the two. Zach’s character is shown, it’s clear he doesn’t feel as strongly about his girlfriend as she does about him as she says ‘I love you,’ and he breaks her off by saying, “I, will see you later.’  This brings in the opportunity to show the boys Dad sitting in the car who remarks in his pessimistic way, “You’re not going off to war here,’

The girlfriend waves and the Mum and Dad turn round in their seats, the Dad teasing Zach, “Are you going to be ok,’ in a babyish mocking voice. Zach jams his headphones on unamused as the background music starts up with ‘Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, Gray looks excitedly out of the window and there’s a quick scene change to the family gathered in the airport.

While this scene doesn’t take that long we learn the following about the characters.

Gray. Gray is enthusiastic and kind, he has a strong bond with his mother and is intelligent as seen by his love of science and maths. His room reveals his love of animals, science, nature and most importantly dinosaurs. He is often seen running around excitedly showing his enthusiasm, portraying him a typical child his age, hyper and excitable.

Zach. Zach seems indifferent to everything, even his girlfriend, he is often seen with headphones, his way of blocking out the world which he clearly isn’t impressed by. Generally when a character is shown to be like this you see a change in their character by the end of the movie.

The Course Begins

Hello and welcome to my new blog for my journey as I work towards my photography degree through the OCA. I’ve been studying photography for the last two years through the courses the Art of Photography and People and Place and now have made the very exciting jump to Digital Film Production, Creative Concepts i.e, making movies. I am so excited to begin. My course materials haven’t even arrived but I’ve been watching movies, analysing cinematography, creating storyboards, studying the brilliant book The Technique of Film and Video Editing and reading about all the different types of shots. I’m so passionate about this course I was even reading that for light bedtime reading!

I guess I should introduce myself, my name is Chloe, I’m 23 and am now officially a film student. I love photography, art, writing, music, guitar and so much more. This seems the ultimate course for me as I can incorporate all my main loves, photography, filming, I can draw up storyboards, write plots and use my own music to accompany my videos.

As the course hasn’t arrived yet I can’t start planning any projects but undoubtedly somewhere in the clips will feature animals and probably someone with magical powers like telekinesis. I do love creating videos with magical effects but trying to create those effects in camera as opposed to post production. Just like the director who directed Push, he wanted to create the effects in camera and not in PP.

I am going to put my heart and soul into the work, be dedicated and passionate and I am looking forward to being able to look back and seeing how far I’ve come and the videos I’ve made 🙂