Short Film Analysis
Analyse the nature and function of production and story elements in narrative media texts, and discuss the impact of these elements on audience engagement.
With reference to the following film, explain how suspense is created using a range of techniques including camera techniques, acting mise en scene, editing, lighting and/or sound:
The following tips may assist you when writing your report:
- Watch the sequence/scene several times, and make note about how various techniques have been used to create suspense
- Watch the scene/sequence without sound to focus on the use of visual and editing techniques. Watch it again with sound to focus on how the use of sound creates suspense
- Begin with a topic sentence directly answering the question
- Give specific, detailed examples from the scene to illustrate understanding
- Consistently make links with the question
- Use appropriate terminology
‘In the short ﬁlm, titled ‘Red Balloon’, directors Alexis Wajsbrot and Damian Mace use a combination of sounds, camera techniques and editing to create a thrilling and suspenseful short ﬁlm which both engages and frightens the audience. The movie opens with a lengthy, smooth tracking shot which begins outside the home, which then with the use of digital effects editing makes a smooth transition through an open window to reveal the inside of the home, where Julie the babysitter is lounging inside. Whilst this is being shown, non-diegetic suspenseful strings in conjunction with piano play evoking a strong sense of unease, alerting the audience of the genre of the ﬁlm – horror.
As the ﬁlm progresses, jump cuts are used to switch from scene to scene to show how the story line is progressing. In the scene where Julie ﬁnds Dorothy crying, the use of various cuts allows the audience to grasp how both the characters are reacting to the situation. Also here, the camera is positioned at a close up eye level to allow the audience to clearly see the emotions on the characters faces. When Julie is settled again downstairs watching TV, the camera, kept at eye level, once again through the use of digital effects editing is able to move smoothly through various objects without breaking the train of movement which ﬁnishes in the darkness of Dorothy’s room. This is then followed by diegetic sound spoken by Dorothy, “Shhh, she’s going to hear us” whilst subtle music plays behind it. This is aimed to increase the fear amongst the audience as they cannot see who Dorothy is saying this to, continuing to add to the eerie atmosphere.
Another jump cut is used to switch back to Julie who is once again lounging on the couch, but she suddenly jumps up as she hears strange noises coming from Dorothy’s room. A steady cam at a low angle is used to follow Julie’s feet as she nervously travels up the stairs and across the hall to Dorothy’s room. As this is happening, a faint rustling sound can also be heard adding to the anxious atmosphere. Once she returns back downstairs, Julie experiences a horrifying dream, which shows Dorothy standing and peering up at a red balloon and then turns into a terrorising creature and violently screams. This is all achieved through the use of editing and special effects which are able to alter Dorothy’s face to become demon like. This is aiming to frighten to the audience and shock them to feel petriﬁed and afraid of what is yet to come. The directors are playing on the audience’s anxiety.
As the ﬁlm continues and Julie realises something is seriously wrong after the phone call to Dorothy’s mother, the use of parallel editing is clever. It enables the audience to see how Julie is reacting to her realisation and at the same time, to be able to see what is going on in the bedroom. At this point also, the non-diegetic music reaches a climax and intensiﬁes as Julie is running out of the house. The editing between shots is also changing faster to allow the audience to feel the panic and distress which Julie is feeling. As Julie re-enters the house, a long shot from a high angle shows her bravely trying to go back and save Dorothy. As she searches through the house to ﬁnd Dorothy there is no sound apart from her shallow breath which allows the scene to feel more raw and suspenseful. The ﬁnal few lines of dialogue are spoken and through the use of editing we see both the faces of Dorothy and Julie. This allows the emotions of both characters to be experienced by the audience, frightening them. Finally the ﬁgure emerges from behind Julie, ﬁlmed at eye level, and a small ﬂashback takes place which allows the audience to ﬁt all the pieces of the story together to make sense. This is achieved through editing. At the ﬁnal climax of the ﬁlm, there is silence, except for Dorothy’s words “Alistair” and then as Julie is taken screeching sounds play, both diegetic and non-diegetic aiming to make the audience jump from their seats with fear. Throughout the ﬁlm, clever editing and camera techniques alongside sound contribute immensely to the suspense and terrifying sequences from “Red Balloon”.