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Dead Poets Society And Dangerous Minds Comparison Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 923 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The soundtrack of Dead Poets Society is a synchronous one of bagpipes being played during the procession, synchronous is a term used to describe a sound caused by some event on screen and which matches the action. This particular soundtrack relates particularly well to the visual track mainly because of it being synchronous, but also because bagpipes represent tradition – a big theme throughout the film. I agree with this choice made by the director for using bagpipes as the soundtrack as it fits in nicely with the conformity being placed on the students by the school.

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On the other hand, the soundtrack used in Dangerous Minds is non synchronous, (sound which is recorded separately from the visuals then added later). The soundtrack is also a sound bridge – the music continues through shots adding to the continuity. The use of the song: Gangster’s Paradise, relates to the theme of gangs within the area and life on the streets. I also agree with the choice made by the director – the song reflects themes which appear later in the film.

A matched cut type of editing is used in the opening sequences of Dead Poet’s Society; this is where a familiar relationship between the shots may make the changes seem smooth. This type of editing is used to show continuity and no change in time between shots – giving the viewer all the small details. This editing is effective and continues as the characters enter a new scene, the chapel.

Again, Dangerous Minds adopts a different approach by using a jump cut editing technique – this is an abrupt switch from one scene to another indicating discontinuity. I believe this is used to show the extent of disrespect for public property as seen by destruction and vandalism. This editing also shows sections of interactions between characters which gives the viewer an idea of who they really are.

Now, on to the choices relating to colour and lighting starting with Dead Poet’s Society. A lot of light is used in its opening sequences, all the characters’ faces are sufficiently lit up. Light is also a form of iconography with the “Light of Knowledge” in the form of a candle – which also provides light to the large chapel. Lighting can manipulate a viewer’s attitude towards a character, this happened to me when light was shining up from beneath Mr Nolan’s face, giving the impression of a stern character and a severe enforcer of rules. The colours are also light; oranges, yellows and red which represent a warm environment (for the time being).

Dangerous Minds shows a different aspect of how colour can be used effectively in an opening sequence. The first thing the viewer notices is that the visuals are in black and white only – this creates an interest in the viewer as it is unexpected and they therefore pay more attention. The misè-en-scène is dark regardless of the black and white colour and there are shadows moving through some of the shots – hinting at mysterious lifestyles. The colour changes from black and white to colour as the characters move into the higher class areas on their way to school, this shows the significance school has and still will have on them.

The establishing shot in Dead Poet’s Society is of a wall painted with old pupils, the American flag and the English flag, another example of an old school remembering its roots and traditions – a prominent theme throughout the rest of the film. There is a close up two-shot capturing the emotions of the two boys having their photo taken. A close up shot of bagpipes being set up reinforces the theme of tradition and tracking as the procession enters the chapel draws the viewer into the film.

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The establishing shot of Dangerous Minds is of a neglected building with graffiti on it saying, “We love you baby!” the camera then pans across the room showing even more graffiti. The camera angles focus more on the surrounding of the characters rather than the characters themselves, emphasising the huge impact of where people come from has on their lives.

The first theme introduced in Dead Poet’s Society is that of tradition. This is seen from the establishing shot of the wall showing the history of the school; it is achieved through the misè-en-scène and iconography by showing the bagpipes and them being played by a student. The “Light of Knowledge” is also a form of iconography and it represents the theme of the high-class school, where students are expected to achieve good results. The other form of iconography is the banners the four boys hold during the procession, the themes are printed on them: discipline, excellence, honour and tradition.

The obvious theme in Dangerous Minds is one of disrespect as seen by the high concentration of graffiti on the buildings; this is seen through the misè-en-scène. A form of iconography which introduces a theme is the broken stop sign, this shows a complete disregard for rules as initially seen by the extremely raucous class Ms Johnson is appointed to teach.

To conclude, both films use different techniques to try and convey their particular messages in the opening sequences. However, I believe that through intricate misè-en-scène, good use of iconography, camera angles, soundtrack, lighting and editing; Dead Poet’s Society stands out as the more convincing of the two films in conveying their message. (979 words)


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