Give a detailed commentary on a sequence, or sequences from a film of your choice in terms of two of the any of the following: mise-en-scene; editing; use of colour; lighting; sound; special effects. The film I have chosen is ‘Goodfellas’ directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990, based on the novel by Nicholas Pileggi ‘Wiseguy’. The reason for this is that it gained many awards for the cinematography used and partly through personal preference.
The scene I have chosen is called ‘Cast of characters; Tommy’s a “funny guy”. This is the post-transitional scene from when the lead character was an adolescent to becoming a young man. The purpose of the scene is basically to establish his friends and the social community in which he associates with. The main influence as to why I chose this scene is that of the cinematographic content and technical structure in relation to the film narration.
I have chosen to discuss the sound elements of the scene and mise-en-scene. I chose sound as it is a key element in the structure of the narration and form of the scene. I chose to discuss mise-en-scene as the relationship of each element involved has important significance to the cinematography. The sequence is set in ‘Sonny’s Bamboo Lounge’, a lounge bar and a regular mafia ‘types’ hang out, in down town New York, 1963.
Sound There are three main types of sound in the world of cinema and I will be looking at them individually but some in more depths than others. The three types are dialogue, music and sound effects. All the sounds you hear in the sequence are parallel, which means that they are parallel to the context of what we see. The majority of the dialogue we hear during the sequence is that of the lead character Henry Hill, and is in the form of narration, or so it seems. There is minor dialogue from the supporting characters but does not play a significant part in the construction of the film narrative or sequence in question. A copy of the original draft of the script can be found in the appendix.
There is music playing all the way through the scene. The music is relevant to the time period the sequence is constructed in and is significant in the role of setting the mood. Diegetic sound is any voice, musical passage or sound effect presented as originating from a source within the film’s world. Diegetic sounds included in the sequence are broken down into specific categories, which include dialogue, narration (although narration is considered non-diegetic sound, in this particular scene the explanation would suggest otherwise) music and some sound effects.
The music in the scene is represented as coming from a source within the sequence and therefore is regarded as diegetic sound. But at the same time it acts as background music because it adds to mood of the lounge bar, it is the type of music you would expect to hear in a New York lounge bar in that era. The music plays throughout and mutes for the narration of the lead character when required. This is purely for communication purposes and that as viewers, it subtlety suggests that we listen.
The sequence takes place in a bar lounge, filled with people so the constant muffle of people talking can be heard throughout. The significance of the muffled background talking is that it gives logic to the setting of which we see. We would expect to hear this kind of noise if we were in a lounge bar, filled with people. With the use of sound and vision we create logic in our heads that is taken on subconsciously. This technique is present in the sequence.
The narration is represented as an internal diegetic sound. This is evident through the actual meanings of the terms. Non-diegetic sound is sound, such as music or narrator’s commentary represented as coming from a source outside the narrative. The narration of the scene comes as a direct commentary from inside the narrative and also crosses over with the combination of dialogue. Internal diegetic sound is represented as coming from the mind of the character within the story space. Although the character and we can hear it, we assume that the other characters cannot. Narration means, the process through which the plot conveys or withholds story information. The narration can be more or less restricted to character knowledge and more or less deep in presenting characters’ mental perceptions and thoughts. The point where the narration and dialogue interact is highlighted below;
Henry Hill – Voiceover: And Jimmy two times, who got that nickname because he said everything twice. Like “you wanna go get the papers, get the papers.” The reason for the use of this technique in the sequence is to put the viewer is put in the head of the character. It creates a ‘point of view’ impression. This is also achieved through the use of cinematography, which will be discussed later.
The sound in the sequence is notably simultaneous sound, diegetic sound represented as occurring at the same time in the story as the image it accompanies. It is also known as synchronous sound as it is matched temporarily with the movements occurring in the images, as when dialogue corresponds to lip movement. This is simply to retain the logic of sound and vision coming together. If sound and vision did not correspond, you would represent a different perception of the films narrative.
The lead character Henry Hill, who maintains a certain speech pattern throughout the scene, conducts the voiceover. The pace of his voice is seemingly a fraction slower than average, it seems to be in sync with the camera movements, which enhances the effect of the ‘point of view’ technique. The tone of voice creates a sense of relaxation by sounding quite muted and monotonous. The volume of his voice remains low and constant throughout the sequence, which adds to the creation of mood and tone. There is no emotion in his voice, but it sounds descriptive which is what the character is doing, describing his associates.
Sound effects include the clinking of glasses as people toast, background noises such as people talking in muffled voices and as the voiceover is underway, the music plays the role of background music. Sound perspective in this sequence is in relation to vision perspective. You hear the sounds you would expect to hear i.e. glass smash 3 feet away from you, high volume; glass smash 30 feet away from you, low volume.
Sound representation in this sequence is used to its potential in relation of setting the mood and establishing narrative form. The voiceover technique used is very effective in achieving the goal of creating a ‘point of view’ position for the viewer. This is attained through the use of techniques discussed above. The combination of sound and vision in the sequence is used successfully to achieve the effect of establishing mood and atmosphere, relative to the narrative form.