To effectively examine how to analyse film form I have chosen to study ‘Vanilla Sky’1 Directed by Cameron Crowe,Vanilla Sky is a film that resides within many genres; a culmination of romance, drama, thriller, and science fiction with elements of a black comedy. It is a “…representation of a journey to consciousness and self”(Rountree 2002)2. There are many different themes that are approached by the film these include love, hate, jealousy, self-worth, dreams and identity to name a few.
The love is of David’s for Sophia who “truly embodies Aphrodite – the love, generosity, abundance…Sophia is David’s anima, the female part of himself.” (Rountree 2002) 3 The self-worth aspect can be linked to Julie Gianni as she is the one made the step of announcing her own love in a brutally dark way. She is the “personification of David’s conscience…and embodies his loneliness.” (Rountree,2002) The film poses questions onto its audience such as ‘What is love?’ and ‘What are we saying about love?’ These will have different responses and will be taken from the viewer’s own life story experiences.Order now
To analyse its construction, I will now examine a section of the film, which I deem to be of pivotal importance. The segment of Vanilla Sky that I have chosen to focus upon is a five minute section (102 edits in total) that begins at the scene directly after the love connection between David Aames and Sophia in her apartment and ending with the horrific car accident. This scene is the crux of David Aames’ life for on meeting Sophia he decides to become a different person, the best version of himself…and then he gets tested immediately; it embodies the voice of conscience that you shouldn’t listen to, but often do that says, “Just run one more emotional red light, no one will catch you”.
The location of the scene is the Manhattan area called ‘Dumbo’ which is down underneath the Manhattan bridge overpass (a location rarely filmed in New York). The Scene begins with a wide shot of David leaving Sophia’s apartment that continues to pan to the right with him as he crosses the street and is accompanied with a poetic and upbeat music track. The song is called ‘The last goodbye’5 and its upbeat tone contrasting to its downbeat title is echoed throughout this scene and the themes of the film – to say goodbye to someone you love, or to a life forever changed; it is a
This wide shot is used to establish the change from an interior to exterior shot and lets the audience examine the surroundings. The early morning sun is shining and leaves a glowing golden colour on the opposite building and so is casting shimmering reflections and streaks of light along the street, this could be seen to amplify the feelings of elation between David and Sophia from their romantic meeting the previous night.
David walks in a smiling bewilderment as to what just occurred; a connection on any level with another woman, especially platonic, is a rarity he hasn’t been able to fully experience until now. As he looks back to the place he just left, as if in awe of what had just occurred, there is a quick edit to the interior of Sophia’s apartment and she is seen to be excitedly running around the room. This is showing the audience that they are both on the same level as for their feelings for each other; although it could be said in argument that this isn’t so, due to the exuberant display of emotions Sophia displays while running around the room set against the casual walk of David with a fleeting look back. This is not the case though as these are just the different ways each character deals with their newfound love.
He continues to approach his car that is parked on the corner of the opposite street. This has its relevance in the way that the sunlight does not reach the road here, obviously due to the fact that the building keeps it in the shade, but a less obvious reason can be found in that it also gives the viewer the feeling of a more gritty and foreboding act that is yet to occur. This ties in nicely with the timely appearance of Julie Gianni (his no-strings sleeping partner). David reaches his car, (now within a medium shot but with the use of the same camera thus signifying a steadicam being used) and even with the quick edits to and from Sophia, David’s walk still keeps a natural flowing speed as if you were walking beside him.
Upon reaching the car a set of headlights in the distance blink on and the car approaches him. A good use of camerawork imagery here as we have an edit to a close-up of the headlights, a metaphor of the ever-watchful eyes of Julie Gianni. The audience can also assume that something uneasy is happening for Julie knew exactly when to interact with David signifying an all night wait for him in her car alone.
When she pulls up aside him an eerie likeness between her car and her eyes, a turquoise/green is quite noticeable; “it was intentional and it was haunting to watch because her eyes are the same colour as the car; the two of them together became a very lonely and dangerous image.” (Crowe p.17)6 The chosen colour adds weight to her jealously of Sophia thus giving credence to the phrase ‘green-eyed with envy’. And that is Julie Gianni; it’s a personification of all she imbues and “like the pointillism of an impressionist landscape, a life can be entirely different when examined close up.”(Thomson)7
Amongst dialogue driven edits (to and from each other), mixed with the use of the steadicam again, the two characters talk irritably hidden under a veil of polite pretence. Again, as if within a wink to the audience as to the coming rage, Julie exudes her jealously by the irritable playing of her hair, the callous calling of Sophia a ‘moth-girl’ and the obvious sarcasm towards the night he had just spent with her. David then explains to her that if they’re friends she’ll understand to which she replies with a comment of emotional blackmail – the fact that he didn’t invite her to his birthday party. This, coinciding with his weakness for saying “No”, leads us into the next shot with the camera slowly zooming in on David’s unsettled face that invokes a sense of foreboding and hints of a sinister act that will take place if he enters the car with her.
Leading the audience into the next shot another music track begins and being so close to the previous it is obvious to deduce that a strong theme within the film is the iconography of pop culture. The song is titled ‘I fall apart’8; I feel it to be quite relevant to Julie Gianni’s state of mind and was specifically written for this scene being sung by Cameron Diaz herself as it was my own idea and she just seemed to revel in the new medium”(Crowe,C. p.19).
The next edit is of buildings and trees in autumn leaves moving either side of the shot giving a sense of David’s perspective in the car looking out through the windscreen. This ‘fly-on-the-wall’ feeling gives a sense to the audience of literally taking the journey with him and imagining what they might have done in his position. It’s a scene that would have been filmed many times and in separate sections; a camera would have been used from within the front of the car to give the perspective from both the characters’ eyes and also a camera positioned behind them to give the audience the feeling of being a third passenger; a camera would have been positioned on the bonnet of the car so to shoot the inward looking shots; a camera would have been attached to each side of the vehicle; and then there would have been cameras placed at key areas of the location to get the exterior action shots; this would have needed a long process of planning and careful editing to reach the finished result.
Again there is an establishing shot, the two characters sitting together within the car and this shows that he has succumbed to his way of trying to please people and this is his first failure to adjust into the man he wants to be. The pace of the editing from the moment he’s thinking about getting in the car to the point that he is seen inside it is fast and brief thus signifying the fact that David’s lust for quick thrills is still evident and that it really didn’t take him much time to debate this active mistake. He has been living a dream and he wanted reality, which he sees in Sophia, but at the moment he chooses to get into the car he forgoes his vision of reality with his other life of a carefree world.