DENOTED DOZEN: KEY FEATURES OF FILM OPENINGS TO ANALYSE
1: IDENTS - how many; how long are these; what company type/s are featured: distributor, production?
2: 1ST SHOT - Discussing the semiotics, including Detailed denotation: what exposition is provided/withheld? Is it faded in? How long is the 1st take? Static or moving camera?
- Don't twist your analysis to fit the genre, it doesn't always match the genre so neatly!
- Consider exposition, narrative enigma, (non-)diegetic sound, anchorage/polysemy - sound is relevant as well as mise-en-scene.
- Is the camera static or moving (does the shot/framing change?).
- What does this shot lead into?
- Looking ahead, you could apply Todorov's narrative model (equilibrium).
3: TITLES - This tends to be the most overlooked element by students across the country; exam board reports every year highlight this as a common weakness. Use this post for detailed guidance/links on what to look for; in brief this includes...
- what to include (and exclude),
- the timing (continuous with identical gaps? from the start or later in the opening? when do they end?),
- size and any variation of this,
- the specific wording,
- the (auteur) convention around crediting the director twice and the wording of this,
- checking if distributor and production companies receive different wording,
- looking for variation in the presentation of stars, co-stars, new actors (introducing...),
- the main (film) title
4: DURATION - Simply: how long is the opening sequence?
5: SOUND, MUSIC - Discuss use of sound. Does (non-)diegetic music suggest (signify) a genre; audience/s? Is it continuous, or faded in and out? Are there multiple music compositions/sound FX or just one? Do we have an audio bridge? Does it begin with idents? When exactly does it end?
6: SHOT VARIETY - The year of production may be significant, likewise the genre: is this a fast-paced sequence with short takes, or slower with long takes? Can you give an example, perhaps a shot reverse shot sequence, which you think has good (or perhaps poor!) shot variety? Do we get cutaway shots and frequent reframing?
7: INTERTEXTUALITY + GENRE SIGNIFIERS - Are there intertextual elements you're able to recognise? You may not be able to follow the preferred reading, depending on age, gender, cultural habits, general knowledge... Does this suggest a particular audience (perhaps a secondary audience more than a primary audience?). Is a specific (sub-)genre (or, if hybrid, genres) signified? How?!
8: NARRATIVE + EXPOSITION - You will eventually be familiar with Propp, Todorov, Levi Strauss and other narrative theorists, and should reference them here. To what extent is the equilibrium established? Do we get elements of the conflict, or dis-equilibrium, at this stage? Are there any binary oppositions? Is narrative enigma employed? Sum up (in very brief bullets) what we learn from the opening (what exposition has been provided). Detail the characters further in a specific section below.
Consider carefully what is not revealed to the audience; the role of narrative enigma.
9: MISE-EN-SCENE: PROPS, LOCATION, LIGHTING - Break it down with a simple list at first: how many locations are used; what key props can you spot? Consider (analyse) the semiotics, using screenshots.
10: CHARACTERS: PRO/ANTAGNONIST; BIN. OPPS.; PROPP ARCHETYPES - A crucial point: which character/s are introduced? How are they signified - how is the preferred reading that they are central pro/antagonist (or just secondary) encoded? Think carefully about shot selection and editing here. Are these roles anchored or left polysemic (has narrative enigma been employed, but perhaps additional exposition provided as the opening progressed?). Do these fit into any Propp character archetypes? Do we see binary oppositions being formed?
11: TRANSITIONING TO MAIN FILM - How is the end of the opening sequence handled; the switch from opening to main body of the film? Is there a jump cut? Does music cease/switch? A transition? Further titles (and maybe the main title) over (extreme) long shots an
12: SUMMARY: KEY POINTS, POSSIBLE INFLUENCES - Numbered last, but this would go at the top of your post, just below any (large/largest text) basic + contextual information (including hyperlinks) for the film you're analysing - where you can find it, embed a film opening! What do you consider the most important points? Always when blogging on examples highlight specific elements you like, and might use in some form yourself.