Discuss the ‘Prison Escape’ Sequence from Natural Born Killers in Terms of Mise en Scène and Cinematography.
Natural Born Killers is directed by Oliver Stone, and is based on a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. The film has an alternative narrative, breaking and experimenting with conventional cinematic codes. This helps to highlight the stupidity and irony of the media making ‘heroes’ out of serial killers. It is a satire on violence and its role in the media. The ‘Prison Escape’ sequence is a perfect example to show how Stone uses a wide variation of camera shots and incorporates unconventional features and ideas into his work.
The majority of the sequence is filmed using a hand-h ...view middle of the document...
The close-ups usually start as medium shots which quickly zoom in, the camera sweeping past everything else to focus on Dwight producing an ‘in-your-face’ style of effect. These close-ups help to embellish the emotions and stress this exaggerated caricature is experiencing.
By using a hand-held camera the audience are made to feel as though they are there, experiencing the chaos for themselves. By making the audience feel like they are part of the action it is more likely that you will engage their attention more fully, and making it more of an experience for them, as opposed to a viewing. The use of the hand-held completely diminishes the idea of the ‘fourth wall’, putting the audience right in the centre of the action and allowing us to see from all angles and perspectives.
As the audience we are pushed into many positions by the different camera shots. Firstly we are made to feel part of the film with the use of the hand-held, secondly we are distanced from the action with use of long shots (e.g. watching the runaways come through a door, as though we are one step ahead of them), then we are put in the role of the public, viewing what Wayne Gale’s camera is recording for the outside world. While the audience are in the position of Gale’s camera, Mallory shouts at the camera threateningly, therefore threatening the audience making us like all the other people in this film: victims of Mickey and Mallory. When put in the role of the outside world we are instructed how to react through the editing of other shots being placed in with the shots of the main action. The action is occasionally broken with snippets of a news reader lady who is obviously watching the action live, with a look of complete horror and disbelief on her face. This may be how Stone wants his audience to react, identifying us more with the outside world than the main characters. He has made the madness of the story and characters more believable by showing us these immoral, psychopathic killers and over-the-top exaggerated characters in a context of a world similar to our own.
Within this extract there are other frames edited into the main action shots, as well as the shot of the news reader. I think their main purpose is to reiterate a point or idea within the scene. For example, in all the mayhem there are many explosions and fires breaking out; when Dwight McClusky makes a comment showing his concern we see a frame lasting under a second showing film of flames billowing. I think this imagery is used mainly as part of a continuity-device for the film as a whole: fire-red-blood-death.
This extract also includes the use of cartoon; a common device used in films with an alternative narrative. In this film the cartoon is juxtaposed against the action taking place. It is mainly a cartoon version of Mickey Knox running through the prison as he is in the main shots. To me, these cartoon drawings conveyed the idea that Mickey and Mallory see their killing sprees as a game, or sto...