Things to Think About When Watching a Film - LT
Week 5 Film Analysis: Elizabeth the Golden Age
HUM 150- Introduction to Film Studies
University of Phoenix Material
Week Five - Things to Think About When Watching a Film (Learning Team)
This form is used to prompt discussion and analysis for the Week Five Depth Analysis of a Film Paper and Presentation.
Step 1: Analysis of the Narrative: Story, Plot, and Meaning
What was the filmmaker's intent:
What is the film's principal theme?
The movie depicts a time in history where two faiths, two substantial empires, two rulers, and two distinctly different ways of life collide in the year 1588. The Papist Philip of Spain desires the removal of what he considers the heretic queen of England - Elizabeth. Philip seeks a rationale to attack England while he builds his armada. The Golden Age is about a time in history and the political conflict but also looks beyond the that climate to show Elizabeth as a woman, inwardly conflicted while on her voyage from mortality to divinity.
Are there any important subthemes?
Plotting and intrigue abound when Spain sets a trap for the Queen and her principal secretary, Walsingham, using as a pawn Elizabeth's cousin Mary Queen of Scots, who in under house arrest in the North. The trap is sprung, and the armada sets sail to attack England. During the months leading up to the attack Elizabeth develops feelings for Raleigh and keeps him in port. Raleigh falls in love with Bess and they marry in secret. The queen is enraged at the betrayal and imprisons Raleigh and banishes Bess. The impending war causes Elizabeth to free Raleigh to fight in the attack. The Spanish are defeated and the Elizabeth forgives Bess and Raleigh and determines that her fate is to remain the Virgin Queen mother to her country.
What is the moral to the story?
The journey of the Golden Age, in many ways is about acceptance. Acceptance of the life you have, acceptance of duty to something bigger than yourself and understanding that the needs of the many can outweigh the needs of a single person. Elizabeth understood that her life was not her own and she gave up a normal life for the needs of her subjects.
Who are the main characters, what happens to them, and why? Are the characters static or dynamic? Explain.
Elizabeth - The film focused on the uncertain years of the ruler's reign. Elizabeth faced conspirators and plots to dethrone her. She is faced with war from Spain which she faces bravely. She was controlling about her image. What the film deals with is that as she began to age, her availability to be married and form alliances with other countries was ebbing away. Her physical attractiveness and ability to bear children was questioned. She faced political pressure as well as pressure from within. Emotions that she kept suppressed for so long come flooding to the surface, especially with the relationship she forms with Raleigh. How the movie portrays Elizabeth's feelings for Raleigh is a wistful vicariousness, almost like an inner thought that would be "if only I could be like him." She falls in love with someone that she would want to emulate, and that being with them is to live through them, and to see the world through their eyes. This would be to live another life and be another person. As cultured, well-read, eloquent and intelligent as Elizabeth was, she had never left the shores of England, and in Raleigh, she saw a hero who had discovered a new world and literally had traveled to where the maps ended. Elizabeth's character explored denial, what she had to remove herself from in order to lead. She made herself into an icon with an image that she polished and honed for political ends and possibly for emotional protection. Looking at the growth experienced by the character it has to be deemed that the character was dynamic.
Raleigh - A brash explorer who has traveled to the New World and who plunders Spanish ships. He is a patriot and willing to fight to keep England from the Spanish rule even after imprisonment by Elizabeth. The character remains static through out the movie and does not change or alter the personality of the character from beginning to end.
Philip of Spain - The King of Spain is Catholic and backed by the Church in Rome and armed with the Inquisition builds a powerful army and sea-dominating armada. This armada presents an imminent threat to the Queen and to England. He is portrayed as very dark, always praying, and possibly weak minded character, yet at the same time is the most powerful man in the world. The character was consistently played with the notion that he was the most powerful man in the world but also with a complex with a weak voice and unusual gait. The portrayal conveys the sense that he is man to be ridiculed by the audience. Philip is determined to wrest the Protestant heretic from the throne and restore England to the glory that is the Roman Catholic Church. The army and the armada of Spain are roundly defeated and Philip falls from grace. The character throughout the film is static.
Mary Queen of Scots - Elizabeth's cousin, next in line for the throne and in the eyes of many Catholics, the rightful queen. She is known for her beauty, misfortune and political ineptitude. Mary's continual implication in plots to assassinate Elizabeth and the final plot known as the Babington Plot forced Elizabeth to have her executed. When Mary was beheaded it gave cause to the Catholic Church to back Philip in his war on England. The character of Mary was fascinating and I felt the film captured the essence of the person. The character remained static throughout the film
Are the plot and story logical and believable? Why, or why not? Does that matter to this film? Why, or why not?
The plot and the story logic are believable because they are based on history. There is a certain responsibility for the filmmaker when creating a historical film that is ensure that it is believable to the audience and to maintain that same aura of believability because the audience has preconceived notions of what is correct. In historical movies filmmakers take liberties because all history is interpretation of what has occurred. At some point the film has to take over from history and it was the responsibility of the filmmaker and the cast to tell the story. This film was the director's interpretation of history and simply he just told a story.
Step 2: Analysis of Theatrical Elements
How does the filmmaker use the following theatrical elements to communicate his or her message?
a. What visual impression does the element create?
b. What aspects of the element are most memorable?
c. If the element is repeated throughout the film, why?
d. How does the element help create meaning in the film?
1. Set design is a theatrical element that was imperative to this film. The period film would have to use scenes of stone buildings such as palaces and homes, the gilt and the grandeur of the time as well as the scenes that were done outside in the public arena. Moods, meaning, and media are all affected by the set design. Any flaw, such as a misplaced building or an uncomplimentary color scheme, can ruin the authenticity of any production. The film reflected the majestic and architecturally significant cathedrals and palaces showing the gilt and grandeur of such lodgings of the royalty and the rich in the south of England. The film used the vast halls and towering ceilings to give the audience a clear picture of the time and place. These building blocks were combined to produce a "visual language" for the film's design. This environmental approach had the advantage of not only producing stunning sets that agreed with the period locations, but also provided the performers with a credible, authentic world in which to create their characters.
2. Costumes helped to convey a sense of character of the role the actor was playing and also helped the audience to determine how they feel about that specific character. The wardrobe of the film aided in the achievement of the overall tone of the film. Elizabeth was a fashion icon of her time and the wardrobe designer, Alexandra Byrne, used inspiration in designs created in the 1950's by the designer Balenciaga, these influences made her more relevant to an audience of the present. The film was packed full of period pieces that included sumptuous fabrics that reflected the light and allowed the camera to show them in a spectacular way. Elizabeth made conscious choices about how she should present herself and the image she needed to portray. Costume progressions were seen throughout the movie and helped to move the story. This is reflected clearly as Elizabeth moved to her destiny at Tilbury and hardened her heart to Raleigh, as well as the armor worn while seated on the white horse that shows Elizabeth in the role of a warrior queen to the delicate costume when she gently holds Bess' child.
3. Makeup takes Elizabeth from middle-aged woman to eternally divine. Research was available and should reflect the portraiture of the period. Elizabeth was shown through out the film almost in a luminescent light. The make up used during the assassination attempt shows Elizabeth with stark white makeup that added to the drama of the scene. The makeup for the film also conveyed a sense of a very powerful woman, who managed a very controlled and carefully constructed image. The scenes of Elizabeth tortuous decision to behead Mary the makeup was used to show her desperation and to help communicate to the audience the stress she was enduring.
4. Lighting within the movie was varied, high key lighting was used in the assassination attempt to show the starkness of the scene and the more dramatic scenes carried the low key lighting which shows the actor in a softer light as in the bathing scenes. The director also used lighting to enhance mood, atmosphere and drama, to illuminate the story, suggest depth of a scene, direct attention, and reveal character, convey time of day, to enrich and occasionally to awe the audience. The lighting in Mary Queen of Scott's beheading put the emphasis on Mary and deemphasized the witnesses who were there to see the sentence carried out. The film used shadows and light to show intimacy, isolation and vulnerability. The audience felt that they were in room similar to being a fly on the wall viewing a very private situation.
5. Acting is more difficult for actors when they are portraying historical figures. The audience has a preconceived vision of that person and to make it believable to the audience it is the actor's job to create a psychological truth and accuracy in the performance and not just do a caricature or mimicry of the role. Be it the role of main protagonists, character actors, comedians, villains, or narrators, it is only the trained and skilled actors who can do justice to the demands of a role. The role of Elizabeth was superbly cast and the performance delivered by her is astonishing. Her amusement falls like gentle rain and in contrast her fury comes like the fire from the heavens. She easily portrays doubt, determination, passion, a certain naivety, her strength is undeniable, and her grief is inconsolable. In her portrayal of Elizabeth her haunted eyes make us forget about Cate Blanchett and only see the character.
6. Often unnoticed to the untrained eye, props function as the glue that holds a movie together. Whether it is a Civil War battle or a futuristic alien invasion, prop masters are charged with the task of making sure every detail on the screen appears historically accurate and realistic. A prop is anything a character can pick up, whether it's a magazine, weapon, candle stick, or fan. Props can include food items and sometimes jewelry. A prop is not the furniture the lamp sits on or the uniform that goes with the weapon. This movie contained a huge number of props one example is the potato given to Elizabeth from Raleigh or the rosary beads held by Philip.
Step 3: Analysis of Cinematography
Which photographic techniques (e.g., types of shots, angles, lighting effects, depth of field) are used most frequently and to greatest effect? What are the most memorable cinematic moments in the film?
The most effective camera angles and shots were the high angle or bird's eye view shots. The angles were complicated and often acrobatic. The audience found itself viewing the action from lofty heights. The panoramic view of Elizabeth strolling across a floor map of the world allowed the audience to feel more than just part of the scene but the symbolism that she was very small in the overriding political climate.
How are images composed? When and where is composition within the frame used most effectively to communicate story, character, and theme?
Close ups were used to show intimacy, emotion and allow the audience to see details that might not be seen otherwise. The film industry predominately uses medium shots that allow more background to be seen and with more of the body showing might allow the storyline to be furthered. This was evident in the shot of Elizabeth immediately after the assassination attempt. The audience was able to see her body from the waist up and see her hands shake as well as her look of horror. Long shots were widely used to show vulnerability and the lack of emotion or a separation between characters.
What types of camera movements are used and to what effect?
Moving shots were used to bring the audience into the action and static shots were used to show intensity of the character or scene. Elizabeth moving throughout the palace with her entourage in tow showed the vastness of the settings. This gave the film believability.
Step 4: Analysis of Editing
What types of editing techniques are used predominantly throughout the film? Is the editing seamless or obvious?
The film used a lot of jump cuts that were seamlessly edited to further the story line. The jump shots used were effectively used within the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. An example of this in the film shows Mary as she approached her execution site, this was done in a long shot, the film then moved to a medium shot that framed Mary in the center of the shot as she knelt, then a close up shot of her as she looked to the executioner. The scene was entirely dramatic not to mention heart wrenching but effectively showed the bravery of the character.
When are quick takes used? When are long takes used? Why?
Quick takes are short sequence shots edited together to show the action in a faster pace. These types of shots allow the audience to see that many things are happening at a rapid pace. A long take are continuous shots that last longer than a typical shot. A long shot can comprise on shot within a scene, the entirety of a scene or even an entire movie. Long takes with camera movement alters the rhythm of a scene and the audiences perception of the story.
How and when does the filmmaker effectively manipulate the audience's feelings? Explain.
A filmmaker has many tools in his arsenal to manipulate the audience's feelings, such as shot duration, camera movement, montage and sound. They may take long takes by showing the film in slow motion at certain points such as Mary's beheading or rapid shots to speed up the action such as used in the assassination attempt. These dramatic effects alert the audience that a pivotal point in the film is about to occur. The point is to draw the audience right into the situation, instead of leaving them to watch it from the outside. If a filmmaker played the entire scene straight through it would lose its dramatic power and therefore the power of the audience involvement. The filmmaker uses these particular details to enable the audience to feel what the characters are feeling. Emotions have the ability to manipulate perceptions and points of view while rendering the viewer submissive to their effects. It is imperative that the filmmaker pulls the audience into the movie and make them an accomplice to any situation thereby causing them to experience feelings and a state of mind otherwise unattainable.
Step 5: Analysis of Sound
How are visible and invisible sound used in the film?
Invisible sound defined as sound emanating from a source not on the screen is used throughout the movie. The beginning of the film features a spellbinding solo violin performance with an orchestra behind it that instantly draws the listener into a Golden Age of regal opulence and intellectual enlightenment. The horse scene has a touching string theme that reflects the pure emotion of freedom that Raleigh and Elizabeth are experiencing. As the impending conflict with King Philip of Spain looms in the near future the music become more militaristic allowing the audience to understand the situation that is coming. However, as the music slowly builds toward its climax the musical director brings in a choral effect which takes center stage. The music then rises to a tremendous crescendo during the stirring battle-rallying address to the troops where a fearless leader inspires the troops to fight or die in a full patriotic eagerness. The resulting battle is another highlight, with the chaotic sounds of strings, low brass chords and deep male voice with nervous percussion leaving the audience breathless and on the edge of their seats.
Visible sounds such as dialogue and sound effects used in the movie are clearly identified by sounds that would naturally and realistically emanate from the images on the screen.
How is music used?
Background music is used to add emotion and rhythm to a film. Usually it is not meant to be noticeable but provides a tone or an emotional attitude toward the story or characters depicted. Background music can also be used to aid a viewer's understanding by linking scenes. Background music often foreshadows a change in mood. For example, dissonant music may be used in a film to indicate an unseen menace or impeding battle such as in this film.
Step 6: The Whole Package
What do you remember most about this film?
When I think about this movie I think of the way the camera was used to enhance the storyline. There were times because of the angle where you found yourself peeking through a small opening to view the action being portrayed. This gave the audience a sense of the intimacy of the moment. I also remember the small touches that made the movie exceptional for me like the red dress worn by Mary during her execution; the dress was symbolic of a martyr of the time.
Was the overall cinematic experience satisfying? Why or why not?
The story line was stirring filled with intrigue and the acting was superb. Pomp and pageantry fill every corner of every shot; pennants dance, lances rattle and soldiers creak in their newly forged armor. Each scene is taut with high drama, every moment another condensed historical highlight. And at the centre of it all, magnificent in her opulent gowns and regal even in her vanity, is Queen Elizabeth. I found the film to be film is visually arresting, each frame a work of art in miniature.
The scene with Elizabeth standing alone on the cliff with the waves crashing on the rocks and her gown blowing in the wind looking at the Spanish and English ships burning on the water was an undeniably a work of art.
How do the above elements-literary and theatrical elements, cinematography, editing, and sound-combine to communicate the filmmaker's intent?
Theatrical elements such as cinematography imagery, special effects, and powerful dialogue effectively communicated the reality of Elizabeth's struggle as a woman in a man's world and in a precarious situation. The filmmaker used state of the art technology and a myriad of camera angles to enhance the storyline and bring the audience into the film. Extravagant costumes and props brought believability to the fore front and again the filmmaker was tasked to ensure the details on the screen appear historically accurate and realistic. Quick takes were used to show rapid action and long takes and slo-motion were used to heighten drama of specific scenes. The editing of the shots was seamless and therefore went unnoticed by the audience which is pivotal for a film. The music score was varied from tender and poignant to crashing crescendos during the defeat of the Spanish Armada allowing the audience to feel the emotions of the scenes.
The filmmaker wanted to recreate a historical time in England's history and buy using every tool in his arsenal was able to create an epic period film that was wonderful to behold.
Was the filmmaker successful in communicating his or her intent to the audience? Why or why not?
Elizabeth's strength is born of vulnerability and with that combination makes Elizabeth one of the great romantic heroines. Philip was reduced to a slightly cartoonish villain and Mary shown as scheming, vain and ultimately brave. The build-up to the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada was almost background noise while Elizabeth struggles with her insecurities; however having said that, the final battle scenes reflected in the film are magnificent in their grandeur. The film was a wonderfully seductive, extravagant, unashamedly a soap opera type portrayal of Elizabeth's finest hour which is more inspiring because of the flaws already exposed in her confidence.
Though historical inaccuracies abound through out the movie the arresting imagery was such that the story was more important. My thoughts were to ignore the reviews, and historical facts and just sit back and behold the majesty that was Elizabeth the Golden Age.
How could the filmmaker have been more effective in communicating the theme, i.e., were you to make this film, what would you do differently?
I wouldn't do anything differently. I loved this film it is one of my all time favorites.
HUM 150 Introduction to Film Studies
Page 2 of 14 HUM150r6