Category Archives: film analysis

The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great Gatsby is rich with spectacle and makes for an incredibly beautiful and emotional film. It’s extravagant characters drive the film with their unattainable and lavish desires: be it an epic love, longing for an idealized lifestyle, or simply to be filthy rich. For Gatsby, it’s all of the above and more.

Based on  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the same name, the film follows narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Macguire) as he spends a summer in New York. Then there is his pampered and air headed cousin Daisy (Carrey Mulligan); her jackass of a husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton);  and Daisy’s old-flame, the mysterious and ridiculously rich Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby is deeply vulnerable and ruthlessly ambitious. He has created a false reality for himself, making himself appear to the public to be someone he isn’t, resulting in various rumours and stories being made up about him. Moreover, he has projected all he ever does and creates, his life’s goals and ambitions towards his lost love Daisy.

Gatsby has built an empire of excess in her honor: a mansion that boasts legendary parties as seeped in alcohol as they are in affectation in the hopes of luring her into his web. It is in the attainment of her that he believes he can find peace. But there is no peace to be had, because Daisy, like the false version of himself that he presents to the world, is nothing more than a self-created illusion. Carraway calls Gatsby “the most hopeful man he has ever met,” but really Gatsby is willfully blind and dangerously covetous. – Roth Cornet

The film itself is as gorgeous as the cast that populates it. The surrealistically beautiful aesthetic reflects the idea that the dream of the 1920’s never really existed and that the illusion of its “greatness” only served to mask the achingly empty nature of its glut.

At first I really thought the 3D aspect of it ruined the atmosphere and aesthetic of the movie, and that it was completely unnecessary, but as the film went on I realized it never overly detracted from the overall feel. In certain moments it not only supports the aesthetic, but solves the issue of creating a sense of both movement and immersion.

The use of the medium is one more way in which Lurhmann, in his approach, mimics Gatsby’s unrelenting self-indulgence. Our senses are overloaded and inundated with color, movement, sound, music, and text from the source material which has been stretched across the screen and stereoscopically brought forward.  It all moves so fast and yet leaves us feeling so bereft. – Roth Cornet

Like the film’s visual palate, the character’s emotions are heightened. They don’t love in a steady manner; they need with an anguished desperation, ever trying to fill an infinite void.

Yet their suffering never fully lands. We aren’t able to connect with these characters long enough, or deeply enough, to invest in them. Add to that, their hopes are too selfish and too delusional to root for. That sense of disconnect could be read as one of the film’s central criticisms, or it could be read as its primary strength. For, ultimately, Lurhmann perfectly captures the inherently hallow nature of these people and their soulless lives.

Gatsby has built an empire of excess in her honor: a mansion that boasts legendary parties as seeped in alcohol as they are in affectation in the hopes of luring her into his web. It is in the attainment of her that he believes he can find peace. But there is no peace to be had, because Daisy, like the false version of himself that he presents to the world, is nothing more than a self-created illusion. Carraway calls Gatsby “the most hopeful man he has ever met,” but really Gatsby is willfully blind and dangerously covetous.  – Roth Cornet

Fitzgerald’s novel has been notoriously challenging to adapt. The nuance of the tale is difficult to capture on film. The sense of the pulsing life and energy of the era was entirely lost in the 1974’s inert and mopey version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. It’s likely too early to say if Lurhmann’s is the one that cracked the Gatsby code, but he is, in many ways, the perfect director to tackle this story.

As mentioned, his frantic aesthetic is ideally suited to capture the spinning-out-of-control tone. Additionally, the majority of his films center on a pair of star-crossed lovers. He seems interested in characters that are focused entirely on what are, ultimately, unattainable goals and a drive to propel themselves past the restrictions of birth. In many ways, it’s like Lurhmann has been practising his entire career for Gatsby.

The soundtrack. To this film. My god. Many have expressed to me how they think the music should have captured the time era of the film more, but I completely disagree and think the choice of music was brilliant. The anachronistic music and contemporary songs does much more than merely “include” modern audiences. It highlights the timeless lessons of this film. Jay Z was in many ways the perfect musical collaborator for Gatsby. Not only does the soundtrack work as a driving source of propulsion for the story, but the artist’s Big Pimpin’ is the contemporary metaphor for all that Gatsby stood for: chest pounding, posing, newly moneyed showboating and rampant, substance-less overindulgence.

The performances in this film were fantastic, the strongest being Mulligan’s and DiCaprio’s by far.

Ultimately, this film, like Gatsby himself, visually embodies American excess. And yet Gatsby, the character and the film, is stunning – a seductive thing of beauty.

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Hans Zimmer – Inception Music Analysis


The movie Inception directed by Christopher Nolan, uses music almost throughout the entire film. There is not one scene where background music is not utilized to enhance the atmosphere or tone of the story. Hans Zimmer’s original scores in Inception are consistently adding to the feel of the film, in which without the music outlining the story, the movie would be lacking a powerful reaction from the audience.

Inception does not contain any long periods of absolutely no musical score. In every scene there is some sort of music in the background, whether it be soft and slow, or loud and fast, there is quite often music in the background while the characters are going about their actions and storyline. In the opening scene of the film, there is loud and unsettling music at the very beginning, but then as soon as the scene cuts to the waves on a beach, the music gets much softer, creating a more peaceful affect.

Another scene in which the music is utilized is in one of the beginning scenes, where Cobb and Mal are first shown speaking to one another on the balcony of a ship. As the viewer watches them, they receive no background information of the characters as of yet, or that this woman is Cobb’s deceased wife portrayed as a shadow in a dream. But the background music is present, hinting to the viewers – with a romantic slow and sad melody – that these two characters are past lovers.

Music is quite prevalent throughout the entirety of Inception. It is heard throughout every scene – while characters are talking about certain aspects of the “dream world,” throughout scenes where there is no dialogue, or while characters are doing the most simplest of actions such as walking urgently through a hallway with a gun in their hand (Cobb walking around with a gun seems small, but cue music and the viewer feels a sense of urgency in his strides now). Music is in the background often, which gives an “epic” feel to every small gesture. What may have appeared insignificant is enhanced and highlighted as very significant when the music comes on.

The music in Inception outlines the plot, and uses the mickey-mousing technique quite often. A great example of this in the movie is when Cobb has to escape from the men who are chasing after him with guns trying to kill him. The music is at first extremely fast, sounds very urgent, and the audience can feel the danger that might reach Cobb if he does not run fast enough. And then when Cobb finds a café to hide in, the music gets softer which suggests that Cobb is temporarily safe, but still with that sense of urgency with the fast playing strings suggesting that there is still danger in the men finding him. When the men find him, the music returns to being louder and faster. And then when he gets into the car with Saito and is finally safe from the enemies, the music completely dies down altogether.

Another example of the mickey-mousing technique being utilized is in the scene where Arthur is explaining to Ariadne all the tricks to building a dream, and in particular when he is describing the paradoxical staircase. In this specific moment the music creates a sense of wonderment and leaves the audience with a sense of awe. Then, as Arthur is telling Ariadne that Cobb’s wife is dead, the music slows down almost to a complete stop, which in a way outlines Ariadne’s shock.

Later on in the film, when Ariadne is prying into Cobb’s dream, the music is slow and quiet, and almost romantic as she watches Mal and Cobb talking and caressing each other. As soon as Mall realizes Ariadne is invading the dream, and Mal abruptly turns her head, the music reveals an incredibly sudden, loud and dissonant screech – this gives the audience the exact feelings of being caught that Ariadne experiences in this moment.

Music is also used in the film to create a certain feel or to manipulate a particular emotion within the audience. In the scene near the ending of the film where the dream is collapsing, Cobb and Mal are shown lying on the ground, as Mal was shot and dying, caressing each other. As they speak, the music is extremely soft, slow, and altogether romantic. But this cue insinuates sad less as Cobb repeats, “I have to let you go” over and over. The music also suggests an evolution or change within the character, and encourages a sense of dynamic in Cobb, as if he is finally waking up from his dream.

Another use of music within Inception is for the creation of suspense. You can feel when the characters are fearful or hesitant through the music, just like when Mal threatens to kill Arthur. There are many other instances where the music creates suspense. Take, for instance, when Cobb recognizes the bridge Ariadne conjures up, and the music comes on and it creates an eerie yet urgent feeling, which hints that something is wrong. Or when the antagonist, Robert, realizes he is in a dream, and Cobb realizes he has been caught, the music comes on and it creates an eerie feeling or tone, which invokes a feeling of suspense. The music always gets faster or increases in dynamics which makes it more “epic” sounding as the urgency becomes heightened and the dream starts collapsing on them, leaving the audience in suspense, as they do not know what will happen.

In the final scene, when Cobb finally wakes up from the dream, he is back in the plane and the music starts off slow, as if expressing he has come to the realization that he is finally awake, and survived the dream successfully, having accomplished the work of inception. As he approaches customs at the airport, the music falls almost completely silent, and it is so soft that it creates suspense for the viewers, as they do not know whether or not customs will let Cobb through. When the man working at customs finally says, “Welcome home Mr. Cobb,” the music adds in strings to symbolize success, not only in passing through customs, but for reaching the climax of his journey. This is the climax of the film because Cobb’s entire motive for attempting the impossible tasks of inception was so that Saito would help him get through customs so he could finally go back home to his children. So the music adds a sense of excitement for the audience.

As Cobb walks on, the music increases in dynamics, creating an epic tone to the scene, which adds in even more suspense than ever. When he spins his totem to see if he is dreaming and finally sets his eyes on his kids, the music becomes extremely soft and slow. The music here shows the tenderness of this moment. Then the music gets extremely suspenseful just as the camera is moving in on the totem and cuts off right before we see if the totem has fallen or not. The music here creates a sense of wonderment, as the audience is left pondering about whether or not the whole scene was just a dream.


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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by the incredible Guillermo Del Toro, is one hell of an emotional ride, complete with scenes so gruesomely gory, it’ll have you cringing and moving nervously in your seat. Its plot and visuals are so complex, with old fairytales interwoven into its story (intertextual references), which is a postmodern collage technique used brilliantly by Del Toro. At the same time it has a sense of pure simplicity which draws viewers in even more. The visuals are breathtaking, the actors are skilled at evoking emotion, and the storyline is captivating.

First off, hats off to Guillermo Del Toro. He had an extraordinary vision and then gave it life. This man fought for his vision for Pan’s Labyrinth, and did not rest until he had complete control over this project. He is an auteur – he wrote, directed, and produced this film. He also designed the way all the magical creatures would look by sketching them all out beforehand.

“I gave back my entire salary in order to get the film made the way I wanted it. I probably should have abandoned it the moment the funding fell through the first time, but I stuck with it for almost two-and-a-half years and refused to back down. It’s the first time in the six movies I’ve directed where I’ve said: I’m doing this one my way, no matter what. Financiers ran out on me and everyone involved in my career was saying it was the biggest mistake I could make. But I’m very happy with the result. And for me, nothing will be the same again.” – Guillermo Del Toro

Pan’s Labyrinth has two narrative strands which are interwoven – fantasy and real life. The opening scenes, when closely observed, establish Ofelia as the protagonist. The very first scene is of Ofelia laying down, panting, incredibly injured and looking straight at the camera. As the camera zooms into Ofelia’s eye, we’ve already been told that we are experiencing this story from her perspective – through Ofelia’s eyes. However, as the narrator’s voice is of a male, we know we are being told this story from an omniscient figure. We are shown that this is a circular narrative, as the blood dripping from her nose suddenly starts to rise back up into her nostrils, hinting that we are going back in time to when the story first started to unfold.

The film is set in the fascist Spain of 1944, during the Spanish Civil War. When closely analyzed, this fairytale serves as a political protest.  There is male/female dualism present, as all women are good, and all men are bad in this movie. This reveals that Del Toro views fascism as being a male evil. The captain is represented as entirely evil (in contrast with the protagonist Ofelia) and he demands extreme control over everything. The gag-inducing scene where the captain is seen repeatedly hammering the bottle into the innocent man’s face and the scene where the captain is revealed to have brutally tortured another innocent man to the point of unbearable excruciating injuries is not only done to show reality, but also for shock value and to state that “this man is evil” loud and clear. Through the use of the character of the captain and making him an extreme fascist figure, Del Toro sends a powerful message that fascism is evil.

The intertextual references include:

Little Red Riding Hood – straying off the path / Alice in Wonderland – Ofelia’s dress, going down a spiral / Snow White – stepfather instead of stepmother / Wizard of Oz – red shoes, meeting up with different creatures, wanting to see what’s behind the curtain / The Hobbit – moves more and more away from home, creating their own stories

Intertextual references in the “Pale Man” scene:

Cinderella – limited amount of time / The Hobbit – in the sleeping dragon’s lair / The Garden of Eden – the taking of food / Christ – the holes in the hands

Immortality doesn’t mean you live forever in this film. It means you become immune to death, and death no longer has any effect on your decisions or actions.

“Pan’s Labyrinth is a movie about a girl who gives birth to herself into the world she believes in. At that moment, it doesn’t matter if her body lives or dies.” – Guillermo Del Toro

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