Looking closer in Skyfall

Skyfall was directed by my favorite director Sam Mendes, who by the way directed my beloved American Beauty. American Beauty is a very cinematic movie, because everything (staging, costumes, colors etc.) was carefully planned and elaborated. You just have to LOOK CLOSER to see it. The movie is also rich in symbolism, which we’ve discussed at length with my WordPress friend Andrew in the comment section.

Well, Andrew wrote yesterday a great article about the new Bond movie. There is a paragraph that deals with movie symbolism and I thought it would be a great example of cinematic storytelling. So with Andrew’s permission, I copied the aforementioned paragraph:

In my favourite scene for instance, Bond is fighting silhouetted on a rooftop, which speaks volumes to me.  The action is literally not in focus, and instead we get the idea that though we can see that Bond can keep perfect fighting form, when he kills as part of his job he loses his personality.. Boom, subtle art film.

Skyfall (2012)
Skyfall (2012)

In fact, I want to break this scene down even further. Let’s examine it at an artistic level (remember what Sam Mendes taught us in American Beauty …. to LOOK CLOSER!)  We see:

(a) a fight with the aforementioned silhouette implying that Bond has lost his personality, but also

(b) a jellyfish in the background.  Jellyfish, as you are all aware, have no brain.  The director has thus revisited the theme of Bond not knowing whether he should be “a blunt instrument” that acts without using his brain, or “half monk and half hitman” that not only pulls triggers but also knows when not to pull them, a dilemma he has been wrestling with since Casino Royale.

If you liked this post, I highly recommend to read the whole article by Andrew, it’s amazing.



Sound flashback in Backdraft

It’s not very usual (here at CINEMA SHOCK) to write about various examples of cinematic storytelling and use the same film again and again to show it or demonstrate it. Sometimes it happens though, like in the case of American Beauty, where we’ve discussed camera angles, body language, colors etc.

However, this is for the first time to show another example of cinematic storytelling in the same category (film sound design) and use the same film to demonstrate it. On the other hand, in this case, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise, because the man behind the sound design is one of the main innovators and heroes in this field – Gary Rydstrom.

(Non)Simultaneous Sound

Most of the time, sound is simultaneous to the image that we see on the screen. This is the most common temporal relation which sound has in fiction films. Noise, music, or speech that comes from space of the story occurs at the same time as the image (1).

Well, sound can also be non-simultaneous. This way, sound can give us information about story events without showing them to us (1). One of these manipulations with sound, i.e. making it non-simultaneous to the image, is to play sound from the previous scene over images from a later time (2). This is called sound flashback or sonic flashback.

Sound Flashback in Backdraft

Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin) and Donald Rimgale (Robert De Niro) are on the trail of a serial arsonist who sets fires with a fictional chemical substance, trychtichlorate (3). During the investigation, they are attacked by the arsonist. Firstly, Brian wrestles with him and shoves him against a shorting electrical plug (4).

Backdraft (1991)
Backdraft (1991)
Backdraft (1991)
Backdraft (1991)


Then Rimgale finds them and throws the man off Brian. They fight together, but the arsonist runs off (4).

Later in the movie, Brian sees Axe (friend of his father) in the shower. He notices a strange burn on his back, shaped like an electrical socket. Brian realizes it was Axe that he fought in the house and he is the arsonist (4).

Backdraft (1991)
Backdraft (1991)
Backdraft (1991)
Backdraft (1991)


Now, when he realizes that it is Axe who is the arsonist, the sounds from the earlier scene (when they fought) are played back. This way, the audience knows exactly what Brian has just realized. And thanks to his POV, the sounds work seamlessly in the scene. So here it is, sound flashback used as a storytelling device.

As always, shoot me any comments you might have and if you like this article, share it with your friends on Facebook or tweet it to your followers, or both! 🙂


  1. http://filmsound.org/filmart/bordwell3.htm
  2. http://classes.yale.edu/film-analysis/htmfiles/sound.htm
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backdraft_(film)
  4. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101393/synopsis

Wide angle lens in Mercedes commercial

Mercedes launched a new advertising campaign, and I really like it. Watch the 30 sec commercial in the video below!

There is a sentence appearing repeatedly both in the video and on the billboards, it goes like this:

“I want you, I can be yours.”

The advertising campaign is aimed at young people, it is fresh, provocative and the above mentioned phrase has clearly a sexual subtext.

The photo above is used for the billboards, unfortunately it is without any text, so you have to trust me that there is the sentence: “I want you, I can be yours.”

Ok, at this point we know what the story is, what is the message. Let’s look now how it is told.

Wide angle lens

The photo above was taken with wide angle lens. Wide angle lens distort the image (the wider the lens the bigger the distortion). Straight lines are curved and physical dimensions are exaggerated. This effect is clearly visible, if you get close with wide angle lens to your subject.

Now, because of the wide angle lens, the car is optically distorted. If you look at the image again, it seems like the car is popping out, trying to reach you. And I think this is exactly what they wanted!

Additionally, I did a quick test to see a comparison between wide angle lens and telephoto lens.

For me, the telephoto lens doesn’t convey the message. I like the telephoto version a lot actually, but I think it does convey a different message. Maybe something like this:

What do you think?