Search Our Blog!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Structures of Thriller Openings

There are three basic structures when it comes to the opening titles of a thriller:

A blank screen with titles rolling over it, followed by narrative opening
We observed two examples of films that utilized this in class: Dead Calm (1989) and Donnie Darko (2001). Whilst visually not very interesting (white simple serif font over black background), I thought that the audio in the opening for Dead Calm contributed a lot. The segue between the increasing, disturbing soundtrack and the narrative of the passing train was very effective. Donnie Darko's opening is also slow but mysterious. It creates intrigue through setting, character and choice of soundtrack, although this is ruined by the somewhat shoddy choice of typeface (see The Shining).  

Titles running over a narrative opening
 This is another common structure, although the choice of titles here are probably even more important as we wouldn't want them to distract from the narrative. One example where this was used to great effect is that of Panic Room (2002). The shots in this opening couldn't be more simple basic - simple shots of the city that represent the setting. However, the visually interesting three-dimensional titles add something that is perhaps quite sinister; there is something almost unnerving about these big letters suspended in mid-air, looming over the city.

Then there's the opening of The Shining, which I've already talked a bit about in my response to the Watching: Beginnings documentary. In what otherwise is an effectively uneasy opening that portrays the isolated surroundings of the setting, is the monstrosity that is the ugly cyan lettering scrolling up over the image in what could easily be recreated in Windows Movie Maker or such amateur editing software. Awful. It is just another reminder of the importance of font choice, as upon first viewing this pretty much broke any suspense that was building up for me whilst watching.

Discrete title sequence
These title sequences are usually heavily-edited and are separate from the film's narrative. This type of opening can be exciting and effective for conveying a certain mood or effect. The famous title sequence of Se7en (1995) is a prime example of this. Another is Enemy of the State (1998), which combines grainy, CCTV-style footage, with distorted transitions and fast-forwarded sequences to create a thrilling fast-paced opening.

Stylized editing
Because of the stylistic approach to the editing of these title sequences, their creation are often more time-consuming than the regular more basic approaches. However, when done right, they can add a lot to a film. One example is the French film 'Mesrine: L'instinct de mort' (2008), which utilizes split-screen effects of different shots of the same scene to create a tense atmosphere.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment