19 December 2016

Suspiria: A Review

Fig 1. Suspiria Poster, 1977
Suspiria (Argento, 1977) is a film about an American Ballet dancer who travels to Germany to study at a prestigious dance academy. But soon, she discovers the school is really a front for a series of dark murders by a coven of evil witches.

Fig 2. Suspiria (1977)

One things this film does well is convey an underlying sense of dread throughout. There is always a very strong use of the colour red in this film, from the outside of the building, to the main hallway and rooms within the building (see Fig 2). The colour Red is quite often used in cinema to depict desire, and also danger/suspense, and this film in a way depicts both of those with its striking set pieces - in the first instance, the girls have a passion to be the best dancer/performer in the school, and the underlying danger of the possibility of any one of the students being killed at any time.

We can see in Fig 3 that the main character, Suzy, is in the office of the dance academy. The red hue that has been applied to the scene helps emphasise to us that she is either currently in danger, or that she is about to be.

"And then there's Argento's masterful use of deep primary colours — the sets are bathed in garish red and green light (he acquired 1950s Technicolor stock to get the effect) giving the whole film a hallucinatory intensity."
(Smith, 2000)

This quote not only provides background information on how the hues were achieved, but reinforces the notion that the goings-on in the film are very surreal and dream-like, almost to a fault.

Fig 3. Suspiria (1977)

Something the film does differently to normal is prey on our drowsiness and dream-like states when watching the piece. It makes us more susceptible to being shocked by the goings-on in the film, but particularly with Suspiria, in that we, like Suzy, have a difficult time discerning between what is really happening and what is a figment of imagination.

"But unlike so many lazy films that simply position its characters to advance a plot no matter what, Argento is aware that we are at our most curious when we are asleep"
(Hall, 2016)

This quote is playing upon the fact that, when we are in a dream state, we do things we normally wouldn't. We'll just ignore or dismiss anything that would normally be considered strange, like choose to walk along a road barefoot rather than take a bus, or stay at a ballet school where people are disappearing and being killed left, right and centre. Argento is a master craftsman when it comes to Horror films, making sure to lure everyone into a false sense of security, and strike at the most opportune moment.

Suspiria, like many other films, uses an amazing score to complement the footage on screen. The soundtrack for Suspiria was written by the Italian band "Goblin", and creates a constant sense of unease throughout.

"In a film where character are stalked, observed, and hunted, this score is a signifier that you are not alone"
(Hall, 2016)

Every horror film's soundtrack needs to be distinguishable, contrary to the old adage of "the best soundtrack is one that isn't noticeable". It needs to be able to heighten your state of wariness, keeping you on the edge of your seat at all times. Suspiria's soundtrack does just this, with it oftentimes being quite brash and loud, but never to the point of it being comical. Every piece of music ties in well with the lighting and set design, to make you feel continually apprehensive of what will happen next.

  • Smith, A. (2015). Suspiria. Retrieved December 20, 2016, from http://www.empireonline.com/movies/suspiria/review/
  • Hall, J. (2016, February). Suspiria Review: A Bad Dream Made Real. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://www.slashfilm.com/suspiria-review/2/
  • Hall, J. (2016, February). Suspiria Review: A Bad Dream Made Real. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://www.slashfilm.com/suspiria-review/3/
Illustration List
  • Fig 1.: Suspiria (1977) [Poster] At: http://civilianglobal.com/images/sized/suspiriaposter_625_900.jpg?c2336f
  • Fig 2.: Suspiria (1977) From: Suspiria, Seda Spettacoli. Directed by: Dario Argento [Film Still] Italy: Seda Spettacoli 
  • Fig 3.: Suspiria (1977) From: Suspiria, Seda Spettacoli. Directed by: Dario Argento [Film Still] Italy: Seda Spettacoli 

What If? Metropolis - Reflective Statement

I'll start this off by saying my time management and organisation skills were not the best during this project. There were many times where I was rushing the work I was doing because I had not done it when I was meant to, or because I kept chopping and changing from one piece of work to another.

I struggled with the project towards the start. It was, in my opinion, a lot more intense than the previous one (Invisible Cities). But I feel that I improved significantly from that in this project, and that I improved over the time of the project as a whole, from the 1st OGR to Crit day. My understanding of Photoshop and Maya has grown considerably, and the feedback from the tutors and my peers was greatly valued and taken into consideration.

I appreciate all the help, feedback and advice that I received from everyone over this project, and look forward to working on the next one!

11 December 2016

@Phil - Final Concept Art

The Breakdown would be the same as on the previous versions of the painting, with the sky and buildings behind the rear monorail being the matte painting, and the rest being 3D Modelled.

6 December 2016

@Phil - Revised Final Painting - Take 2 inc.buildup

Final Painting

Buildup Gif

The matte painting would be the sky, and the taller buildings behind the rear monorail. Everything else would be 3D Modeled.

1 December 2016

The Shining: A Review

Fig 1: The Shining Poster, 1980

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, Warner Bros., 1980) is a psychological horror film, based on Stephen King's 1977 novel of the same name. It follows the story of the Torrance family, played by Jack Nicholson (The Father, Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (The Mother, Wendy Torrance), and Danny Lloyd (The Son, Danny Torrance). They head to the isolated and remote Overlook Hotel for the winter, where a spiritual and evil presence turns Jack to violence, while Dylan sees disturbing images from the past and the future.

The film does a very good job of constantly making the viewer feel uneasy, keeping them in suspense for when Danny's next vision will happen, or when Jack will snap angrily and harshly. One scene of note in this theme is when Wendy discovers Jack's typing. The camera cuts from in front of her, to behind her, looking at her from a distance. We then see Jack creep into shot, so that his entrance is not a surprise, and so that it doesn't detract from the impact of his lines, or when he attacks Hallorann, his only unexpected appearance in the film, and the only on-screen murder.

Fig 2. The Shining (1980)

"The way he told stories was sometimes antithetical to the way we are accustomed to receiving stories" - Spielberg, Kubrick Remembered (2014)

This scene was praised by Steven Spielberg, calling it a "great example of counter-intuitive direction", noting that the obvious way of the scene playing out would be Jack suddenly appearing over Wendy's shoulder as she's reading the manuscript, saying that this unusual way of filming and editing the scene had 2 main benefits: It allowed the remainder of the sequence to maintain tension without a moment of relief that would follow from a 'shock', and, as previously stated, that it saved the biggest surprise/scare for when Jack suddenly appears and kills Hallorann.

As Steven Spielberg said in Kubrick Remembered (2014), Kubrick had a habit of telling stories and portraying things on screen differently to other people. This can be seen in the lighting, the dolly shots, the crane moves, the zoom-ins on people's faces, the framing, the hot windows as backlight, his choice of lenses and his steadicam work, all playing a part in making this film, and Kubrick's others, stand out, making them memorable.

Fig 3. The Shining (1980)

"[On Stanley Kubrick] He was a chameleon. He never made the same picture twice. Every single picture is a different genre, a different period, a different story, a different risk" - Spielberg, Kubrick Remembered (2014)

Again, looking at Spielberg talking about and praising Kubrick's work, we can see that Kubrick strived to make each individual film he produced stand out from not only the other films available at the time, but also his own work. The Shining was one of the first films to use Steadicam technology, along with Marathon Man, Bound for Glory, and Rocky. Again, by using techniques that were new to the industry, and by already breaking the norms of cinema, Stanley Kubrick was able to make The Shining stand out from everyone else.

The Shining doesn't really do many things similarly to other films. As stated in the previous two quotes, and their supporting paragraphs, Kubrick did things differently to other filmmakers, and to his previous works. It was one of the first films to use Steadicam, like Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977), another Psychological Thriller. Apart from this, there are not really any things that the film did similarly to others - which can be seen as both a good, and a bad thing - good in the sense that it's breaking the conventions of horror films, and it stands out more against the others, but bad in the sense that you aren't really able to compare the details of the film to another.

Fig 4. The Shining (1980)
"In several of your previous films you seem to have had a prior interest in the facts and problems which surround the story -- the nuclear threat, space travel, the relationship between violence and the state -- which led you to Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange. In the case of The Shining, were you attracted first by the subject of ESP, or just by Stephen King's novel?" - Ciment, Kubrick on The Shining (1981)

This question was posed to Kubrick not long after the release of the film, and adds to the next point being made - Kubrick's films were always influenced by prior interests he had. In the case of The Shining, as he said in reply to the question, "I've always been interest in ESP and the Paranormal". This prior influence allowed Kubrick to take a more detailed approach when creating an atmosphere within the film, making the events seem more realistic than they normally would. On the manuscript of the novel, Kubrick said that;

"It was one of the most ingenious and exciting stories of the genre I had read. It seemed to strike an extraordinary balance between the psychological and the supernatural in such a way as to lead you to think that the supernatural would eventually be explained by the psychological" - Kubrick, Kubrick on The Shining (1981)

Kubrick saying this shows how much believability was important. He liked the fact that there was a possibility of the psychological, fact-based elements could be tied to the supernatural elements. This adds to the already well-established brand/recognisability of Kubrick's prior films.

Fig 1: The Shining (1980) [Poster] At: http://designbuddy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/saul-bass-poster-design.jpg
Fig 2: The Shining (1980) From: The Shining, Warner Bros. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick [ Film Still] Great Britain: Warner Bros, Hawk Films, Peregrine.
Fig 3: The Shining (1980) From: The Shining, Warner Bros. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick [ Film Still] Great Britain: Warner Bros, Hawk Films, Peregrine.

1. Kubrick Remembered, From: Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection. (2014) Directed by Gary Khammar. [DVD] USA:  Light Source & Imagery
2. Kubrick Remembered, From: Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection. (2014) Directed by Gary Khammar. [DVD] USA:  Light Source & Imagery
3. Kubrick on The Shining, From: Kubrick. (1981) Written by Michel Ciment
4. Kubrick on The Shining, From: Kubrick. (1981) Written by Michel Ciment