Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Camera Movement - Bonnie and Clyde

According to "Analysis of Production Elements", "Camera movements establish the relationship between the camera, the subject, and the viewer" (234). In the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, the final execution scene of the two main protagonists is famous for its progressive brutality and gore. The scene is also notable because it uses different cameras set at different speeds to capture the action taking place. The use of different camera speeds conveys conflicting messages of realism and romanticism to the viewer.

Bonnie and Clyde, played by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, are bank robbers in love. Throughout the movie (which takes place during the Great Depression), they have stolen and killed their way through the American Midwest and have earned themselves a top spot on the Most Wanted list. At the end of the film, they are set up to be executed by the police. Most of the action starts about halfway through the clip.

The differing speeds at which this scene is shot reveals the complex elements surrounding Bonnie and Clyde's downfall. The events portrayed on camera are in 'real time' until Bonnie and Clyde look at each other and realize what is about to happen. Then, the screen cuts back and forth between the two rather quickly and unevenly. In this manner, Bonnie, Clyde, and the viewer all figure out what is happening at the same time. There is almost a resistance from the audience because there is a general instinct for dramatic moments, such as two lovers seeing each other for the last time alive, to be drawn out in films. However, it appears that the director, Arthur Penn, is trying to remind everyone that real life action doesn't really happen that way by deciding to use these camera techniques.

We are thrown back into "real time" once the shooting begins. Then, the reverse effect occurs - the camera slows down certain shots in order to dramatize the violence. The article states that "media communicators sometimes use slow motion to create a romantic or poetic mood." The slowing down of the action here definitely adds an artistic element to Bonnie and Clyde's deaths, especially Clyde's. Due to the effects of the camera, his fall is portrayed as somewhat graceful, like a perfectly choreographed dance. However, just when the audience gets used to the slow shots, the movie kicks back into gear, and Clyde's death doesn't seem so beautiful anymore as he is showered in bullets.

There are many different ways to analyze this violent scene because of the unique use of camera speed. Many filmmakers still debate as to whether this scene criticizes violence or valorizes it. Either way, through the use of camera movements, Bonnie and Clyde shows how a seemingly simple event can have many complex factors.

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