Analysis of the Opening of the Shrek Movie
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‘In traditional fairy tales humans are often portrayed as good whilst ogres are terrifying beasts.’ Contrast the presentation of the humans and ogres in the opening few minutes of ‘Shrek.’
The portrayal of the human and ogre in the opening credits of ‘Shrek’ is certainly quite unlike that of which the audience has come to expect or is usually exposed to in the genre of the traditional fairy tale story.’ Shrek’ judging by those first few minutes, is a parody in the sense that it copies the style of the traditional fairy tale story yet adapts it in an amusing way. This is cleverly done by ‘Dreamworks’ using techniques such a colour and light, sound effects, music, and the general characterisation of the main character especially.
There is a huge contrast between the portrayal of Shrek and that of the humans.
Shrek’s appearance certainly fits the criteria of an Ogre. His stocky, boulder-like shoulders and shiny, lucid green skin is what makes him emerge as a main character.
The character of Shrek is presented as happy-go-lucky and so content with life, which you can see in the way he looks full of admiration and pride at his home. Shrek leads a modest life. He lives alone in a swamp but he has adapted to this in his own way. Shrek is also presented as having extremely revolting habits. Certainly, they fit the criteria of what one would expect from an Ogre. We see him go through his morning routine in the first few minutes of the film. We can construe that the reasons as to why Shrek outwardly displayed such degrees of improper conduct could be as a result of him living alone.
This essentially means that he can just be himself. In addition to his bad habits, we see how at tune with nature Shrek is. For example, when Shrek uses an insects’ entrails as a toothpaste. That was not only a demonstration of one of his many bad habits, but also it was also a display of his adaptability to his environment and an embracing attitude of the natural environment to which he was disposed. Also, If we are to touch on Shrek appearance, and his presentation of having shiny green skin, it can be seen that this further adds to the idea of Shrek being in tune with nature, as the colour green has connotations of plant life and forests and woodland . This further associates him with nature.
Another of Shrek’s character traits is his voice. Shrek has a ‘Scottish’ accent which is friendly and calming. Not at all the expected, loud, booming voice, of an Ogre. This does the job of bringing the audience to a personal level with Shrek. His voice along with his Characterisation convinces me that the character of Shrek could almost be human. This is quite ironic as in most fairy tale stories the role of the Ogre is seen as vicious and most dislikeable.
The characterisation of the humans in ‘Shrek’ challenges that of Shrek’s vastly. The humans in Shrek are presented as very ordinary and uninteresting. None of the humans that we see in the first clip of ‘Shrek’ are acknowledged as individual characters. This, as well as further establishing that Shrek is the central character, goes some way into portraying them as mindless ‘sheep’ in the sense that they show no expression of individual thought. Also, the fact that we, as the audience see the humans as a mob with no individual personalities works in Shrek’s favour at this point , as we feel a connection with him and his character.
The audience learns more about the presentation of humans through their action rather than their characters because none of them are distinguished, as none reveal any aspects of their individual traits. The audience is presented with the idea that the humans are cunning and underhand. We are shown the series of events that lead up to the humans arriving at Shrek’s house with pitch-forks and torches.
There is the impression of negative feeling towards Shrek from the first scenes in which the mob is introduced. The audible murmur of resentment that radiates from the mob when they first see the reward poster, is evident of this. The mob shows an immediate dislike for Shrek. This hatred of Shrek, we can assume stems from the traditional idea in fairytale stories that ‘ogres are evil’. This portrays them in a negative light, as it shows that they are bigoted and easily ‘up in arms.’
Further to this, we can surmise that the humans have an appetite for greed. They are shown handling a ‘Wanted’ reward poster, promising a profitable sum of money. Their desire for the reward money, triggers them to go in search of Shrek in order to capture him. The fact that they would go in pursuit of Shrek with the intent of harming him, and possibly killing him, for the sake of money shows them to be corrupt and unaffected by emotion. The behaviour of the humans towards Shrek presents them as evil in many aspects. It also poses the issue of whether they would think to conduct their behaviour in the same way, if Shrek were human or whether they would condemn their own conduct and deem it unthinkable. From The above points, it is clear to see that the humans are characterised as have negative and dislikeable traits as they are presented as ‘cunning’, corrupt and gluttonous. This contrasts Shrek’s presentation as an extensively likeable character who is content and upright.
The technique of using colour and lighting in ‘Shrek’ is a further means used by ‘Dreamworks’ to present the characters of Shrek and the humans. Light is used a tool to create certain atmospheres which symbolise, hope, adoration and security.
At the very start of the film as Shrek is reading the story book, a ray of light shines onto the book and everything else in the background is darkened in shadow, so that you were immediately drawn to the book. The ray of light certainly symbolised hope but also awe; as if to say its presence demanded reverence. This reflects on Shrek as well. Shrek is associated with the hopeful atmosphere and this is positive.
One further example of how light, and colour is used, is when we see Shrek; after having just come out from his toilet .As he looks towards his swamp with adoration, his house is marked against the backdrop of the brilliant, green, forest which is illuminated by an ambient light, creating a stunning visual image. This is a key point, as it marks a point of further deepening in our relationship with Shrek. This is because in this scene Shrek’s perspective of his home, as well as his inner feelings about his towards it are revealed. As a result, we come to share in his views on the beauty of his home, despite it being a grimy swamp in reality.
The use of light, to present the humans has a different effect. We are introduced to the humans from the setting of the sun. In the first scenes in which they are present, the sun is setting and the backdrop of the village is a blood red-orangey hue. Immediately what springs to mind is negative imagery. The colour red is generally associated with danger. The colour of the sky, as a result, influences our view of the humans which consequently means that they are hampered with the same negative links.
Furthermore, the fact that we only see the humans in the night is potent, as it means that they associated with all the strong negative connotations of the dark and the night time. The night time is typically the time frame in which bad or evil things occur. It is also important to note, that we can’t see the faces of the humans, but only they distorted shadows. This further established their insignificant to Shrek as the main character, but it also ties them in with the negative connotations of the night time. The idea that is presented to us is that they are up to no good. The fact that we can’t see their faces, also means that we can’t trust them and neither can we connect with them as the audience. Also, the absence of light, which is associated with the good, leads us to think that this is something that is not present when it comes to the humans.
The main idea presented to us regarding the humans and the ogre in ‘Shrek’, relating to sound effects, music and dialogue, is how significant the Character of Shrek is, and how secondary and even banal the humans are.
A range of sound effects are used to paint the character of Shrek and more often than not, they are used as a means of showcasing the habits of the ogre. There are several ‘squelch’ sounds ‘burping’ sounds and other similarly unpleasant sounds that can be heard as we see Shrek go about his daily routine. For example, when Shrek is brushing his teeth with the innards of the insect, there is an audible ‘squelch’ as he spreads it insides onto his tooth brush, ready for use.
Another instance of the use of sound effects; is when Shrek is in the pond and he accidentally passes wind. We hear the relevant sound, along with a sigh of contentment. All these episodes of comical sound effects help to lighten up the film as they are humorous, and as a consequence that makes the character of Shrek even more likeable and more appealing to children, who are the main target audience of the film.
With regards to the Musical staging in the film; the theme tune which is played from the start of the film hear when we are introduced to Shrek is very appropriate to his character. The theme song ‘Allstar’ by Smashmouth has sentimental lyrics like ‘Hey now you’re an Allstar’ and ‘…Only shooting stars break the mould….’ They lyrics help to paint Shrek in a way that suggests he is one of a kind; a much desired quality to have.
What we notice from the first few minutes of ‘Shrek’ is that the song is immediately audible as Shrek first appears on the screen. However, when we see the humans for the first time the song fades out just enough for us to hear the angry murmur of the mob and the clanking of the pitchforks and that of the spoon which Shrek places down as he settles down by the log fire.
I feel that the use of Sound effects and dialogue further establishes how content Shrek is and how nasty and unpleasant the humans are.
In the film, various Camera shots and angle techniques are used to portray both the humans and Shrek in various ways. With Shrek specifically there were a few frames where you could see through his perspective, most notably when Shrek surveys his swamp. It helps the audience relate to Shrek and it did rouse feelings in me of admiration for the swamp. Evidently, light was purposefully used to illuminate the beauty of the swamp to give such an effect. If you notice however, the camera zoomed towards it. This set it apart as a focal point, and draws our attention to it.
There was also at one point a moving shot of Shrek as he bathed in the Pond. The camera moved from one angle to the other, showing all of Shrek in the pond. I think this was cleverly done to show that Shrek is not so dissimilar looking to the human form, not withstanding his bright green skin. Perhaps ‘Shrek’ is exploring racial discrimination here, as it seems that the only thing separating him from looking human was his shiny green skin.
There are several instances of close-up shooing in ‘Shrek.’ There was a notable close-up sequence in which the camera shoots clips between Shrek and the humans. The shots move back and forth between them, and it shows the series of events that lead to the humans arriving at Shrek’s home, with pitchforks and torches in hand. In parallel, clips of Shrek are shown of him at home undertaking his daily routine and eating his dinner by the fire. This showed how comfortable Shrek was with himself, and how normal he was. We can also consider that he knew that there was a possibility of the humans attacking him. Shrek erects an ‘Ogre Beware’ sign at the entrance of his swamp, as a warning to humans. The fact that Shrek was comfortably eating his dinner, even though he was aware of the threat of attack, suggests that he was calm, yet also that he had nothing to be afraid of; he shows confidence in the fact that he would be all right. A suggestion as to why this could have been is that attack from the humans may have been a regular occurrence for him. By contrast, Shrek shows civility whilst the humans appear almost savage.
So, in answer to the objective of the question to explore the presentation of human and ogre; the portrayal of Shrek through the range of different techniques advocate that he is a modest, and extremely likeable character who is one of a kind. He is portrayed as very much down to earth and in touch with nature; and above all decent. However the presentation of the humans imply that they are covetous, unpleasant and exceptionally corrupt.
This is ironic and is a complete role-reversal, as it juxtaposes the traditional fairy tale outline in which, it is the beast (in this case the ogre) that is associated with greed and wickedness whilst the human is seen as the righteous and pure one. It is from this is that we get the idea that the story of ‘Shrek’ is paradoxical judging on the opening scenes that we were shown.
If we further analyse the first few scenes, it is clear that people have come to expect the traditional and stereotypical view. The film, ‘Shrek’, challenges those self-same traditional ideas of good and bad which have their basis in stories and ballads from over the centuries. As a result, the film can be seen as a strong statement. The film hints at ideas of racism or perhaps a fear of what is unfamiliar this is presented through the behaviour of the humans towards Shrek. The humans react to Shrek with great dislike, and just assume, without real evidence, that he is a terrible creature; as ugly on the inside as he is on the outside.
What is ironic is that their behaviour towards Shrek is in their view, noble and brave; and this is the demeanour that conforms to traditional fairy tale story. In the film, the fact that Shrek is the one who displays a good natured and decent temperament, despite being flawed holds significant meaning. It shows that narrow-mindedness is a wasted mentality that holds no accuracy. Overall, what we can conclude from the film is that the portrayal of the humans and the beast differ vastly from the traditional presentation of humans and beasts in the genre of the traditional fairy tale story. The film breaks away from those traditional ideas, and in a way, the roles between humans and beasts reverse and instead the humans are presented as wicked and the ogre is presented as decent and good.