Depth Analysis of the Movie “Crash”
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This paper will provide a broad analysis of the movie “Crash”, and yet a specific picture of visual narrative techniques and audio techniques. The categories contributing to the nucleus and major movie components are theatrical elements, cinematography, editing, and sound. The Academy Award winning movie Crash is a story about society’s controversial subjects projected in an “in your face” depiction of lives that in some way or another, cross.
Depth Analysis of the Movie “Crash”
The over-all theme of the film is racism, which is dealt with honestly, brutally, and without justification. This 2006 release from Emmy award-winning writer/producer
Paul Haggis is focused around two unsettling car accidents, a disturbing carjacking, vicious unprovoked workplace vandalism, and the suspicious killing of one police officer by another. The R rated, post 911 drama and action movie is staged against the backdrop of a racist Los Angeles justice system and Los Angles Police Department (Haggis, 2005).
The storyline begins in medias res with the event of the title, a front to rear crash on Mulholland Drive. The movie then starts over, backtracking 48 hours explaining how everyone arrived at that crash site. According to Jean-Luc Goddard, “A story should have a beginning, middle, and an end…but not necessarily in that order.”
Several life stories intertwine in the following 36 hours involving a collection of seemingly random characters consisting of; a black police detective with a drug rehabbed mother and a thieving younger brother, two car thieves who are constantly theorizing on society and race comparisons, the distracted district attorney and his angry, society wife, a racist veteran cop caring for a sick father at home and his young, idealistic patrol partner, a successful black Hollywood director and his wife who must deal with the racist cop, a Persian-immigrant father who thinks everyone is out to cheat him, and lastly a Hispanic locksmith and his young daughter who is rightfully afraid of bullets.
Action shifts between the various characters, whose lives collide with each other in unpredictable ways as each faces his or her own moral dilemma, and tries to cope with the consequences of the decisions made or actions taken against them. Each of the dozen main characters undergoes some type of metamorphosis as the various storylines converge toward a striking, common climax, which succeeds at being both cathartic and unsettling.
Theatrical elements play a major role in this film. The film uses a mix of normal imagery to blend and make a remarkable looking appearance. The director uses grain as a visual effect on many pictures in this film. The story begins with a crash, a traffic accident, which turns out to be the final collision in the film. Don Cheadle’s character, a police detective, tells his partner that he believes that the narrowness of their lives is what causes fender benders. He states, “I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.” This scene makes the viewer examine the reality of the character, and makes the viewer question whether there truly are victims and attackers and what can be defined. It also questions our own stereotypes and racism.
The film uses scenes that cause instant emotions. For example these emotions of guilt, criminal, bitterness, and heroism are reverent throughout the film. This type of instant emotion is evident in the scene where a white male police officer sexually harasses an African-American woman in front of her husband, and in the next scene he risks his own life to save her from a dangerous car accident. There is a scene with a little girl where she does, but does not, get shot. The girl tells her father, “Its okay, Daddy…I’ll protect you”. The theatrical element of this scene is very emotional and represents a pivotal point in the film.
The film “Crash” seems to be about race. But the movie is essentially about our fears of each other. An important part of editing in the film Crash comes from the ensemble cast that seems to understand the material perfectly. The cast is one of the finest and consists of Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, and Michael Pena.
In general, actors act, and react. They act on their own, and they react to one another. After Don Cheadle’s monologue in the beginning of the film, it is clear that this film is going to be a deep seated story. Films create movement out of images, time out of movement, and story from the action. The writer/director Paul Haggis has a background in television, and television has multiple stories all interweaving together. His knowledge from television helped in the editing process. In Crash, Paul Haggis had several transitions in the story lines. He compressed some scenes because if too long, the audience would lose interest in the other stories.
The cinematography in the movie adds a tremendous amount of experience to the film. The film follows the lives of several characters that come from different walks of life. It is important for the mood setting of the plot to use different techniques to help the viewer assume the role of witness. This role is essential to the main idea of the film, which is a reflection of us and our natural feelings that at times may be described as racist.
Lighting is a very important for any production. In the film there are several different lighting techniques that are used for each situation being portrayed. Low level lighting is used for scenes where the characters plot their crimes, scenes of sadness and despair. In scenes where crimes are plotted the lighting is low, characters are semi obscured but they are sharp. In cases of melancholy, sadness and despair the cinematographer uses fading to enhance the atmosphere as well as out-of- zoom parts of the screen to demonstrate the fuzziness of the future (for the character).
High-level lighting is used in scenes where people are rich or action occurs. Sharpness, high gloss, contrasting colors, and shiny objects in the background are used to demonstrate situations where the characters are wealthy and their surrounding is perfect. When action occurs in the movie there is always good lighting in order to let the viewer absorb all the events. In one scene most characters are set in semi-low lighting and the victim is portrayed as an angel with focused bright lighting and a white dress. In some scenes a bright source of lighting is used to add to the surrealistic telling of the unfolding events.
As mentioned above lighting is very important to the mood setting in the film. The cinematographer uses different color hues to enhance the experience. The hue of dark green is used when the mother is at the morgue identifying her son’s body, in additional to scenes of sadness. The hue of red is used when there are scenes of warmth. A gray hue is used when events are very rough.
In addition to lighting camera setting is also important to the movie as a whole. In the movie, the creators are set on putting a viewer as a participant in the events. The cinematographer used many close-ups to grasp the emotion of the characters and give the viewer an intimate portrayal he or she would see when witnessing the events. In situations where the witness would be seeing from a far, the camera is pulled back. This is evident in scenes where the police are surveying the scene of a crime. In scenes where the police action is on-going, the camera switches perspective often to catch all the different emotions and experiences at play.
Although it is hard to maintain a complete, indirect-subjective point-of-view, the cinematographer used this view extensively throughout the film. This is a powerful tool to grasp the viewer and ensure that he or she is an active witness without any controls over the events. This idea of not having control over the events is one of the main ideas of the movie. The characters are simple people like everybody else and are experiencing events that are not out of the ordinary. This technique empowers the viewer to develop a strong identification bond with the characters on the screen and understanding of their decision-making process.
Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Stan Laurel, and Oliver Hardy are just some of the legendary names from the silent film era. These actors took their vast talents and abilities and applied them to the cinema at a time when sound was nearly fictional. In the late 1920’s Warner Brothers introduced sound to the world of cinema (Altman, 2006). Since this time, sound has played a progressively more important role in today’s films. By listening to available sound, each generation has learned what makes up high-quality sound. In the introduction of the movie Crash, voice-over narration is used adequately giving necessary background and placing the action in a chronological perspective.
As actor Don Cheadle begins the narration of the movie, the music and sound is in great unison with the narration. Flashback is also used as a sound enhancement in the commencement of the movie, connecting the beginning of the movie to the end. In the course of the movie, the assorted sounds of the City of Los Angeles can be vividly heard allowing the audience to become involved and get lost in the storyline of the film. Musical Director, Mark Isham does an astounding job of finding the right variety of music for such a compelling movie. Isham, son of musical parents, is one of the top Hollywood film composers of today, with a career spanning two decades and over 50 film and TV credits, (IMDB, 2006). Isham contributes superbly in the sound elements of this film. This is reflected generally in the musical score of the movie. Throughout the movie the music always correlates with the scenes and conversations taking place.
This musical score offers both a structural rhythm and stimulates emotional responses. Because Crash is a drama movie filled with numerous crime and action scenes, frequently silence is used as a powerful element of sound effect. The plot and issues of this film involves a diversified cast. The wide range of the music throughout the film properly represents the diversity of this cast. In the course of the movie, the audience will hear various musical melodies that include rap music, Latin music and music from the Middle East. This musical variation symbolizes the melting pot of today’s society as we collide and crash on a regular basis.
By using the various film making techniques such as plot, theatrical elements, cinematography, editing, and sound, the writer and producers of Crash were able to convey a dark-rooted fear of society to the viewer. Racism and discrimination are volatile subjects, not only in the United States, but around the world. Most people try to sidestep these topics; however, Paul Higgis gave the world an “in your face” look at society’s fears.
Even though Crash is a film about controversial subjects, it is obvious that society enjoyed this depiction of story-telling due to the fact that the movie picked up over 65 film awards and nominations in 2005. Academy Awards were won for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing. These awards rightfully belong to the film according to some of the most well know film critics. David Denby of New Yorker states that the film is “Breathtakingly intelligent and brazenly alive, with an extraordinary cast. Easily the strongest American film since ‘Mystic River’.” Ken Tucker of New York Magazine says that the film is “thrilling and provocative! A film you won’t stop thinking about after the lights come up.” Great films always leave the audience thinking once the story is over. Finally, Ebert and Roper give Crash “two thumbs way up.” Crash is truly a magnificent piece of artistry. (Lions Gate Entertainment, 2005).
Altman, R. (2006). The Sound of Sound – A Brief History of the Reproduction of Sound in Movie Theaters. Retrieved May 27, 2006 from http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Academy/4394/altman.html
Haggis, P. (Producer) & Haggis, P. (Director). (2005). Crash. USA: Lions Gate
IMDB. (2006). Biography for Mark Isham. Retrieved May 26, 2006 from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006142/bio
Lions Gate Entertainment. (2005). The official website crashfilm.com
MovieWeb, Inc. (2006). Crash. Retrieved May 28, 2006 from http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/41/2841/summary.php