How Are Audiences Positioned in Submarine and Let the Right One in?
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As one of the most popular art forms in the world today, films are a medium that draw in audiences of millions around the globe, year in, year out. From big name blockbusters from Warner Brothers and Paramount to low key cult phenomenons, films have always found their audiences whatever the fashion, and producers are well aware of the potential viewers for their films – generally keeping their intended audience in mind while creating their works, as with any creative outlet. As filmmakers, producers want to see their creations reach as much of an audience as possible however and rarely limit their work to a few select groups, barring specific films such as documentaries and art-house cinema. Because of this films often represent a large amount of relatable scenarios for the audience to decode into their own ideologies, such as the almost inescapable inclusion of a romantic sub-plot, “everyman” characters (popular in romantic comedies) and familiar settings such as high school.
The uses and gratifications theory is a model that can be applied to many of these modern “universal” films, encoding a large palette of representations that the audience can pick and choose from in relevance to them, found in all films by popular companies such as Disney or Dreamworks. More specific films target a narrower range of people but still contain many ideologies and images that will appeal to their intended audience, something that rings strongly true in the cases of my two texts Submarine and Let the Right One In.
Submarine is first and foremost, a hybrid genre film. The movie intertwines many elements from the comedy genre, romance, youth culture and British heritage to form an eclectic range of representations and ideologies, granting it a very large potential audience. The film was marketed at the basics as a traditional teenage romantic comedy, with a love plot, conflict and difficult situations in the additional subplot of Oliver’s parents. But among the romanticism of Submarine, the marketing also highlighted the film’s British heritage in rising writer Richard Ayoade, its themes of adolescence and coming of age and its artistic merits in the Alex Turner soundtrack, alternative retro design and prestigious Festival awards.
Such a diverse range of elements in the marketing campaign alone is a strong indicator towards the variety of people that will be interested in seeing the film, throwing out a wide net of interest to many demo and psychographic groups. Most prominent of these is teenagers, viewers around the ages of 13-21 growing up in Britain and experiencing the very themes that Submarine represents. Youth films have been a huge force in cinema over the last 60 years and Submarine implements many of the traditional ideologies of the genre, such as the journey into adulthood and the experiences of learning relationships and self independence. The original book by Joe Dunthorne falls into much the same category as novels by popular young adult authors John Green and Stephen Chbosky, aiming to connect with the emotions and ideas of growing into an adult and encountering sex, family issues and mental exploration, themes which carry over to the film adaptation of Submarine and strengthen the appeal for a young audience.
The setting of the film – a British middle class town and school – supports the world being represented by the story, connecting a teenage viewer to Oliver’s life via familiar elements, the same being with his experience of a first relationship. While the main demographic of this age group are true however, the finer details of the representations narrow the field in terms of audience psychographics and it would be fair to say that Submarine isn’t intended to connect with all teenage viewers. Oliver’s personality for example, is represented as awkward and cynical, but highly intellectual in relation to his peers, a character representation akin to the protagonist of Catcher in the Rye.
The marketing campaign denotes Oliver as the centre protagonist and narrator for the film, indicating him as a character for an audience to sympathise with and the connotations of a realistic relatable character are extended on such places as the Film4 website itself, where a humorous fictional letter ‘from’ Oliver is the first thing on the page. With this in mind, Submarine can be suggested as better suited to targeting teenagers more like Oliver himself: nervous and socially distant, but certainly sharp-thinking. The conflicts Oliver goes through in the film, such as the trouble between his parents and his father’s depression, are also common problems for adolescents in the modern world and so add more relatable themes to the collage for young audiences to connect with.
Moving on from the main audience group, Submarine has strong elements for other audiences too – a key one being fans of film as an artistic medium, specifically the visual design of Submarine and Ayoade’s filmmaking merit. The campaign for the film’s promotion centred heavily on Richard Ayoade as the main creator and idealist for the film, highlighting his name on the posters and trailers and placing him in interviews rather than the cast. His background in TV comedy and film knowledge are big features of Submarine to appeal to critical cinema goers, the references to classic youth characters such as in films like The Graduate and Wes Anderson’s filmography for example, being a large one and this connotes the film as a movie made by film buffs, for film buffs.
The careful visual design of Submarine is extended to everything included in the film’s world, from the colour coded titles and text placed over the cinematography to the period 80’s mise-en-scene of the setting, and this all adds to a very artistically-minded film almost experimental in nature, a major unique point for an independent release. Classic film references are included in this design – Oliver’s mind plays out like an old cinema, with worn-out Super 8 footage of him and Jordana forming a big part of the narrative, accompanied by the Alex Turner penned soundtrack: which in itself adds a lot of independent credibility to Submarine, as well as throwing the net over another potential audience, fans of alternative culture and Arctic Monkeys. References All of these microfeatures combine to connote a film that cares about the visual concepts as well as the thematical, targeting fans of moviemaking and cinema heritage.
In spite of all these niche audience groups however, Submarine has many overlying features that grant appeal to a general audience too. Comedy has a universal appeal for cinema goers, and what with Submarine heavily focusing on this aspect, the film targets viewers who may not connect with the more specific aspects discussed prior. Various memorable one liners scatter the film (“Maybe my eyes don’t go red when i cry then.”, ‘”This is a big love letter?” “I’ve got a big heart.”‘) and lighten the tone after more serious subjects and visual gags are used in classic British style – a hard cut from Jordana coming back into the house to Oliver grinning in bed, for example. As well as the universal jokes, Submarine also features darker humour to appeal to a grittier audience used to the more sadistic humour in British comedy, such as Oliver planning to kill Jordana’s dog to ease her mind off her mother, then the dog being killed by a train anyway. Combining the broad language of comedy with classic movie themes in romance and a ‘happy’ ending, Submarine serves to appeal to the wide cinema public as well as the specific.
My second text, Let the Right One In also has a wide range of targeted audiences, despite it being very much a niche film. Being adapted from a Swedish horror bestseller by a Swedish director and possessing a style popular in its home country, the mass appeal towards the film worldwide is all the more incredible, being a hit for not only Swedish cinema but foreign language films as a whole. At its heart LTROI is a hybrid of two clear genres: horror and romance, the two inter-lapping over the course of the film to result in a significant blur as to what genre the film actually is. On paper, a Swedish language romantic horror featuring an ancient vampire eunuch in a child’s body falling in love with a young human boy poses difficulties in finding a worldwide mass audience, and so specific features of the film are highlighted to target various audiences, while toning down conflicting elements. Firstly, the horror side of the film is probably the clearest in terms of audience appeal, both film and marketing wise.
The film features many conventional horror elements and specifically elements of the vampire subgenre, from the references from vampire mythology to the classic narrative structure – introduction, victim clues, uncovering of the mystery and the eventual confrontation. The intertextuality of the vampire subplot winks at fans of the subgenre throughout the film and can be suggested at reassuring this audience that despite the love, this is still a vampire film. Scenes such as the killing of the walker in the woods and Eli’s bleeding give gruesome appeal to LTROI and therefore horror credibility to genre fans, also boosting the scare factor to contrast with the more emotional romantic half. In terms of microfeatures the mise-en-scene of LTROI is dark and unnerving, the main colours being supplied by the white snows of the ground vs the black night sky, which accentuates the blood of the killings, giving the horror more impact, and the film stock of the cinemetograph itself is desaturated to connote a serious tone, adding to the appeal for fans of dark horror films. The actors are made noticeably unflattering, Eli for example has a gritty appearance of little sleep and hygiene and Lacke features all the charm of a beggar, but this contributes to the ‘realism’ of the film’s world and serves as a strong contrast to the glossier horror films of Hollywood, a strong nod towards viewers of the genre who are critical of the supermodel approach to modern horror releases.
These elements counteract however, with the film’s marketing campaign, as conventional techniques of the genre were used in the US promotion to appeal to fans of Hollywood horror, despite the quite clear distinction in the film itself. The American campaign featured imagery that isn’t significantly present in LTROI itself, such as a distressed typeface logo with the ‘O’ of in acting as a door and Eli as a silhouetted shadow behind a window (a very common design for US horror posters), designs that connote LTROI as a conventional modern horror film, sharing elements with popular releases and so appealing to Western audiences familiar with the genre. The trailers also play on these elements too, the US trailer being cut to connote a fast past thrilling horror, with the action of the film being the biggest feature and the dialogue significantly cut down to mask the foreign-language nature, being something most US horror fans might not so much connect with.
A campaign such as this is quite clearly targeted at an audience who are fans of the Hollywood approach to horror, and while it can be said to be unfaithful to the real style of the film itself, the Americanisation of the US campaign is possibly one of the big factors in the film’s international success. In contrast, the Swedish and UK (print) campaigns target quite a different audience altogether, representing a much less horror-based film and instead focusing more on the character and narrative. The UK poster opts for the image of Eli bleeding after turning up at Oskar’s house, and the genre of the film is quite unclear. Taking this direction appeals to an audience who may not be usual fans of horror, which is strengthened by the inclusion of a festival award badge to target film-goers who enjoy more alternative cinema such as that shown at Cannes. The Swedish campaign takes a similar route, showing both Oskar and Eli in the same poster and connoting the film as much more of a drama, however a shot of the hanging walker is included to balance out the overall tone.
And it is the Swedish audience, and also international fans of foreign cinema, who are another main target group for Let the Right One In, not surprising considering the film’s background and nationality. Ignoring the obvious features, such as the Swedish dialogue itself, the film has elements to appeal to audiences familiar with the country’s film industry and can be said to possess much influence from the style of Swedish cinema. Films produced in Sweden, and indeed all of the five Nordic countries, have a strong focus on dark characteristics and are considered to be more tragic in comparison to films from the US, covering much heavier subjects in highly popular films – something prominent in Let the Right One In, such as the denotation of an apparent child brutally murdering both adults and schoolchildren.
The dark nature of LTROI is targeted towards the home audience via these characteristics and constructs a realistic representation of a Swedish suburb, albeit in the 80’s, via the naturalistic lighting and gritty mise-en-scene to enhance the realism of the themes themselves, as shown in Submarine too. The alternative style of Let the Right One In also makes it appealing to audiences who enjoy foreign cinema from outside the Nordic countries, aided by the action and imagery of the film kept understandable with minimal dialogue, a lot of the narrative can be decoded by non Swedish speakers based on previous knowledge of the genre for example.
In conclusion, both the films i have studied target a large range of different audiences and viewers based on creating a variety of representations and ideologies for many different people to relate to, targeting not just demographics but specific psyhographic groups too. By implementing a mixture of genre conventions to reel in fans of romance, comedy and horror and then supplying specific aspects in the themes of the films, both Submarine and Let the Right One In are made accessible and appealing to film audiences who not only are regular fans of the genre, but also others who while may not usually watch such a movie, connect with the film’s characteristics in their own way.