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An analysis of the opening sequence of the film ‘East is East’ directed by Damien O’Donnell

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The film ‘East is east’ is based on an autobiographical screen play by Ayub Khan Din. It tells the story of a mixed race Asian family who live in a north of England town. The father, Mr. Khan, is intent on keeping the traditions of Pakistan, while his children oppose to following traditions such as arranged marriages to other Pakistani families. It shows the family’s struggle to live ordinary British lives while the father pushes to bring Pakistani culture to his children.

The principal themes running though out the story are racial intolerance, adolescents and their need for independence, and the problems of being caught between two different cultures. Though out this analysis I will focus on the key film language features of lighting, sound, camera and mise en scene. A successful opening to a film should introduce the area the film is to be set in, the main characters and something about them, and start building the atmosphere and mood of the film. It should do this by using the first camera shots to show the scene. Sound can be a very useful tool in creating atmosphere as is lighting.

Showing close-ups of the main characters faces will introduce them to the audience and give them some information on the character’s backgrounds and give first impressions of the film’s themes. Sometimes a director may wish to use the opening sequence to create the illusion of the film having one particular theme or genre but will later on contradict those first thoughts. The opening sequence of ‘East is East’ starts by showing the audience the area the film is to be set in. It then moves on to show a Christian Easter parade with the mixed race children participating. It then shows close ups of the children’s faces consecutively.

By doing this it shows that they have some relationship. We later find out that they are siblings. The comic actions of this group tell the audience that this film will have an element of comedy, but the issue with sneaking down the back alleys to avoid contact with their father indicates the culture clash that lasts through out the film. Lighting is one very effective way of creating atmosphere. There are many different lighting techniques that can be used to set the mood. By using key lights (KL) and back lights (BL) only, a sharp contrast of dark and light areas on the screen is created.

This forms unnaturally lit locations and characters. This unnatural lighting is called low key (LK) lighting. However, by adding filler lights (FL) natural looking environments and characters can be created. This is called high key (HK) lighting. Also the lights can be directed to different places in the scene, and the positions of these lights have different effects. Underlighting is when the main source of light comes from underneath the subject and can distort the subject. This technique is often used in horror films. Toplighting is the opposite of underlighting.

With toplighting the main source of light is coming from above the subject. This highlights the features which can create a glamorous look. Finally there is backlighting. With backlighting the source of light comes from behind the subject. If there are no other light sources the subject will be seen only as a silhouette. The opening sequence of ‘East is East’ was filmed on location so would have natural light to start with. However, the lighting needed to be enhanced. Therefore key lights, back lights and Filler lights would have all been used. The lighting, being natural, is high key.

Being outside the light would come from all around the characters. The effect of these lighting techniques is that the audience can see clearly that the parade is taking place out side, and because the scene still has a dull lighting effect the audience can interpret that it is in a town in Northern England around the Easter season. The directors choice in lighting techniques helps determine the audience’s feelings toward the film. If the wrong technique is used the needed suspense or desired effects can be lost and the film may not be as successful as desired. Sound is another crucial area of film.

It has enormous influence on the audience. Music can build tension and suspense that prepares the viewer for something to happen or mislead them to think that something will happen when it is really only a red herring. Sounds that actually come from the film world that the audience sees create believable environments and events. There are two main categories of sound used in films. These are diegetic and non-diegetic. They are both vital components that build up an effective film. Diegetic sounds are the ones that the audience will know come from the world they are watching.

For example, a scene of children playing in a park might have other people talking, dogs barking and toys being played with. Whereas non-diegetic sounds are of the film world the audience is watching. These are things like sound tracks that have been place with the diegetic sounds to enhance the effect on and emotions of the viewer. A director has a choice of different types of sound track to use. One would be contrapuntal and the other parallel. They both have different effects. Contrapuntal music is when the music does not match what can be seen.

For example, a major battle scene may have very calm music. This can create a mixture of emotions. Parallel music is when the music does match what the audience can see. An example of this would be of a love seen with passionate music to emphasize the feelings the characters have for one another. Continuity in film is vital. If the scenes do not piece together then the film cannot be effective. To help the scene connect, sound bridges are used. When you leave a street and enter a building the sounds of outside lingers, until you either close the door or move away.

In film the sound that stays is a sound bridge. Music can also be a sound bridge, continuing or fading as the scenes change. A variety of these techniques are used in the opening sequence of ‘East is East’. Firstly there is non-diegetic sound which is the parallel music. It is parallel because the vocalist is singing about a marching band while the audience is viewing a parade marching with a band. This helps show that this is a celebratory parade. Secondly there are several different diegetic sounds, varying from clapping and people marching or walking to whistling and dialogue.

This makes a more believable world which brings the viewer into the environment so they feel like part of the action. The only sound bridge is the non-diegetic music which fades from the end of the parade scene to one of the boys in the house after. This blends the two scenes together so the audience can tell that this boy was one of those in the parade. Sound can build tension and have other effects on the film that could not otherwise be obtained. Sound bridges bring the film together and make it complete. All types of sound create a world which the viewers can believe and feel apart of.

Overall sound is crucial to the final feel of the film. Use of camera is key in manipulating a desired response, to the film action, from the audience. It can make the viewer focus on specific areas and the angle can suggest certain emotions. For example, if the camera is looking through the eyes of a character and the camera is doing a rolling shot from a high distance, then this suggests that the character is experiencing dizziness because they are afraid of heights. In early films, the camera did not have the ability to move or change its focus.

Now there are a range of camera movements that can ensure the viewer’s attention is directed to the focus of the film. There are two main groups of camera shot. These are close-ups, medium and long shots. There are four different types of close ups. These are extreme close-up, big close-up, close-up, and medium close up. They all have different effects. Extreme close ups show only the face of the person. Big close ups show a little more of the person’s head. Close ups show the entire face and head as well as starting to show some of the background.

Finally a medium close up displays to the audience from the head down to just below the shoulders. One thing the first three all have in common, which the medium close up do not show, is a minor amount of intimacy with the character. However, they all display the expression on the face of the subject. There is an expression that says ‘the eyes are the window into the soul’. By showing the eyes so close the audience can see the emotion in their eyes. In addition to the camera zoom shots there are seven special types of shots. The first four are about the contents of the frame, whereas the second group of three looks at the angle of the camera.

Firstly, there is a two shot. The two shots show two people and can be either a close up, medium close up or a medium shot. Over the shoulder shots is when the camera is looking at the subject from over the shoulder of another. Next there is the interviewee shot this shows a person looking and talking into a space within the frame, which is in the direction of the interviewer. And finally the moving subject shot. This shows the subject walking into a space. The angle of the camera can suggest certain emotions and feelings. The first camera angle is tilted frame.

This is simply the camera being twisted at an angle. Low angle shots are the camera being lower down looking up at the subject. It suggests power and authority. Then finally there is the high angle shot. This looks down on the subject, and can often be hung from a crane, which implies frailty and weakness. The movement of the camera can ensure that our attention, as an audience, remains on the appropriate image. There are six various camera movements which can be used to do this. They also have different effects. A panning shot is the camera moving in side-to-side movements from a fixed axis.

A tilting shot is very similar to a panning shot, but in stead of moving side ways, the camera tilts up and down from its fixed axis. When a camera is mounted on a crane we call this a crane shot. A tracking shot is when the camera follows the action while moving along tracks that have been laid down for that purpose. A rolling shot is where the camera moves diagonally making the image askew of lopsided. It is used often to suggest that the character is ill or drugged. Finally there is a hand-held shot. As its name suggests, the camera effect is that of being held by hand making it wobbly and not fixed on a stand.

The opening camera shot in ‘East is East’ is a very long, high angled crane shot of long lines of terrace houses placed close together with very little space. This sets the scene and introduces the area. It also displays to the audience that the community is very close, but gives the impression that they can some times get in each other’s way. It then cuts to a long shot of the parade, at eye level, and the camera stays stationary. This shot introduces the audience to the celebration. The camera then cuts again to show the Christian religious icon of Jesus on the cross. The camera, now tilting down, reveals the mixed race Asian girl.

The camera then moves on to show the virgin mother Mary cradling the baby Jesus. Tilting down again the camera shows another mixed race family member. Following this there are several more cuts to show close-ups of the other children’s faces. They all look happy to be participating in the parade, but you would expect these children to enjoy such a parade. The next shot is a long shot of the mother anxiously searching for something. After she finds the children the camera cuts to show the father isolated. This gives the impression that he is different and separated for the rest of the community.

There is also in the opening sequence a long shot of the children running sown a back alley in order to avoid being seen by their father. This suggests that there is a difficult relationship between the father and his children. Also having these characters running in the way they do carrying the religious icons suggests an element of comedy. The audience then sees the children speeding down the back alley parallel to the marching slowly and respectfully down the main street. The camera is mounted on a crane and the shot is therefore a high angel shot.

This creates a contrast between the marching and the running as well as suggesting a comic theme. A two shot of the mother and the father of the family are shown and it portrays to the audience the relationship between them. The final shot is a medium shot of the youngest son in their house. It shows him looking at the family photographs on the wall. This shot allows us to make the connection between the other people we saw in the parade. The use of camera is vital in manipulating desired responses from an audience. It is key in introducing us to settings, themes and characters.

Mise en scene is a French term that means what is in the scene. In film it refers to props, actors, costume and scenery. This to is important in manipulation of the viewer’s responses. In the opening sequence of ‘East is East’ we are shown the terrace houses. These are most commonly found and associated with northern towns like Salford. From this the audience can decipher where the film is set. The props chosen for this scene are statues of religious icons and other parade regalia. These help the viewer understand what is happening in the scene. The actors chosen by the director are real mixed race Asian children.

This brings a sense of reality to the audience and again creates a more detailed film world. The costumes worn by these actors gives the audience an idea of what period ‘East is East’ is set in. The audience can tell from their attire that the film is set in the 1970s. Over all what is in the scene creates a believable and more enjoyable film. The audience can feel that they know about the characters life style from just looking at what they wear and where they live. It helps the audience make decisions about what they should feel about a character. The colour and style of the characters clothing emphasize those feelings.

Altogether mise en scene really makes the film more real. Overall the impact that the opening scene has on the audience is important and the opening to ‘East is East’ fulfills all the criteria of a film introduction. It set the scene, it introduced us to the main characters and showed as a little about them. The camera shots, lighting, sound and mise en scene all work together to make this a successful opening. In my opinion no element of film is solely responsible for making the opening sequence of this film successful. They all must work in concert to make the film successful.

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