City of God Analysis

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City of God is a depicts the reality of the narrator’s life growing up in the slums on the outskirts of Rio. What was meant to be a small film project became a success in many ways. Although it quickly became an international sensation winning numerous awards the filmmakers were also successful with their use of various components of cinematography. One critic said that “City of God is a wildly entertaining film. The sheer energy of the movie is never less than compelling. Meirelles pulls out every filmmaking trick in the book, utilizing freeze-frames, montage, flashback, quick-cutting, and even strobe lights” (Millikan 1). I will analyze various scenes from the film and explain how each successfully applied film techniques. “The techniques that I will elaborate on include lighting, shots and angles, editing and a few principles of film form. The cinematographer primarily used a realistic lighting design throughout the film. The outside scenes appeared to only use either the sun light or the moon light. The inside scenes appeared to utilize only the practical lighting sources which were visible either from the ceiling, lamp or windows. If there were any key lights used for exposure they went unnoticed because everything looked so realistic. The filmmakers took advantage of extreme low key lighting because they were so dark that it appeared that they were being filmed with a home video camera. A majority of the movie was very dark but lighting was used to distinguish time and the narrator’s perception of life during that period Lighting can be used to convey emotion and it was apparent that Rocket felt fondly of his early childhood. When he flashed back to life as a young boy the scenes were very colorful and hard, high contrast lighting was used. There was also much more laughter and humor during this period. As Rocket aged his life became difficult and gangs became more prevalent to him. He began to see what life was really like and knew that he’d be in for struggles ahead. Much different from his childhood scenes, colors were less saturated and low key, low contrast lighting was used during this period. Even when Rocket tells the story of Blacky’s apartment there is a noticeable difference in the set’s lighting. As he begins with the story of Dona Zelia, the apartment was well lit with lamps and lights. Although she lived in the slums, the apartment was neat for her standards. As years went by and the apartment changed hands it had seen many shady characters and the lighting became dimmer as the apartment became uninhabitable. One interesting scene which shows great use of available lighting to accentuate emotion occurs right before Rocket is asked to capture the chicken. As Lil Ze and his gang turn the corner to enter the street where Rocket and his friend are walking Rocket spots him and becomes petrified with fear. Just as Lil Ze turned the corner a medium close up shot captured his image. A ray of sun light glared on Lil Ze’s face making it more prevalent also, the sun’s ray glistened on his gun making if a focal point against the street’s low key lighting. That is also an example of using high contrast to heighten drama. I’m not sure how many takes were required to create this effect but it definitely added in adding to the Rocket’s emotion of fear. Another interesting lighting aspect of this movie was when everyone was at the club celebrating Benny’s going away party. Strobe lights were the filmmaker’s visible effect lighting choice. The lights flashed wildly as the scene opened to show the crowd’s emotion. Everyone celebrated and danced about as they enjoyed themselves. The lights then slowed down a bit and the so did the music. It was at that point that Lil Ze was turned down by a girl when he asked her to dance. This helped humanize him because throughout a majority of the film he appeared to be not of this earth and demonic. The strobe lights were definitely multifunctional in...
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