Formalistic Elements in Goodfellas

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Formalistic filmmaking involves the director's unique aesthetic view of how the film should be presented to the audience. While realistic films are presented with a style of "how it appears onscreen is how it would be seen if present during the events of the film", formalistic expression allows the style of the director to shine through and impress upon the audience somewhat of a "distorted" reality. The various techniques of filmmaking are used to present a stylization of reality by manipulating certain aspects, such as camera angles and movements or the use of editing to warp time and space. These manipulations are often made to be obvious choices by the director in order to call attention to his own style.

Director Martin Scorsese's film Goodfellas, released in 1990, implemented several techniques of the formalist style. Many are used to impress upon the audience the gravity of the brutal and anxious events of this true story depicted on film. First and foremost, the opening scene, that when more of the film is viewed seems to be out of position, places the characters, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), in the woods standing behind a car in a long shot. The camera switches to zooming in on the trunk of the car for a close-up while loud noises seem to come from inside it. It then switches to zooming in for a medium shot of De Niro and Pesci as they prepare to take some sort of action against the thumping resonating from their trunk as the shot pans over to Liotta's character opening the trunk with his keys. When the trunk is open it is revealed that a man is occupying it and Tommy DeVito lunges at him with a huge kitchen knife with the violence being shown in medium shots as well as the shooting of the body by Conway with the blood splattering on the camera, a deliberate choice of Scorsese. Henry Hill then enters into view again as narration begins while he slams the trunk shut and the camera tilts up and...
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