How Do Narrative and Genre Features Create Meaning and Generate Response in a Film Clip from ‘Saw'?

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AS Film Studies

How do narrative and genre features create meaning and generate response in a film clip from ‘Saw'?

As film audiences we have an expectation of particular conventions, which certain film genres work with and if these expectations are met, then viewing pleasure is certified. This is a result of our understanding of generic conventions, which derives from past experiences with films we have seen. The film industry understands this, but is however, constantly attempting to ‘extend' these genres sometimes for artistic reasons and sometimes to secure financial revenue. The narrative of a film is the sequence of events which are organised in a structure to tell and develop a plot. It is just as important in function as the genre is, with regard to securing audiences and satisfying their expectations and audiences will have particular anticipations for a narrative's different segments. By this we can observe that a film producer is dependent at least partly on the satisfaction of the film's target audience for the proceeds at the box office. This essay will discuss how a 10-minute sequence from James Wan's ‘Saw' (2004), uses many conventions from a few different genres and it considers how the narrative ties in with this. The film in itself illustrates so many of the conventional rules attached to a thriller, that we have learnt to accept as ‘normal'. I would describe this sequence as a pastiche as it is not only thrillerish but there are also elements of detective genre. These are all traits within a horror movie. The clip begins with what we believe is detective Tapp carrying out surveillance on Dr. Gordon's house. He is filming their bedroom window and talking, but to whom we have no knowledge. As the camera moves from the television screen to a side wall, the frame reveals a compilation of images, of who we assume to be Dr. Gordon. It also shows that he has perhaps been recording phone calls from within Dr. Gordon's household. The mise-en-scene (stacks of empty coffee cups and take away trays) illustrates that detective Tapp has been there for quite some time, and it is now evident that he is in fact alone. Suddenly, we are confronted with a wall plastered in a mass of newspaper clippings. We realise that this is not official police work, it could be stalking. This convention of the obsessed detective is a usual element of thriller films as well as in crime films. A cross fade is the utilised for the introduction of the next frame. Fades are usually employed to suggest a flashback or for the use of moving forward in time, but in this case we consider that it is a flashback, though we are still uncertain. This car scene involves Dr. Gordon being taken home by detective Tapp. Unlike others, this film concentrates solely on the plot and the characters and the director ensures this through the way there is never or rarely any background situations which might distract the audience. Everything excluding the characters is darkened out, leaving the audience nothing to observe but them and their conversation. The next scene reveals Tapp at his desk, watching evidence from the ‘jigsaw case', we can see that his desk lamp is focused on a mound of file work which may be more significant than the ‘jigsaw case', - work which he evidently does not see as priority. Detective Tapp's back is turned to this mound of work and he is focused on the television screen, scrutinizing the video tape. Also, the mise-en-scene shows only a few newspaper clippings on the side of his work space in this scene, which might be suggesting this is the beginning of his ‘stalking' behaviour. With one desk lamp on in the entire room it is evident that all of his other colleagues are going or have already gone home. This type of behaviour (working over hours when everyone else has left) is suggestive of reclusive characters with little or no social or family life, having nothing but work to look forward to and these characters...
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