The Usual Suspects

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  • Topic: The Usual Suspects, Low-key lighting, Film noir
  • Pages : 5 (810 words )
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  • Published : December 6, 2006
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How does the director create a sense of drama and tension in the first five minutes

of the Usual Suspects?

The Usual Suspects is a gangster film made in 1996, directed by Bryan Singer.

The film is influenced by Film Noir. Film Noir was a style of film making which

originated in the 1940's. It was a very dark and tense style, using drastic lighting and

camera angles to enhance the drama and tension of the film.

The trade mark of the film company is Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). MGM is a

well known and established name which was founded in 1924. It promotes good quality

filming. When you hear the roaring of the lion, it gives you the sense of security that the

film will be ok.

To create a sense of tension and drama, the director uses various tools. These

tools consist of camera angles, lighting and music etc. He sets the mood for the film in

the first two minutes during the title sequence. He uses background music which is

Orchestral. The main instruments you can hear are the piano and violins. The tone of

the music creates an atmosphere of mystery.

The camera is used to set the location for the film as the titles are being shown.

It is slowly panning across shimmers of light over dark rippling water. This image leads

you into the opening scene of the film. The wait and suspense of the two minutes sequence

adds to the curiosity and tension of the viewer.

The directors uses different camera angles and shots for his method of filming

to create more or less drama and tension for each scene that is shot. He also uses dark and

bright lighting . He chosen shaded images a lot throughout the first 5 minutes to enhance

the mystery and drama of the film . Most of the five minutes is very low key , it gives it a

very miserable and dreary effect .

To create tension he uses extreme close ups. The first shot in the film is an

extreme close up of a packet of matches burning after they have just been lit. This image is

a very high key image. The way in which the camera is shot shows the significance of the

scene but to keep you focused on this scene there is no background music just the

synchronous sound of the match been struck off the box.

Medium shots are used to allow you to see the main action in scenes but nothing

much more around it. An Example of this is when Dean Keaton, one of the main

characters, is casually dropping his cigarette on to a trail of gasoline . This scene gives you

the sense of suspense and tension as you wait for an explosion .

Through out the scene there are only minimal amounts of dialogue which

happens when Keaton is sat on the floor and the mystery man is stood in front of him.

" How you doing kid?" the mystery man asks Keaton. " I can't feel my legs.. Keyser!"

Keaton replies.. You think they are friends but the background music doesn't portray this.

You sense from the music that this is tense moment between them .

The director has increased the music to some scenes to enhance the drama of

the film. He has also used camera shots by cutting to different locations rapidly. This

happens in the film when Keyser is talking to Keaton. You see him lift up his gun and

point it towards Keaton. The camera cuts to the part of the ship and you hear one shot from

a gun. The camera then cuts to another location as you hear a second shot. These shots

create drama and tension , the feeling of the unknown.

By using these methods you don't know whether Keaton has been shot. It creates

mystery during the film to keep you compelled to carry on viewing .Throughout these rapid

shots there is a mixture of dark ,light and shaded image. All of them are quite low key until keyser drops his cigarette and causes the big explosion. It switches to an extremely high

key shot. At that point the music fades down so you can hear...
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