Science Fiction has been a successful genre since the late 19th century, when books by writers such as HG Wells began to deal explicitly with the impact of technology on our culture. Like Horror, it has continually evolved in both content and style, and also like horror, it provides a reflection of the anxieties of its era. Science Fiction, for all its dealing with the future, is a historiographical genre, it rewrites history, rather than making genuine predictions for the future. Science fiction is often known as the genre of ideas, and forms a discourse on many of the cultural, moral, religious and sociological predilections of the day, as well as the technological.
The Matrix is a science fiction film that astounds not only with action and special effects but also with interesting and complex ideas.
The Matrix starts off with a CGI (computer generated image) close up shot of number zero (0) followed by another extreme close up of the same object. Normally in a film the audience is introduced with an establishing shot, this is when an extreme long shot can be taken from as much as a quarter of a mile away, and is generally used as a scene setting or establishing shot. It normally shows an exterior, e.g. the outside of a building, or a landscape, and is often used to show scenes of thrilling action for instance in action films.
This scene cuts to a low angle view of the nighttime, in this shot we see a number of police officers surrounding a building. The use of a low angle shot at this moment makes the police officers seem grand and threatening and also it gives them power and authority. I think that low angle shots also give a sense of confusion to a viewer and in low angle shots the background will tend to be just sky or ceiling, the lack of detail about the setting will add to the disorientation of the viewer.
In contrast to this shot, the camera now closes in to a characters face that is wearing dark glasses and a black suit. At this point we are introduced to Agent Smith, the fact that he is wearing a normal suit gives verisimilitude to his character. This is then followed with a point of view shot of him looking around the building.
Inside the building we see another low angle shot of Trinity, I think the director deliberately has used a low angle shot at this moment to create confusion amongst the audience, consequently this will show that Agent Smith and Trinity are in a battle for power. And also the fact that they are both dressed in black causes confusion and therefore the viewer does not know who is the villain and who isn’t.
With a low angle shot in dark room we see police officers holding torches. By holding a torch they are accumulating something so therefore this makes them more powerful, this is followed with a reaction shot of Trinity. She is in the middle of the room facing the wall. There is only back lighting in this scene thus making Trinity look more ’rounded’.
In this scene we are introduced to the first use of ‘bullet time’, which revolutionised cinematography that set a precedent for all the action films that followed.
In another scene where Trinity is involved in a fight, the pace of editing is speeded up. I think that the speed of editing will help determine the mood of what is taking place on screen, so if the audience is to feel anxiety and suspense the editing will be quick.
During the action sequence the music is more ‘upbeat’ and the music stops as soon as the action stops.
The sound in The Matrix tends to continue from one scene to another thus creating a sound bridge. This helps to create a smooth transition from one scene to another as the film would seem very disjointed if the sound changed every time the scene changed. In this way the sound enhances the continuity of the film. There are also parallel and contrapuntal sounds.
In The Matrix mise en scene plays quite an important role seeing that everything wee see in a shot is not accidental but intentional. Although the average viewer is rarely conscious of it, mise-en-scene is both a powerful and important cinematic technique in film. Mise en scene allows the director to guide the viewer’s attention to what they should be looking at so that important details are not missed and trivial details are not.