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Of Mice and Men – Opening Sequence Essay

The background music is played by an orchestra, and gives the initial clue as to the genre of the film. The slow and somber mood of the music at the start contrasts with the music towards the end of the sequence, when the tempo is much faster and a lot more instruments are added. A piano is played above the background music and (along with the tempo) speeds up with the events on-screen.

Instruments in the orchestra include a Cello, Obo and Guitar, played together they are very low sounding instruments which I think are meant to represent sadness, loneliness and fear, again this gives the audience a clue to the genre of the film but also a prediction of the ending, this makes the audience aware that it may not be very pleasant. The Credits in the opening sequence are white text on a black background this is very effective for two reasons;

The first is to do with the films links to the book it is ‘based’ on, We commonly see black text on a white background, whereas here you see the opposite White text on a black background. The second is because the audience can associate the black with initial themes form the film like loneliness and fear. This makes the opening sequence even more effective because the darkness closes in everything around the character on-screen giving the audience the chance to see the out-line of his face, the thought, frustration and emotion in his face, concealed around a dark exterior.

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During the title graphics we hear a train in motion, the reason the audience knows this is because they use a technique called non-diogetic sound, where we hear but we don’t see. The credits/text appear in pairs and follow a glimmer of white shining light. These scenes are in Black which makes the light stand out, this has been used intentionally to both; Make the names stand out when they are formed and to make the screen look as desolate as possible when the text fades away.

The train moves along with the speed of the music, slowing when the music slows down and speeding when the music speeds up. The final credit is the one that gives the name of the film, ‘Of Mice and Men’ the font is classical and looks like a western script, the ‘O’ in the ‘Of’ is curly and stands out, the font is in title case and reminds the audience finally of its link to the book. The first images we see on screen is of the profile of a man sat in the carriage of the train, the volume of the background music has decreased and a tune is played from a piano over the top of it.

The man is still and quiet he is sat on the floor of the carriage and it is empty, the screen is black and the shot closes in on the man making the audience question what is actually wrong with him. The use of light and dark from the beginning of the opening titles to this part of the opening sequence entices the audience because the sequence has been in dark so far and the only way that the audience get to see anything is when the light uncovers something on screen, making the audience want to see more.

The screen cuts to a woman running, the colours are rich and vibrant, the costume the woman is wearing is a rich red, looking at her hair style and surroundings the film looks like it is a western type of movie. The dress is red and red is associated with danger. The camera focuses on a tear in the womans dress, bearing in mind that she is running, the audience may link that together. This would mean that she had been attacked. The camera cuts again to two men running, a large man and a small man.

They are running away from the camera, the director is emphasizing that they are running in opposite directions, to make the audience aware that the characters are running away from each other. The pace quickens as the volume of the music raises, this connotates a chase and gives the audience a sense of inevitability, showing that they will be caught. Then on screen we see men on horseback, and they join the chase.

The shots become more frequent beauty and flash between the two men running away and the men on horse back chasing after them, the sequence is more intense and entices the audience because one of the two characters running speaks he says Slow down” But it isn’t the small man that is complaining it’s the large man – this is ironic because you would expect a bigger man to be able to run faster – the director is showing that the bigger character is more venerable, this maybe a clue to him later on in the film. As the music reaches a climax the men hide in a swamp, they are still being chased, a camera shot pans the view of both men hiding in rushes and we hear heavy breathing (non-diogetic sound). They wait silently, we see two violent dogs on-screen but they do not spot the men, the music cuts and the men retreat.

The pursuit is over, and the relief is shown in the men’s faces. Then the shot goes finally to the train. The film does not follow the same sequence as the book; this entices an audience who perhaps has read the book before because of reader expectations, because they will be expecting the film to start at the point where the book does. The audience is given the ending before it happens because we see the man on his own in the carriage, this would have been after he had shot Lennie (in the book). Then we see a flash back to the events surrounding the ending through a flash back, through the eyes of George.

References:

  • SparkNotes: Of Mice and Men
  • SparkNotes: Of Mice and Men: Character List
  • Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men – Alan Reinstein
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