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How Does the Director of Great Expectations Use Filmic Techniques to Create an Atmosphere of Tension in the Scene Where Pip's Benefactor Is Revealed?

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How does the director of Great Expectations use filmic techniques to create an atmosphere of tension in the scene where Pip’s benefactor is revealed?

This essay will be analysing the scene where Pip’s benefactor is revealed in David Lean's version of 'Great Expectations' focusing on how tension is brought to the screen. Great Expectations is a novel written by Charles Dickens in 1861 but set in 1812. The film version I will be analysing was produced in 1945.

Firstly an interesting aspect of this scene is that only diegetic music is used. I think the director chose to do this because not using any non diegetic music makes the scene seem a lot more realistic as the sound used are real such as the wind outside and the chiming clock. This makes the tension more genuine as there is no unrealistic mood music creating it. It strengthens identity with Pip as he can hear everything the audience can and also creates a contrast to other scenes. The wind throughout this scene almost serves as mood music as it gets louder and quieter to create tension, it is also used later on in the scene when Magwich lets his guard down and then an increase of the wind makes him tense once more. Only using diegetic music also draws attention to smaller sounds for example, when Pip drops the glass later on in the scene. The sharp sound is incredibly obvious compared to all other sounds used in the scene.

Secondly the technique of pathetic fallacy is employed through the use of the pouring rain and wind which creates the establishing shot for this scene. The dark, low key lighting and the night sky amplifies the feeling that something negative is going to happen. The diegetic sound of the wind and church bells reflects on the first time the convict was introduced. The parallel scene symbolises the convict’s presence as the church bells gives a link with the church in the opening scene. The camera pans across until it reaches the lit up window and gradually zooms in to focus on the homely view of a man sitting in his warm apartment, this gives the feeling of security and comfort; a contrast to what happens shortly afterwards. The angle of the camera is looking down through Pip’s window which suggests Pip’s innocence and vulnerability which may suggest that he is unknowing of the events to come. It also gives the effect of the outside looking in which makes it seem like the audience is spying on Pip’s life, and also helps them identify with him.

The camera then moves to inside Pip’s apartment which immediately feels comforting, safe and protected from the raging weather outside. Pip is settled in an armchair which seems to enclose him and protect as the diegetic sound of a chiming clock strikes midnight. Pip begins to stand up in order to go to bed when a sharp knock on the door immediately changes the atmosphere and creates tension. This is an example of how significant the diagetic sounds seem, and compared to the murmur of the wind the knock immediately makes the audience apprehensive. A medium shot to show the obvious tension in Pip’s body as he has clenched his hands and is in a ridged stance. Lean may have shown Pip in this way to confirm he wasn’t expecting anyone. Pip walks over to the door and cautiously opens it to a large figure, engulfed in black, standing in the shadows of the doorway. Pip opens the door quickly which could be to enhance to sudden appearance of the Convict. The convict’s entire appearance creates fear, he is wearing a tall hat and a coat which makes him look larger and more imposing and he is wearing completely black which makes him come across as sinister. The sudden appearance of this character creates immediate tension. Pip is in a defensive stance which makes him look venerable and fearful. Tension is also created by the shadows covering half of the convicts face; this also makes him seem untrustworthy. Another method Lean uses is the increase of diagetic music which creates tension as it is builds up to reveal who is behind the door. Magwich steps into the light which makes him appear slightly less foreboding, although he is wearing an eye patch which has connotations of pirates, this reflects Magwich’s imposing and slightly menacing personality.

As Magwich walks through the door the shadows of his hat almost appears to be placed on Pips head which could be interpreted at a clue the he has given Pip this elated social status. Magwich enters the apartment and Pip is shown still not to have any idea who the convict is and is portrayed looking bewildered and shocked. The camera subsequently goes in to a medium/long shot which emphasises the space between the two characters. Tension is created by the uncertainty of the convict as the audience still doesn’t know what his intentions towards Pip are. To further highlight Pip discomfort at the situation Lean uses a long shot which shows the posture of the two characters as Magwich reached out to embrace Pip. Pip immediately jumps back, surprised at the gesture. This shows Magwich’s openness and comfort with Pip juxtaposing with Pips wariness and discomfort in the situation. Magwich sits down and covers his face with his hand; the camera is looking down on Magwich which connotes Magwich’s weariness and slight vulnerability, this is a contrast to in former image and softens the audience’s impression of him. The volume of the diegetic wind increases which creates tensions as the howling wind seems sinister compared to Pip’s homely apartment. The amplified sound makes Magwich look up, he is startled at the sound and immediately inquires if there is anyone else in the room. He looks defensive and alert; contrasting to his vulnerability of earlier. This also shows how on edge his character is which reflects back to when he and pip met in the graveyard. Magwich is in focus which draws attention to him, his face is also in shadows which connotes to deviousness. Lean may continue to use the shadowing in this way in order to emphasize Pips lack of trust towards him. As Pip begins to comprehend who Magwich is the lighting illuminates Pips overwhelmed and puzzled expression. The camera is looking down on Magwich as he appears to want Pips approval. In the next shot pip is looking slight overwhelmed and puzzled. The high key lighting illuminates Pips face against the shadows. The medium shot shows his body posture, the camera shot is looking up at Pip as he begins to realise who the convict is and down on Magwich as he appears to want Pips approval. There is an over the shoulder shot at Magwich which makes the audience feel like they are peering in on the conversation. Magwich’s face has been spotlighted against the shadows to show his expression and his lower position suggests that he is in a lower class than Pip as he is not a gentleman even though he is well off. The camera zooms in to a close up of the convicts face as Pip further realises who Magwich is and it also suggests that Magwich is about to divulge his identity. He has stood up which again suggests that he is about to say something important. The camera continues to zoom in and the convict is still shrouded in a shadow which suggests that he is still concealing something and has secrets. The camera turns to show Pip face in the light which connotes honesty and innocence.

The background of this shot is completely out of focus which makes you concentrate on the character and the close-up also highlights Pips surprised facial expression. The camera moves out to a medium shot which shows the character interaction of Magwich showing his gratitude to Pip by bowing down almost how he would bow down to royalty. This gesture is very significant because he is demonstrating his respect. Pip offers to go and get drinks but his nervousness and insecurity is obviously shown by his shaking hands and the piecing diagetic sound of Pip dropping the decanter. The shadow of Pips profile shows his discomfort and also suggests that he is still very wary of the convict. Pip’s expression is hidden leaving the audience to interpret his reaction to the staggering realisation; this allows the audience to further identify with Pip as they can think how they would feel after this news. . The medium shot shows Pip struggling to process what he just happened. As Pip walks over to Magwich the whole shot is in focus and the large distance between the two characters again shows that they aren’t very comfortable with one another. Pip is slightly bent over in a tense stance and his voice is hurried. The convicts posture also seems to be tense as he is perched upright on the armchair facing Pip. Pip’s anxiety shows that he almost seems to be trying to keep the convict amiable because he is not sure of his intensions. The camera then shows a medium shot of Pip sitting down and Pip looks nervous as Magwich stands up. There is spotlighting on his face and the camera is looking down on Pip as if he is unknowing of Magwich’s secrets.

The camera turns and shows a medium/long shot of Magwich casually leaning against the mantelpiece which makes him look intimidating and in control. The camera is looking up at Magwich which makes the audience identify with Pip who is also looking up at him. The camera zooms in to a medium shot which shows Magwich in an obscuring position. Pip is slightly blurred which signifies his confusion. The next shot shows a picture of a boy fighting which has a link to Pip’s past and he and Herbert has a boxing match when they first met. There is a lot in this scene about Pip’s childhood which strengthens the link between Pip now and Pip as a boy. Magwich is beginning to divulge his identity and the medium shots again shows how opposing Magwich seems to Pip as this point. Pip looks scared and confused and the camera angle makes Pip look vulnerable by looking down on him. Pip is silent and there is another piecing noise of Pip dropping the glass he was previously holding in astonishment. The noise could represent Pips full realisation that Magwich is his benefactor. Pip stumbles away in shock and Magwich sits him down and holds his hands which is quite subservient and pleading, an tells Pip in a proud voice that he is a benefactor and has paid to turn Pip in to a gentleman. When Magwich calls Pip his son Pip removes his hands showing that he was uncomfortable with the gesture and his furrowed brow suggests he is deep in thought. This shot is reminiscent of the time in the graveyard and reinforces the origins of their relationship and shows how far both characters and their relationship have developed.

In the next part of the scene soft key lighting is used which gives it an almost romantic feel and the atmosphere seems quite dream like which suggests that Pip is having an out of body experience. Pip asks the convict if there was anyone else as he still hasn’t adjusted to the idea that Miss Haversham wasn’t is benefactor. The camera is focusing on Magwich’s expression and he is looking quite old and run down with his grey hair and eye patch, all emphasized by the high key lighting. The moment is interrupted by a knock on the door and the atmosphere is immediately tense and the high key lighting returns. Herbert comes bounding in to the room although he is surrounded with shadows which suggests at the tense atmosphere he is entering. The medium shot shows Herbert looking cheerful and exuberant, obviously unaware of the convict’s presence. The full faced lighting on Herbert as he enters shows his innocence and honesty. Once he sees Magwich there is an immediate change in his mood and the close up emphasises his shock and surprise. His turned up collar suggest tension and defensiveness. The full faced lighting gives the impression of a deer in headlights as he has wide eyes and his face is full of shock. The camera zooms out as Herbert walks forward and is presented with a bible by Magwich. The light is shining in everyone’s facing which shows the audience their reactions. Pip and the convict are standing closer to one another than they have previously which shows they are more familiarised with one another. The face on shot and the mid key lighting makes everyone seem equal.

In conclusion the director, David Lean creates tension by using a variety of filmic techniques including the diegetic raging weather and the sharp sounds which effectively builds up tension and the portrayal of Magwich, as the uncertainty of his character also creates tension.…...

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