Friday, May 16, 2014

Leticia Infante Blog Entry#4: Scene Analysis from City of God

          The film City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, captures the inescapable corruption and savagery that lingers throughout one of the most violent slums, Cidade de Deus (City of God), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although the film is replete with disquieting circumstances, one scene, in particular, creates an extremely unsettling atmosphere for the viewer, which unfolds after a group of young, aspiring hoodlums called “The Runts” rob a merchant. In order to reinforce the “rules of the ghetto” and test Steak n’ Fries’ worthiness, Lil Z obliges Steak n’ Fries to kill one of the two children who failed to flee from Lil Z and his gang.

        The camera work and editing executed in City of God, help enhance viewer’s experience and add meaning to the action that is unfolding. The editing in this scene includes an abundance of short shots from the beginning and longer shots as the scene unravels. This creates a rhythmic style and embodies the improvised lives of many hoodlums. The editing expresses the way hoodlums approach situations. They only react, they do not rationalize. Additionally, the unsteadiness of the camera shows the disorganization of their actions. In the beginning of the scene, Lil Z, his gang, and Steak n’ Fries are seen walking through the ally way, as the camera focuses on Steak n’ Fries; after, it cuts to The Runts, who are shown playfully conversing at several eye-level shots; the use of eye-level shots proves that The Runts share a mutual status. As they continue their conversation, the unsteady camera pans quickly to catch the reaction of a character. The shots are short and the pans and tilts are quick, in order to embody the pace of their conversation. The sudden cuts and parallel editing are used to allow the audience to be ahead of The Runts and instill anticipation.
             Finally, Lil Z appears behind one of The Runts and after he slaps his head, the camera is immediately tilted to reveal Lil Z from a low-angle shot. Because of this, the status is now adjusted. As the children try to run away, they are shown from a high angle shot, which displays their fear and weakness. When two children fail to escape, they are shown, trapped, as they are surrounded by guns. There is a close-up of Lil Z’s profile when he asks the children where they wanted to be shot (hand or foot); the shot continues as the camera pans, following Steak n’ Fries, as he turns around and slowly walks away. A match-on-action edit reveals him from the front, walking away and out of the frame, showing the viewer his facial expression of disapproval. This action illustrates Steak n’ Fries’ morals, for he is walking away from what contradicts his ethics. The children are shot from a high angle, as they are terrified, helpless, and are forced to decide which body part they want shot. The camera tilts from the younger boy’s face to his hand, then pans to the older boy’s hands, and finally tilts to his face. This is done various times throughout this scene, as it is capturing a character’s action, reaction, decisions, and emotions. When Lil Z shoots the older boy’s foot, instead of his hands, the scene cuts to Steak n’ Fries’ reaction of empathy, and then cuts to the bloody foot of the younger boy. The camera zooms closer to the younger boy who is hysterically crying and clenching his wounded foot, which enhances the child’s suffering.
           Now, Lil Z challenges Steak n’ Fries, after he gives him the power to kill one of the two children. Although Steak n’ Fries is shot from a low-angle, his expression seems apologetic, almost as if he is guilty of having this power. One sees the younger boy crying from a subjective POV shot (through Steak n’ Fries’ eyes), then one sees a close-up shot of Steak n’ Fries from an objective POV shot. The viewer can sense Steak n Fries’ emotion and ethical dilemma; Steak n’ Fries must make a decision. The duration of the shots and the practice of The Kuleshov Effect are used in this moment to heighten the suspense and intensify the emotion of the character. The shots become longer. The older boy is shown from an over-the-shoulder shot, which foreshadows Steak n’ Fries’ decision. The scene cuts to Steak n’ Fries, Lil Z, and two other hoodlums, and is shot from a low-angle; we see the direction in which Steak n’ Fries points the gun and the audience is aware, even if they did not see the action; While Lil Z makes the surviving boy limp home, we see Steak n’ Fries’ head and shoulder focused and the dead child from an over-the-shoulder shot; however, this time the child is out of focus. In that shot, the audience is able to perceive Steak n’ Fries’ anguish.

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