film studies

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Editing and sound convey meaning

How does editing and sound convey meaning and defines genre in the rudimentary extract of the film ‘Terminator 2?'

In this microelement analysis, I will be anatomizing the rudimentary extract of the film ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)', which is written by William Wisher Jr. and James Cameron also being directed and produced by James Cameron.

‘Terminator 2' is an action/sci-fi/thriller that is set ten years subsequent to the first Terminator (1984), when Skynet sent a cyborg for the termination of Sarah Connor and her unborn child— John Connor, leader of the future human resistance; but the Terminator failed. In ‘Terminator 2' John has been contrived for termination by Skynet, nevertheless a Terminator (T-800) has been sent back from the future to protect John, though a predicament arises, as the terminator (T-1000) who has been sent to kill John Connor is more complex and puissant then the T-800. The microelements I will be focusing on will be mise-en-scène and cinematography of the rudimentary extract of ‘Terminator 2.'

The audiences are introduced to the film with an establishing shot of an assiduous motorway/highway—this is an extreme long shot, juxtaposed with the white central titles that appear on screen, of producers and associates of the film. This sets the audiences' perspicacity as the audiences get the feel for the atmosphere and the location, a traffic jam on a highway, which many audiences can associate with. In addition, the high-angled camera shot almost gives the impression that what we are looking at (traffic jam) is insignificant, vulnerable, and debilitated almost like herds of sheep.

Accordingly, the scene is complemented with non-diegetic music in the background, as it is not parallel to what the audiences are seeing on the screen, though at this point many may begin to cogitate why there is a tensile tone to the music being present in the background.

Proximately, we are re-presented a straight cut that cuts into the traffic at an eye-level angle, cars moving bumper-to-bumper in their herds. The eye-level shot puts the audience in commensurate foothold, as if the audiences are existent in the frame, observing. The camera goes out of focus as people walk past; creating realism almost like the heat is distorting the torrent of people's faces. We see people are immersed in their day-to-day activities. The tensile music is still contemporary in this frame.

Likewise, the sequence straight cuts to a mid shot of a young girl playing on a swing in a playground with a depth-of-field camera focus and yet the non-diegetic tensile music is still consistent though it has metamorphosed into contrapuntal sound, as we are in a playground; a place of happiness and joy. Notwithstanding that, there is parallel diegetic echoes of children's voices and laughter, which resonates what the audiences are seeing on screen. It almost portrays as if the audiences are this girl's parents surveying her from the playground fence. The conglomeration of sounds in this scene makes it quite unsettling. Furthermore, the camera tracks the little girl as she swings side-to-side and in an anon the frame goes into slow motion. This is used to intensify the scene. Contiguously, the frame starts to saturate to a blue overlay, this creates an enthralling effect, it is almost as if the whole sequence has been surreal like a dream and we are just waking up. Henceforth, the sound starts to build up to a crescendo increasing tension and the frame slowly dissolves to a blinding white frame, as if a nuclear missile has fulminated.

The camera subsequently cuts to a close-up of a burnt out car with a skeleton driver in it this is an elliptical cut as we are in the future, the colour of our screens has gone from white to blue. This emphasizes the fact that what we were looking at in the past few frames has been a flashback or perhaps reminiscences of what once existed. There are no sounds perceptible other than the diegetic sound of the wind and the squeaking of the burnt metal, this is presumably used to accentuate the fact that what we are now seeing is a desolate barren land. The camera movement tracks sideways and over the burnt car divulging buildings destroyed like sandcastles and the entire transmogrified highway we saw in the few sequences, though now it is a landscape of hell. The film has moved into the future as the date appears on screen “Los Angeles 2029 A.D.”

The frame slowly lap dissolves to a depredated playground, the lap dissolve here is used to convey a sense of pervaded elimination of the human race throughout this solitude landscape we are seeing on screen. The camera then starts to track around the swing in which the little girl was playing, revealing plethora of skulls and human remains. Non-diegetic parallel voice over of a female inaugurates. Besides this, an indistinct parallel contrapuntal sound of children almost singing a sing-along song is coeval making the scene very unsettling, almost like a horror scene. The camera finally comes to a halt near a tricycle where a close-up is reveals the lilliputian skull of its owner; this image is held on screen for few seconds. Voice over has stopped at this point.

A sudden paroxysm as a metal foot crushes the skull— diegetic sound of the metal foot crushing the skull, the wind and non-diegetic ominous tone music is present. The camera starts to pedestal upwards revealing the metal skeleton of the robot. As the camera tilts upwards the sound levels increase dramatically, we see and hear the diegetic sound of futuristic plasma rifles being fired as well as explosions in the background of the frame, this alludes the machines bring war and destruction. The camera comes to rest on a mid-shot of the endoskeleton, establishing its environment.

An impetuous straight-cut is presented, a close-up of a tank like machine triturating over copious human skulls, we hear the diegetic sound of skulls crushing. Presumably, this shows what has happened to the human race (the machines have exterminated them). Non-diegetic tensile music is once again present, along with the diegetic sound of plasma rifles being fired.

Henceforth, editing has become increasingly frenetic, as we are presented with consecution of cross and straight-cuts of the amaranthine battle between the human soldiers and the machines. These cross-cuts are used to truncate time and to show the different angles and view points of the battle that we see between the machines and the resistance. Frequent low-angle shots are made of the machines, in particular, the drones hovering over, perhaps this is used to utilise the fact that the machines are cold, ruthless killers and that they overshadow what is left of the human race. This can be comprehended specifically when the humans are shot by the drones that are hovering above, as this maybe insinuating that the humans are losing the battle. It creates almost a claustrophobic effect, as if the soldiers are running out of space to fight. Notwithstanding, the occasional wide-angle shots that are used to show the destruction and scale of this war.

These aforementioned scenes are also complemented with parallel diegetic sounds of: explosions; plasma rifles; drones hovering above; and the screams of humans being shot, this almost creates a sense of despondency. These sounds are in the background of the frame, resonating what the audiences are seeing on screen. In addition to the diegetic music, non-diegetic music is also present which is being played in the background; this is used to create tension and to engross the audiences in scenes of immense battle.

Eventually, the sequence cross-cuts to a man where a mobile frame tracks behind him at a constant distance as he walks forward. The mobile frame here is used to create a sense of three-dimensional space. Furthermore, as the man is walking along this perpetual corridor, soldiers salute him and we immediately apprehend that this man is perhaps the commander of human soldiers. At this point, non-diegetic sound of music and the female voice-over begins, as we find out that this man is John Connor. The camera finally sojourns as the man comes to a halt at the end of the corridor, where he surveys the battlefield with binoculars.

Match-on-action shot and we now see the face of this man's face, though much of it is hidden due to him holding the binoculars. Distant tenuous diegetic sound of thunder in the battlefield is present along with the voice-over. The camera starts to dolly in and we start to get a close-up of man's face, as the binocular go out of the frame, we see that John Connor is a heavily scared man, denoting a lifetime of war. His face fills the frame and slowly fades to frame with explosion and flames— the title appears on screen “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” and the credits start to appear on screen.

To conclude the aforementioned, editing, as denoted, is a technique that enables filmmakers to create point of views of characters and events, to compress time, but most importantly control the momentum of the narrative as impeccably displayed by James Cameron in this extract.

Sound, on the other hand, is postulated to be fifty percent of a film's experience, according to critics. Sound is what assists the audiences reverberate what they see on screen. Sound facilitates to build emotions and create tension to engross the audiences.

I solely conjecture that this is the best opening sequence to a film at present. James Cameron displays a spectacular contrast between peace and destruction; cars in traffic; crowds; and playgrounds, all we know, all that exists gone in a flash of light. James Cameron has clearly used editing and sound to fabricate the narrative of ‘Terminator 2,' helping audiences to “Suspend their disbeliefs."             


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