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Dark Knight essay WITH COMMENTS

The Dark Knight Analysis
For my essay I will be analysing the opening scene of The Dark Knight and will be focusing on
mise-en-scene and cinematography.
As the clip begins we see an establishing shot which is used to show the audience the
setting which is a city and to set the atmosphere. During the establishing shot the camera
zooms up onto one building. The window is then broken and the camera switches to a midshot showing a man which a clown mask shooting a zip line across from the building to
another building. The use of the mask to hide his face is an example of the type of
iconography you would expect to see in a heist film and gives the audience the impression
that it is a heist film. The camera then cuts to show a man standing at the corner of the road
holding a clown mask in his hand and a bag. The camera then slowly zooms up to the mask
which leads the audience to thinking that they may see the identity of the person holding it
as unlike the other characters he is not wearing it and this builds tension, but this tension is
soon settled as the camera stops zooming in and the a long shot is used showing the man
getting into the back of a van.
The camera then cuts to show to men wearing clown masks sliding down a zip line. A bird’s
eye shot is used to give the audience a sense of how high up the clowns on the zip line are
and to build a sense of fear. A tracking shot is then used to follow the clown going down the
zip line which again creates a sense of fear as the clown are of miniature size compared to
background which is the city below them. A long shot then shows three cars in a van and
then switches to a two shot showing two clowns talking to each other. The two clowns are
then shown getting out of the van and one of them is holding a duffle bag; this reinforces
the idea of the film being a heist film as a duffle bag is usual associated with a robbery and
this is further backed up by the fact that the clowns are then seen walking into a bank.
A tracking shot is then used to show the clown entering the building, and another is used to
track one of the clowns as they hold up the bank this is to keep up with the action which is
going on, on screen. The camera then cuts to shown two clowns on the roof. One of the
clowns is then shown shooting the other in the back which leads the audience in to thinking
that one of the clown isn’t who they seem or that one of them is double crossing the rest of
them. As the scene goes on a long shot is used to show the banks safe, the effect of this is
that is shows the audience how secure the bank is and that it will not be easy for the clown
standing at front of the door to break through it.
The camera then cuts and a shallow focus shot is used to focus our attention on the grenade
which has been taped to the hands of the people who are being held hostage at the time.
The effect of this that it shows us that the situation has become more serious as people
have been taken hostage by the clowns. The scene progresses and a long shot is used
showing the clown in the front of the camera and is shown being shot in the back from one
of the accountants in the building. A tracking shot is then used to show the accountant
walking towards the clowns at a steady pace while shooting. The accountant who is
shooting at the clowns is shot by one of the clowns and a zoom shot is used to show what
wouldn’t be the emotions shown on the characters face but all that is seen is a clown mask
which shows a permanent sad expression that does not waver which could indicate that the
person doing it shows no remorse for his actions as he has become so accustomed to killing
people that it no longer affects him.
The camera then cuts to show a clown running to another clown who is opening the door to
the safe. He is successful in opening it and is then shot in the back by another clown. The
clown who is shot in this scene is the clown who shot the other clown earlier in the scene.
The effect of this is that it leaves the audience wondering who to trust as it seems like all of
the clowns are working for their own motives and leaves them on the edge of their seat
wondering who is next to be shot. The camera then cuts to show a tracking shot following
the clown in the bank with all of the hostages and a long shot showing one clown entering
the safe indicating to the audience that there are only two clowns left and building up the
atmosphere while leaving the audience in suspense as to who is the next to die. A zoom
shot is used to show the clown in the bank as he puts the money into the duffle bag focusing
on the money, which indicates that the money may have been his motive for killing the
other clown.
The camera then cuts to shows the other clown pulling a duffle bag to a pile with others. An
over the shoulder shot is then used to show him as he turns around and the camera then
cuts to an mid shot showing him as he turns around and then cuts to show the other clown
with his gun facing towards the camera from the other clowns view. A close up is then used
showing the clown looking at his watch which makes the audience wonder what is so
important that he looks at his watch while he has a gun pointed at his head. A tracking shot
is then used showing him stepping to the right and a close up is used showing the other
clown moving to the left. A long shot is then used as a bus breaks through the front door of
the bank and hits the other clown killing him in the process leaving the audience thinking
that there are no more clown, but a long shot is then used to shown another clown getting
out of the bus and helping the clown but the duffle bags onto the bus. This leads the
audience into thinking that the two clowns were working together but a long shot is used
again shown that clown being shot which indicates to the audience that this clown may
have set up all of the clowns into killing themselves so that he could keep all of the money
to himself.
A tracking shot is then used showing the clown walking towards the account that he had
shot earlier, leading the audience to think that he is about to kill him. A mid shot is then
used showing him putting a grenade into the accountant’s mouth. The camera then
switches to the clown and a close up is used to show the clown as he takes off his mask to
reveal that he has clown makeup on his face which is running down his face and showing a
permanent happy expression on his face. The effect of this is that it shows the audience that
this person may be happy with the action that he has done. It also shows the audience that
this person may not be mentally stable as the clown make-up is running down his face and is
showing a happy expression although he does not seem to be happy showing a happy
expression. The fact that he wears a clown’s mask and wears clown make-up as well shows
that what the audience is seeing may not be his true identity and that it may be another
A tracking shot is then used showing the clown as he walks back in to the bus. He start the
bus and stars to drive, as he does this the gas grenade he placed in the accountant mouth
goes off. As the bus is driven out of the bank wall a zoom out is used showing the bus
driving into the road with other buses making his bus blend in. The effect of this is that it
lets the audience know the heist was planned very careful and shows that the clown may be
a more intelligent character that he appears as he had a plan to get out of the bank safely
and got the other clowns to kill themselves.
In conclusion, in my essay I have analysed the used of mise-en-scene and cinematography
and its effect on the audience.
You analysis of cinematography is very detailed, always considering audience effect. You do
make some excellent points about spectator response, especially connected with audience
uncertainty about the actions and motives of the clowns. There is, however, no real analysis
of mise-en-scene – you might just want to focus on cinematography, which is fine, but if you
do you should mention this in your introduction. You could expand your analysis of
spectator response, especially regarding:
Feelings of possible foreboding/tension/suspense – you touch on this but it could be
How characters are represented
If the audience are encouraged to relate to/identify with any of the characters
specifically(e.g. think about screen time given to characters)
You also need to expand your conclusion and add still shots. Fyi, I have split your writing
into paragraphs – please try to do so yourself next time.
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