Textual Analysis of Social Realism Opening Sequences

November 11, 2009 at 2:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Although I’ve already done 3 textual anlysis’ of opening sequences, I didn’t do any that were from Social Realism films. After listing the Pros and Cons of the 3 genres I was considering doing, this is the genre I have decided to do an opening sequence for. I was planning on doing a Romantic Comedy, so I now need to do further Textual Anylsis’ to improve my knowledge of the Social Realism genre and their opening sequences.

Two Social Realism films with good opening sequences are Trainspotting and Billy Elliot.


Directed by Danny Boyle


Summary of Opening Sequence: The film starts with upbeat music and two men fp0275trainspotting-postersrunning down a street in a town or city, being chased by two other men in uniform. A voiceover begins in a male Scottish accent. As the two men keep running, DVD’s and CD’s fall out of their pockets and from under their shirts, showing they have probably been shoplifting. They run down some steps and down a quieter street where the first one runs into a car while the second one carries on running. The first one begins to laugh before the shot is frozen and he is introduced with a title as Renton. It then cuts to Renton smoking in a dark room, before cutting to a football match, where other characters are introduced with similar titles and freeze frames. Renton is then shown being hit in the head by the football, and the shots starts swapping between him gradually falling back on the football pitch and falling back smoking in the room from earlier. The opening sequence finishes with the camera slowly rotating around him and zooming out, as he states “Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

Locations: Outdoors during day in town or city where two characters running away from security guards. Sets environment for rest of film. Main protagonist smoking in dark, dingy room with bare wooden floor, bar walls, not much furniture. Shows characters lifestyle and personality. Small football pitch outside at night, lit with flood lights.

Characters: First two characters introduced young men. Camera focused on one in front more, setting him as main protagonist. Shots of him smoking in room on his own further sets this and shows partTrainspotting_ver2 of lifestyle. Other characters all male, suggesting target audience mainly male, introduced during football match. All introduced in same way – freeze frame of action with name shown as title. Good friends, get into trouble a lot.

Enigma Codes: What will happen to characters during film, especially main protagonist Renton.  How will heroin play a part in narrative. Do they get caught for stealing.

Cinematography and the effects: Mainly simple, eye-level shots. range of mid-shots, long-shots. Establishing shot at start, rule of thirds, main protagonist closer than other character in shot. Shots of feet running, adds interest. Medium shot then very long shot of protagonist smoking, shows surroundings and environment. Zoom ins on other characters as introduced. Track at beginning. Panning shot at end of main protagonist, then slow zoom adfgaway. Shows profile and then during zoom shows where he is lying and surroundings, further establishing shot.

Editing Techniques and their effects: Simple cuts, no special transitions. Match-on-action. Quick cuts between top of characters when running and feet, builds tension. Freeze frames when introducing characters. 180-degree rule followed.

Use of Sound: Non-diegetic sound – voiceover probably by main protagonist. Dialogue and tone of voice set tone and theme for rest of film. Also upbeat music, showing film possibly quite funny, witty and snappy. Also diegetic sound of action – cheers, groans etc. during football match. Sound of feet running on ground, car screeching to a halt. Adds tension and meaning to action.

Genre Characteristics: Locations: built up, city etc. Mise-en-scene with room where smoking – dark, bare, “kitchen sink”. Also language used by protagonist on voiceover.

When, Where and How Titles are presented in relation to the action: No titles for title, actors etc. Characters names shown as title though. Action freezes as names come up throughout opening sequence.

Font, Colour and Positioning of Titles: White, bricky, simple font. Positioned under or beside character it is introducing.trainspotting

Intended Target Audience and Signifiers: Mainly males, young adults, 16-30 year olds. All characters male so far. Playing Football – masculine. Fans of Social Realism.

Ideas you could transfer to your own opening sequence: Really like introduction of characters with names as title and freeze frames. Also type of music – upbeat, happy. – as shows film funny as well as addressing serious issues. 


Billy Elliot

Directed by Stephen Daldry

Summary of Opening Sequence: A young boy puts record on a record which starts to play as he starts to jump up and down on his bed. Parts of his face and body come into shot in slow motion as he jumps against background of his wallpaper. The titles come up between him jumping. The shot then changes to a longer shot, showing more of his body 3984_headingas he continues to jump in slow motion, showing more of the positions and actions he is doing as he jumps. The boy then goes downstairs and into the kitchen, where he gets a meal ready. As he carries it into another room, he sees an empty bed. Worried, he rushes out of the house, dropping most of the food as he puts the tray down, and starts running down a street. He finds an old lady, his grandma, in an overgrown field. He encourages her to go with him, and as they walk away out of shot, vans with riot police coming out if them can be shown on the road above them.

Locations: Young protagonists bedroom, wallpaper old-fashioned, 70’s/80’s – help establish time period film set in. Housing estate protagonist runs through, council housing, looks rough – convention of Social Realism.  

Characters: Young boy, thin, shorts and vest top.billy_061116011115208_wideweb__300x286,1 Established as main protagonist, first person we see, watch him for long time on his own and then with other character – always onscreen. Expects narrative to be about him. Other character introduced old woman, grandma of young boy. Has obviously wandered off on her own, not meant to. Seems a bit senile. Young boy obviously has to take care of grandma – cooks, looks after her. Loves her though, as very kind.

Enigma Codes: What will happen to young boy during film, will anything happen to his grandma. Why are there riot police there.

Cinematography and the effects: Close up shots of various parts of protagonists body – audience doesn’t see whole profile for a while, builds expectations, also establishes him as main protagonist. Slow-motion also adds expectations, jamie%20bell%20billy%20elliotand set calm atmosphere to contrast with later more tense atmosphere. Tension caused by hand-held camera, which is also convention of Social Realism films.

Editing Techniques and their effects: Simple cuts, no special transitions – conventions of Social Realism films. Match-on-action used.

Use of Sound: Non-diegetic noise – music over top, relaxing, slow tempo track. Adds to relaxed atmosphere set at beginning of opening sequence. Diegetic noise – dialogue, helps explain narrative.

Genre Characteristics: Locations, built up, council house type homes. Lower class, shown by language, accent. 

When, Where and How Titles are presented in relation to the action: Titles shown over beginning of opening sequence when young boy is jumping up and down. Shown in between jumps, when protagonist not onscreen.

Font, Colour and Positioning of Titles: Simple, plain font. All titles white and positioned centre screen, except title of film which is yellow and on leftjamie_bell_billy_elliot_003 side of screen.

Intended Target Audience and Signifiers: Males, as main protagonist male. Also perhaps younger teenagers because of age of protagonist, but certification suggests older. Riot police in background suggest more adult theme will occur throughout film, making target audience older teenagers and young adults.

Ideas you could transfer to your own opening sequence: Type of music used. Most Social Realism films use more rap and urban, but Billy Elliot doesn’t, more pop/rock. Also simple title and kind of locations used.




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