"Apply a paradigmatic analysis to any Hollywood film. To what extent are these paradigmatic oppositions aligned with the manichean divide of melodrama?"
In this essay I intend to show how my chosen film fits into the preconception of classic Hollywood narration. The film which i have decided to study is Batman, staring Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton. Batman is ‘the’ classic comic book movie and i would say it has been the blue print for all of it’s predecessors. I am going to closely analyse the two main characters, Batman and his arch enemy The Joker. I will show how linear there relationship is and how much these protagonists have in common.
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Because of the comic book influence Batman is a perfect example of mainstream Hollywood narrative. The strong melodramatic plot of good verses evil follows right through the movie. The trajectory which each character takes is quite different yet these two centres of power always end up on the same path. For example Kim Basinger is introduced early on in the movie as a news paper photographer. Both Batman and the Joker fall for the same girl. This is a complete coincidence and is a typical melodramatic device in films as the two centres of power have to compete for the same women.
After closely analysing Batman i found it very interesting how Tim Burton framed the capped crusader and his arch enemy. Batman was mainly framed very close up, his eyes clear to see due to subtle lighting and the fact there were little shadows cast over his face. This gave me the impression of strength and power yet his mask covers so much of his identity …… I found that this worked well because even though he is dressed in black he still seemed to stand out from the grey, dingy back drops. This darkness plays a big part in Batman psychological state. The camera really moves when he is in the shot, I think this sturdiness of the camera reflects Batman persona. The Joker on the other hand is framed very differently, because of his colourful vasard which he projects Burton frequently frames him against quite vibrant back drops which in this case helps take the evilness way from the character. I also noticed that when ever the joker was in the shot there was a lot more camera movement which gave a very disjointed and manic feel to the scenes.
Both Batman and The Joker have there real faces hidden away from the people of Gotham City. Even though it is through an accident that Jokers face is burnt he still uses the scaring as a mask. Both characters use these masks to hide themselves from the real world. This is an on going issue in this movie as Batman discovers that it was Joker who killed his parents and therefore created ‘Batman’ with in Bruce Wayne, and it was Batman who dropped Jack Napier into the toxic waste to create the Joker. Therefore their reason for being are each other.
Another interesting scene was where Bruce Wayne invites Vicky Vail to dinner. The scene opens to a close up on Vicky Vail the camera then slowly begins to pan around and reveals that Bruce is sitting on the other end of a huge table. I found this very interesting because this immediate distance between the characters reflected Bruces lack of experience with other people and his initial uncomfortableness with intimacy. As he has always been an outcast and finds it hard dealing with relationships, due to the loss of his parents.
Batman is a classic example of Hollywood narration in the sense that the good and bad guys are obvious to the audience. Even though Batman is actually feared by the people he is helping until right at the end of the movie. On the other hand Batman is quite unique in the sense that he such a dark, and troubled hero. He has no remorse for the people he kills as he strives to find his parents killer even though he doesn’t know it. This is very interesting as the Joker is seen as the good guy by the people of Gotham. This is due to the fact that he seems to be trying to help the people of Gotham and is always dressed so brightly, which is normally a character trait of the ‘good’ guy. This twist is very important in the fabula’s progression because at the beginning of the film both Batman and the Joker were very similar, both serious and stoney faced. This parallelism obviously changed when Jack Napier was dropped by Batman into toxic waste. The scene which followed had a large paradigmatic significance to the films direction as this was the point were Jack turned into the Joker.
After seeing Jack being totally submerged in the waste the shot cuts to a close up of the bright green goo. Suddenly a hand bursts through and begins to move, this is an indication and introduction of a new character into the films syuzhet, a re-birth. Another example of this is right at the end of the film were the Joker is hanging from the building. Just before he falls his hat is blow over the edge, this again is an early indication of what is about to happen.
In conclusion, i hope i have shown how the structure of the classic Hollywood narrative can be played around with but still keep its signature manichean divide of good and evil. I found it very interesting how Batman and the Joker were portrayed to the audience through what they were wearing or how they were framed. This gave so much information about the characters persona’s and feelings without any spoken narrative. Also the fact that the characters linear progression was very different yet their psychological motivation was very similar. This in relation to the fact that they were after the same woman and they were both desperate to become the best at what they represent, good and evil.
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