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Young Man's ConvictionTerm Paper

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¶ … Classical Hollywood Cinema

The American film discussed within this document that exemplifies numerous characteristics of classical Hollywood cinema is entitled Head in the Clouds. A number of its stylistic elements -- including its plot, characterization, narration, and editing -- are typical of what audiences have come to expect from conventional Hollywood cinema. In fact, many of these elements help to aid the overall efficacy that the film achieves in presenting a World War II romance that effectively grips the emotions of its viewers. An analysis of specific scenes in this film, which depicts a torrid romance between one Gilda Bessie and Guy prior to and during the German occupation of Paris, reveals as much about the effectiveness of this film as it does about the conventions of classical Hollywood cinema.

One of the hallmarks of conventional Hollywood films is that there is a degree of clarity that is unambiguous in virtually every aspect of a particular picture. The goal of such lucidity is to engage the audience as much as possible and to gradually go from an initial state when the audience knows nothing to the final scene in which the audience knows everything about the film (Bordwell). One of the principle ways in which Head in the Clouds follows this convention is through its characterization. In the first scene in which its two principle characters (Gilda and Guy) are together, the foundations of their characters (which adhere to psychological stereotypes) are revealed. The scene begins in a dorm room at Oxford in which Guy is studying before hearing a pounding on the door. In comes Gilda, headlong, soaking wet, telling him to keep quiet so she can avoid the vigilance of her boyfriend's friends who she has managed to lose. Within moments she typifies herself as a headstrong, careless free-spirited (attractive woman) who, unwittingly, has drenched Guy's paper on Aristotle's conception of virtue. The latter fact, of course, all but solidifies him as your standard virtuous, soft-spoken man of action, intelligence, and good looks. The pair is instantly attracted to one another, therefore setting the stage for a familiar boy meets girl love story between universal character types to which the audience can relate.

Perhaps even more importantly than the characterization, the plot of Head in the Clouds adheres to the conventions of Classic Hollywood films. The plot in these films is designed to resolve a problem that is decided by the end of the movie. However, it is not uncommon for there to be more than one strand of a plot in which the two are intersected. The subsequent quotation alludes to this fact. "Usually the classical syuzhet presents a double causal structure, two plot lines: one involving heterosexual romance (boy/girl, husband/wife), the other line involving another sphere -- work, war, a mission or quest, other personal relationships" (University of Washington). Thus, Head in the Clouds adheres to Hollywood convention by not only presenting a love story between male and female familiar character types, but it also does so by illustrating ravages of World War II on that relationship. Head in the Clouds is nearly as much a war movie as it is a love story; the central conflict of the work is presented when Guy abandons Gilda to make good on his virtuous conscience and enlist in the "international brigades" (Duigan) to attempt to stop Germany from occupying Spain. Gilda's reaction to this bit of information, the raising of her voice, her clueless understanding of what could galvanize the young man to take such an action, provides a pivotal turning point not only in the film but also in her characterization as she begins to slowly develop her own political and global consciousness. Still, the dual plot structure of this movie is in accordance with that of conventional Hollywood filmmaking.

A scene analysis of various points of narration is also indicative of the means by which this film follows the conventions of classical Hollywood films. These type of films are almost always accompanied by an omniscient narration in which little is concealed from the audience other than future events (University of Washington). The point of such narration, of course, is to present the audience with as much information as possible to facilitate the clarity alluded to earlier in this document. This film takes place over the span of approximately 20 years -- the date is an important element not only to mark the passing of the life of Gilda, but also of the events in World War II. A number of scenes, therefore, open with the revealing of the date and the geographic location. This is true of the opening scene in which montages of images in black and white of gradually yield to color and the camera focuses on a the data and location of the scene. The scene in which Gilda meets guys begins by illustrating her running out of the rain with a caption of the date and location. This technique is used repeatedly throughout the film at critical junctures to keep the audience informed of temporal and spatial elements that are necessary to understand where Gilda is in her life and how that relates to the impending war.

The narration of the story also reinforces the central elements of the plot, as do various editing mechanisms. In terms of editing, there is one scene that ends in which Guy and Gilda were relaxing in a bathtub, adorned in nothing but hats and a tie. The transition to the next scene, in which the pair are feverishly engaged in the act of lovemaking, is the natural progression of the end of the last scene. This instance of continuity editing, which seamlessly transitions from the logical outcome to the end of one scene to the beginning of another, aids in the film's clarity, emphasizes the fact that this is a familiar love story, and presents the sort of all-knowing narration that leaves the viewer fully aware of what has taken place within the film. While the editing is used between these two scenes to indicate the temporal relativity of them to one another, other aspects of the scene in which the pair are having sex with one another emphasizes the narrative traits of classical Hollywood films. The scene opens up with the camera from afar, showing the pair distantly in the bed. It slowly zooms in, with the pair squarely in the middle of the camera as they pause from the relatively mundane thrusting that accompanies such an act to kiss one another and gather. The lighting is dim at first, but becomes bright as the camera hones in on the pair and the passion smoldering in their gaze. The music swells with "rich harmonies and orchestral color" (Flinn 35), and the camera gradually parts to show the front door opening. Located off center is a good 'friend' of Gilda's, who was also romantically involved with her. This woman, however, is marginalized in the scene to emphasize her lack of importance in the overall plot and narration, and quickly leaves after making eye contact with the couple. These two scenes, the editing between them and the narration that is apparent are both quintessentially Hollywood cinema scenes.

The usage of space and time indicated in the scenes of Head in the Clouds make it conventionally a Hollywood film. There are other aspects of the editing that do so as well. One of the key components of editing when utilizing the sort of continuity editing that is typically found in Hollywood films an axis of action. Such an axis of action is used to orient the viewer to the space of the scene and acclimate him or her with what is going on, particularly in relation to the rest of the plot and the story. In another scene later on in the movie, after the lovers have been distanced by the war, years aside, and seemingly by the partisan factors in this martial encounter, Guy is scene observing Gilda's domicile from outside. .The editing between this scene and the next is crucial. The cut between the scene is fairly dramatic, and simply ends with the camera focused on Guy looking at the apartment. The director then cuts to Gilda inside her apartment, slowly watching the knob on her door handle turn. The editor dramatically cuts from the door handle to Gilda, looking uncertain, frightened, yet somehow, not surprised when Guy enters the flat. The viewer is only temporarily disoriented by the shot of the door handle -- the director utilizes axis of action to acclimate the viewer with the apartment, subtly telling him or her that the scene has not shifted so much but progressed, to the next logical conclusion.

In summary, there are a number of different facets about Head in the Clouds that render it characteristic of classical Hollywood cinema. Its plot and characterization adhere to the sort of clear, morally unambiguous psychological traits that viewers can identify with. Furthermore, its narration and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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