paulisadroid
2 years ago1,000+ Views
Pacing, Tension, and Emotion in Prisoners
There's one scene in Denis Villeneuve's 2013 film Prisoners that sticks out in my mind, it's the scene where Hugh Jackman's character, Keller Dover, is interrogating the person he thinks kidnapped his daughter. Now, I don't consider the scene groundbreaking but I do think it does a lot of things right. It builds at the right pace and comes to a halt at the right time. Villeneuve utilizes filmmaking techniques in a way that result in one of the most tense and unsettling scenes I've ever experienced.
Note: The scene is pretty violent so if that's not your thing, why don't you check this out?
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The first half of this scene is important because it sets up the long take that ends the scene. We get a standard shot-reverse-shot between Keller and his prisoner while he forcefully interrogates him. By cutting the early half of this scene like this, we get used to the fast pacing of "dialogue" then "action" then "dialogue".
Villeneuve also cleverly foreshadows the long take that occurs at the end of the scene with this quick shot (above) gives the audience a view from outside of the bathroom. As soon as the scene shifts to this perspective -- when Keller picks up the hammer -- the pacing of the whole scene shifts.
By having the doorway provide a frame within the camera frame, it pushes our eyes towards the action. Visually we are told what to focus on and where. The brightest area of the bathroom is by the three men in the right corner of the room. It's also where the most stuff exists within the scene. The sink, the door, the actors, the hammer, the light, etc. The door is what's important here because with the way that it's open it's almost like it's pointing our eyes towards the corner of the room.
The use of the long take is extremely important by the end of the scene. We can see and feel all of our characters emotions during the take. Keller, for example, gets closer and closer to a mental collapse because the person he's interrogating isn't talking while Franklin (Terrence Howard) follows a different emotional path within this scene. He goes from supporting his friend, Keller, to being afraid of what he might do.
As the prisoner slides down the wall, he falls towards Franklin. The two men occupy the same space within the scene because they also share the same emotion. Keller on the other hand, leaves the room entirely and just through his movement through the scene we can understand that he's in a different space, mentally, than Franklin.
Prisoners is an outstanding thriller and if you haven't seen it, you should definitely put it on your watchlist.
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