The film “great expectations” is based on the novel by Charles dickens in the late 19th centaury Even when this film was made, one of the first with sound, there was a great use of cinematic devices. These where mastered by David Lean to create atmosphere and dramatic tension, especially in the opening scene and the scene where Pip meets Ms Havisham. The film was based on the novel “Great Expectations” written by Charles Dickens at the turn of the century.
The genre for such a film would have to be a historic drama. Although the film was made in 1946 it is still a historic genre because the story was set in the late 1890s. This is because of the large doses of dramatic tension included in the film. While being set fifty years prior to the films release. It is a film all about the way a mans life can change just by money. We learn of how people change when the become wealthy after having been less well off. It is educational while being entertaining. It was written in a time of great social difference. You were either very poor or very well off.
Dickens, the novels author, had had a clear view of the “rich/poor” divide. He was born in to a large poor family, his father was in prison and his mother had very little work. When he had grown up he moved to London, where he entered an entirely different world compared to his harbour based home. Dickens tried to give messages through his work, in this adapted film, his message was to show that you don’t have to be wealthy to be happy, and that money can cloud your view of people.
Lean tried to carry on with dickens message to the best of his filming abilities, by using a variety of filming techniques. There are a more uses of techniques used in modern films to date, these are used to help create the desired impact upon the audience. Here are only some of the many filmic devices used in the filming of “great expectations” in the first scene alone: Even though the film was made in “black and white” the director, David Lean, manages to introduce great variations of lighting effects. These help demonstrate different moods with more enthusiasm and dynamic tension. Such genres may be horror, suspense, drama and romance.
In the opening scene, set in the church grave yard, it is set at day break, when the sun is still low in the sky, so there is limited light. This creates dramatic tension in a horrific fashion, as we see a dark, gloomy, run down spooky church yard, in which a boy who appears to be on his own enters. The lighting is used to show how different and almost scary such a holy place as a church can be when there is a limitation of light. This almost symbolises the eternal struggle between good and evil, where a small help less child is threatened by a fully grown man.
Where as in the other scene, the first time Pip enters Satis house, the character Ms Haveishem, has demanded at all the windows be blacked out, so again there is very little light, except the light of a candle. In one part of the scene we see Estella, walking along the dark corridor while carrying a candle, she is all that can be seen by pip. I could be said she is the light at the end of Pip’s tunnel, his hopes, and his destiny. Paragraph 2 It is through the setting of a scene that the main aspect of dramatic tension arises in a scene. Although the setting of the scene’s are not up to David Lean to alter in this case, because the film is an adaptation of a novel. The novelist, Charles Dickens wisely chose the different settings very carefully.
This can be clearly see in the first opening churchyard scene, where the first segment of filming is a young Pip running through the moors, showing the vast distance of open, uninhabited land. When Pip finally arrives at the church yard, we see he is on his own. By setting it in the moors, Dickens has showed just how alone Pip really is, there in no one around for miles. We suddenly feel he is a victim, and we all sympathises for him. Then the fact that he is in a church yard, on his own show that he is there both as a griever, and a sole survivor. Again he is on his own. This mix of emotions for Pips character creates a large sense of tension for the audience.
Paragraph 3 Its by using different music genres, at different times during the scenes that the audience experience different sensations. The music helps to increase the dramatic tension within a scene, it arouses the senses and quickens the heart beat. Although non-diegetic music can greatly dramatise a scene in a film silence can also be just as effective if not more so, in some cases. In the first opening scene, you can hear the orchestra building, this symbolises a event is about to occur, then right as the music reaches its high point Magwich appears on the screen. I do not believe that with out this non-diegetic sound, the tension would not be so, great and effective.
At the very beginning of the film after the title sequence, we are greeted by the view of a book entitles great expectations. And a voice over begins to read from the book, introducing Pip, the main character. David lean appears to have chosen this man in particular for the voice over because he may personally believe this is how dickens the novelist wished him to sound like. The voiceover also has clear speech, like that found in the upper classes at the time of the set story. And he, like Pip, is a man.
This in a way is very faithful to the novel written by Dickens, in the begging of the novel, the character of Pip as an older man, starts telling the story, introducing himself, and his location. Paragraph 4 David Lean has cleverly included non-diegetic sounds into almost every scene. Which, help’s to increase the dramatic tension in scenes. An example of a form of non-diegetic sound is a radio playing in the background of a scene. Although this example does not seem to greatly increase the tension, it does prove the scene to be more authentic
An actual example taken from film could be when Pip has just entered Satis house for the first time. The gate behind him closes with a loud screech, and the old stairs he walks up creek. Both of these noises, not mentioned in the novel, both raise the tension in the scene, it gives a “creepy” impression, and tells us just how old and uncared for this house is. Paragraph 5 Again the director David Lean has used his brilliant talent, to help show the power relationships in the film by using different camera angles. The camera angles mainly used in this case are high and low angle shots. This shot was used on a large basis in these two scene, mostly focusing on Pip as being the weaker of the power relationships. An example of one in the first scene could be when Magwich has entered the scene, and has grabbed hold of pip, the camera shows a close up of him at an angle, but this angle looks up at him, thus showing he is stronger and more powerful than Pip, who is looked down on by the camera.
Another camera angle used quite frequently in the film is close ups, these allow you to see the actors face closely, so you can see their reactions clearly to an event that has just occurred. It is just by going closer to their face when they react that tension is dramatically built up and quickly. By going closer the reaction is almost exaggerated. So more and more tension is built up. By using different camera angles the director is trying to generally increase tension and drama, and in short make the film more interesting and entertaining for the audience. Paragraph 6 Two other camera angles used in these scenes are panning, and tracking.
The main objective of Panning angles, are to show the depth of a scene and its setting. As the camera sweeps the setting. In the first scene of great expectations, we see we see Pip running across the moors to the graveyard from a distance while the camera sweeps across the scene, showing us, in this case, just how isolated Pip is from the rest of the world, how alone he really is. Whereas tracking is also used to follow a moving object, such as some one running, or falling. It allows us to clearly see someone or something, clearly while it moves. But it is a clearer shot, much closer, and more personal than the panning angle.
With the original question being explore the ways in which David Lean creates atmosphere and dramatic tension. As I have already shown, Lean has used a variety of ways to increase the dramatic tension and arouse atmosphere in the scenes.