In this essay I am going to “Compare the opening scenes of the two film versions of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations,(BBC’s 1999 and David Lean’s 1945,) and review how effective they are in creating an atmosphere of tension.”
The analysis of the films corresponds to Chapter 1 of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ and I shall first of all inform you using a brief summary, of what happens in chapter 1 of Great Expectations:
The story begins with pip, who introduces himself and describes an image of himself as a young boy; standing alone, mourning and crying in a church-yard near some open marshes. Young Pip is staring at the gravestones of both his parents who died soon after his birth. This tiny, shivering bundle of a boy is suddenly terrified by the voice of a large, bed ragged man, who threatens to cut Pip’s throat if he doesn’t stop crying. The man dressed in a prison uniform with a shaven head and a great iron shackle chained around his legs, grabs Pip and shakes him upside down emptying his pockets. The man devours a piece of bread, which falls from one of Pip’s pockets, then barks questions at him. Pip tells him that yes, he is an orphan and that yes he lives with his sister, Mrs Joe Gargery, the wife of a blacksmith about a mile from the church graveyard. The man tells Pip that if he wants to live, he’ll go down to his house and bring him back some food and a file, for the shackle on his leg.
Pip agrees or rather promises to meet him early next morning, and the man walks back and disappears into the marshes.
For both leans and BBC’s films version of the book I am going to go through each stage of the scene, explaining how they manage to build up and create an atmosphere of tension for the viewers. I will then evaluate and compare the setting, location, the props, the costume, the sound effects, hair, make up, the background music, lighting colour framing camera movement, editing and other visual effects of each film, and also review on how effective these factors are in the approach to creating an atmosphere of tension. I will structure this essay by first reviewing all of film one, (1945 David Leans version ) and then comparing it with film two(1999 BBC’s version), giving my own personal analysis, and then rounding up and finishing it with a conclusion.
To start with in Leans film, it’ already created an atmosphere of tension because of how explosively and dramatically it starts. It launches into action straight away with loud, vigorous, and seriously intense music that scares you out your skin, ‘wakes you up’ and ‘throws you off your seat’! Because of it’s exhilaration and highly energetic ‘blast off’ into the film beginning, which is so sudden and traumatising it already merits for creating an atmosphere of tension because it implies the film involves something drastic and intense occurring in it, immediately tensing up the viewer(s).
Also in this shot, the large bold titles with a bold, black ‘n’ spooky background help to add tension too, because darkness is associated with doom, violence, hell, destruction and death, which horror and fright the viewer, creating lots of tension in their minds. The big bold titles are also effective in tensing the atmosphere because they are big and bold like those on caution and warning signs, hence adding to the idea that something drastic and horrible will happen, frightening thus tensing up the atmosphere even more.
Everything then slowly ‘dissolves’ into the next shot, which slowly and creepingly draws your attention to a small book which appears to open by itself, as a deep and ghastly voice presently starts to read it. This is effective at creating tension in the atmosphere because of how eerie the book is; coming alive, which isn’t possible in the real world. This means it can only be the result of wizardry or which craft, which are associated with evil, and evil tenses up the audience because evil scares them. Also the way the camera zooms into the book creates tension in the atmosphere because it forms the idea that there’s something in the book that could lash out at you in any moment, and because your being forced into going near it tenses and angers you (which for anyone, being forced into doing something tenses and angers them.).
The deep ghastly voice of the narrator creates tension too, since it’s associated with mean, nasty people, making the atmosphere uncomfortable and unpleasant which tenses the viewers up. On the other hand, though to some viewers who have seen many unexciting fairytale films such as ‘sleeping beauty’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ would find this quite a bad approach to create tension in the atmosphere because this type of ‘book magic’ is done at the start of many modest and boring fairytale films, which if they don’t create tension neither will this. The background of this shot also stays completely pitch black, since this causes the audience to apply all their attention to what stands out the most; the book, which already appears spooky and because it’s surrounded by darkness which is associated with evil and death, which makes them believe that the book is as well(that’s why it’s there), creating even more tension in the atmosphere.
Tension increases further as the zooming in of the book to a super extreme close up, increases speed, in harmony to the books pages begin to turn faster and faster, frantically and uncontrollably with again the shot ‘dissolving’ away into the start of the movie. This induces even more build up of tension in the atmosphere because it portrays that a story is just about to unfold and the swift and mad page movement imply that something dramatic and erratic is going to happen in the film. The third shot is a ‘mix’ to ‘long shot’ of some deserted, isolated, dark and depressing landscape of a muddy marshland with open fields. This combined with the urgent running, puffing and panting of a small boy in the distance coming closer and closer to the camera creates tension because the boy for some reason is tense himself, and the fact that he’s running frantically applies that something threatening and evil is after him or that he’s late for something very important which could cost him very dearly.(i.e. in his life!).
The fact that it begins at the brink of night time increases tension because many nasty things like murders and deaths happen at night time and in the evening, and evil things like hell, beasts and torture are associated with darkness which help to build up the same atmosphere. The location itself being isolated creates tension because it portrays that many things could happen to you and you could scream and shout for help as loud as you could, and no one would here you. The winds howling a coil breeze and an owl constantly and spookily hooting tenses the atmosphere because winds brew up into storms and hurricanes, that causes destruction, devastation and death. This shot also creates tension because storms and hurricanes can correspond to peoples minds under huge stress, madness at explosive measures, and their numerous irritation and recurring thoughts, swirling around like the winds; rushing, going crazy and out of control with tension and violence. The coil breeze is much small than the storm but could soon change, hence it resembles pips thoughts and emotions slowly building up to a tense, stressed, malevolent and uncontrollable rate.
The owl hooting with anticipation creates tension because the owl is commonly associated with mystery and guardians of secret, and perverse hideouts of witches or wizards. Since witches and wizards are regarded as superhuman (in a sinister way), dark and evil, this implies that pip could be involved in witch craft, wizardry and evil measures of black magic, which creates tension, suspicion and suspense in the audience because they want to know what pips involved in, why and what will happen to him when he arrives at his urgent and mysterious destination.
On the other hand, the owl could be spying and watching over pip as he unknowingly trespasses a secret evil hideout that the owl is keeping guard of. Again this creates tension along the same principle as the previous suggestion did.
The 4th shot is a close up of the boy panting with uneasy movement and a petrified, terrified look on his face. It shows pip stepping up over some bricks quite casually, obviously allowing the audience to assume that pip knows where he’s going, and the fact that he stops and looks around himself before he proceeds implies that he is up to something suspicious and top secret, and because of this he is frightened that the place he approaches is inhabited by something which could suddenly lash out and attack him as he draws nearer, and into the creepy, mysterious place. This obviously creates tension in the atmosphere because it shows the emotions and nervousness of pip, which for a start aren’t very pleasant, how they affect his movement and what he’s actually doing,(a curious approach to something) and how they portray the idea that he is putting himself into a lot of danger and breaking some important rules to do something he shouldn’t; which for many people if they do something similar, usually the are caught and have terrible things done to them which is what they expect to happen to pip very, very soon.
The audience can sense something drastic is building up to happen, they just want to know what, and when. This creates a mood of suspense, which for the audience can cause a traumatising effect on them, and eventually irritated them, through the deliberate delay, which is very effective in increasing the atmospheric tension.
The 5th shot is a ‘close up’ of pip kneeling at the gravestone, while the wind continues to howl, the owl continues to hoot, and the trees creak and sway spontaneously above him. Pip is clearly nervous as he stops every split second sharply, and looks cautiously around himself, quickly and ravingly ripping out the dead plants that surrounds the gravestone as quickly as possible. This gives us the impression that Pip feels someone’s after him, watching him, hence he wants to finish his intended job and get out of their as quickly as possible.
This creates tension in the atmosphere because it shows pip as a shaky, scared, defenceless and lonely little boy being tormented by his fears and the spooky surrounding that overpower him.
The 6th shot is a short but effective shot of the large, grizzly, overhanging tree which is filmed at an angle looking up at it from down below (as how pip would see it), which emphasises how small, caved in, vulnerable and defenceless Pip is in this situation. This tree appears to swish and sway uncontrollably in all directions, manipulating the audience into assuming that the tree will fall on top of pip when he least expects it, and when they least expect it, creating tension in the atmosphere even more.
The 7th shot is back to the ‘close up’ of Pip paralysed s and clearly petrified at the gravestone. Pip’s nervousness clearly increases here as the sound effects carry on, steadily increasing frequency and volume, which enhances the increase in the tension in the atmosphere. In this shot Pip is literally frozen scared, and dares not to make a move. This leads to suspense in the audience because they want to see what happens next, which they can sense will be drastic and entertaining. This makes the viewers impatient to see it, thus the tension in the atmosphere begins to uncomfortably increase to a high climax point here because of Pip’s actions they can sense the drastic moment will occur in any moment from when Pip gains the nerve to move.
The 8th shot is a repeated shot of the close up of the creaking tree. The fast alternation and repetition of this, and the shots of pip create tension in the atmosphere because represents pips thoughts and nervousness about the ghastliness and idea that the tree might fall on him, and cause terrible injury of death to him.
Finally in the 9th shot, when pip can no longer take the agonising pressure caused by the traumatising position he’s in, he shoots up off the floor and scampers alarmingly away, which because he runs so fast is helplessly tracked by the camera, causing the tension splitting moment; when he runs into the convict and screeches a merciful and strenuous cry, is all a flash and blur to the audience because of how tense and mentally abused Pip has become.
This is effective at creating tension in the atmosphere, because of how quickly and sharply it happens, and also because of the loud and sudden outbursts of Pip’s screams, which shocks the audience, scaring them ‘out their skins’, and ‘throwing them out of their seats.’ This is so fast and brutal is causes the audience to have an adrenaline rush, which can uncontrollably tense anyone up. Because of its immediate thrust of speed, It hardy allows the audience to perceive something bad has caught Pip and something bad is going to happen to him. They want to see what he’s run into and what bad things will happen to him, hence tensing them up even more.
The 10th shot(s) is a fast and exhilarating mixture of split second, alternating, ‘extreme close ups’ of the convicts and pips face as they quickly try to come to realise their situation. The extreme close ups show the emotions on both the characters faces, and create tension in the atmosphere because of how fast they alternate and how short and sharp each alternating shot is. These represent the fright in Pip’s mind, and the wild speed of all his terrified thoughts, flashing raving through his brains and traumatising him through their irritating, uncontrollable and repetitive ways. This creates tension in the atmosphere because both the speed of the shots, and the emotions on pips face implies Pip is helpless, innocent, defenceless, petrified and vulnerable, in contrast to the convicts appearance which make him look mean, vulgar, overpowering and evil towards Pip. This inevitably makes the viewers interpret that something brutal and devastating will happen very soon to poor innocent Pip.
The 11th shot, once the tension has calmed and the speed of the shots have died down, is a ‘close up’ of Pip’s head, being hung, barbarously and helplessly upside down, showing his speechless reaction to being picked upside down and mercilessly shock about by the aggressive stranger. The mysterious and perverse stranger, with chains that Pip clasps terrified onto and his prison uniform, creates tension in the atmosphere because this means that pip has come across a convict which has escaped from prison and will do terrible things to Pip, like what the stranger might have done to someone else to get sent to prison.
This then quickly cuts to a close up of the convicts face, arms and of Pip’s feet, being tightly clung to and shaken continuously and maniacally by the convict. This creates tension in the atmosphere because it shows how big, tough, mad and powerful the convict is, in comparison and contrast to Pip, who’s clearly t this point speechless, and shown as a paralysed, vulnerable, weak and inevitable small and defenceless.
The way the convict pursues Pip and shakes him about, stealing all his possessions from his pockets, and almost shaking him to death, creates tension in the atmosphere, because it gives the audience the impression that the convict is desperate monster, who has no boundaries: thoughtlessly breaking the law, and with the intention to do anything to Pip, no matter how evil and monstrous it is, to get what he desires. The audience want to know what he wants, and how he intends to go about it with young Pip.
The 12th shot is a close up of the convict neglectfully dropping Pip on the ground, gnawing and scoffing the bread that fall onto the floor from one of Pip’s pockets, like a lion to it’s captured prey, which pip clambers helplessly to his feet and stares with amazement at his vulgar habits.
This, the sound effects of the convicts wallowing and scoffing, and the look on both the convicts and Pip’s face create tension in the atmosphere because the audience see the convict as an inhuman, abnormal and beast like person, that at any moment could lash out and do anything beastly and inhuman to Pip.
The 13th shot(s) are several cuts to ‘medium shots’ from Pip to the convict (high to low angle shots respectively), which again build up and maintain the atmospheric tension by showing Pip as a defenceless, and weak little boy, and the power, strength and comparably immense size of the convict.
The way the convict speaks, grins and looks at pip provoke his evilness, since he speaks harshly, not soothingly. He grins at him endlessly, keeping watch on him, and revealing his rotten teeth tightly clenched together, with slime and grease coating them, and looks at him up and down with mean satisfaction as though he’s an animal who’s caught it’s prey and is going to eat it. All this creates tension in the atmosphere because it’s almost like coming across Satan from hell or being accounted and alarmed by something of similar qualities in a nightmare that you cannot escape.
The 14th shot is a close up and tracking of Pip being slowly knelt over a gravestone by the convict, as he orders Pip to promise to bring him back food and a file for the next morning. This creates tension in the atmosphere because it shows Pip being trapped, tormented hence triggered to feel helpless and sick, which can be ‘felt’ by the audience in the way pip speaks and reacts to being knelt y the convict. When you do feel sick, you cringe up and tense yourself because of the agony and pain your in; which is how the film is making you feel.
The 15th and final shot for the first chapter of leans film version of C.Ds’ ‘Great Expectations’ is of pip frantically running away, panting with fright, and is so nervy and moved by the convict, that he looses his balance and falls flat on his face. This shot involves tracking of Pip because he is running so fast, and even when he falls he is so frightened and determined to get away from the formidable man, that he leaps up again immediately after without looking back, and flies over the wall and away across the marshes back to where he came from. This creates tension in the atmosphere because of how nervous Pip is, running uncontrollably away and falling helplessly down. It emphasises how tense and moved Pip is by the convict, and the look on Pip’s face as he runs gives us the impression that in his day- Victorian times, what the convict has told Pip to do is seriously bad, and tenses up the atmosphere because we want to see why it’s so bad, what’ll happen to pip(depending on if he does the deed or not) and what he intends to do about it.
Comparing BBC’s film version of great expectations with David Leans version
To start with in BBC’s version the first shot, dissolves into action slowly, with soft, dead, depressing, and haunting music which slowly begins to rise into life as the lighting of the shot does. Lean’s on the other hand begins dramatically, being loud, and energetic, scaring the wits out of the audience before the film has actually started! This is not to say that the music involved in the BBC’s shot isn’t very effective at creating tension in the atmosphere; it’s just to say that the way they approach the audience to create tension in these ways are obviously different.
The soft haunting music creates an atmosphere of mystery, oppression, and ghastliness, which with the dismal and sinister setting of sunset over an overgrown maze of deserted and isolated crop, and a small frightened boy suddenly appearing from no where in the middle of it, creates tension in the atmosphere because this is the perfect place for a murder or kidnap to occur, in which no one will know it because no one else is their, and because the breathless boy is panting and panicking madly with horror, this implies that someone evil who will probably do something drastic is chasing after him. In leans film the first shot involves a background of pure darkness with large titles that stand out towards the audience to intense the atmosphere further. In the BBC’s version however, the title is small and doesn’t stand out as much and create an evil and dark image because the background isn’t. This isn’t an effective way of creating tension in the atmosphere because it doesn’t stand out to the audience, hence they wont take any notice of it, and because the background looks rather pleasant compared to dark and terrifying (like in Leans film), it creates a more peaceful mood rather than intense.
In the second shot of the BBC’s version it shows a close up of Pip staring cautiously through the grass, breathing uncontrollably and looking as though he’s seen something terrible and horrific which has moved him and/or is after him. This start to a film is much more effective at creating tension in the atmosphere that the second shot in leans film, because it runs straight into the idea that something dramatic and brutal is brewing up to happen, unlike the shot of the book in Leans film which just implies that a story is going to unfold, which is easily obvious considering most films are based on books and that the opening of a book shows no indication of something intense and brutal occurring in it. On the other hand though, the BBC’s shot shows Pip in a peaceful atmosphere, a gentle breeze and accompanied by a nice admirable sunset in the sky. The book in leans shot is more effective in creating tension in this area because it’s surrounded by background of complete darkness, and darkness is associated with evil which is associated with tension.
In the 3rd shot in the BBC’s version Pip sees something he’s scared of and trying to get away from, hence leaps into action and runs madly away from it throwing himself through the corn, and glancing terrified back repeatedly at what appears to be following him with chains attached to them because of the noise made as they’re chasing him. What happens is so fast and insane that the shot has to be tracked and filmed in slow motion, which adds to the effectiveness of how it creates atmospheric tension because it portrays something important fast and drastic is happening which has to be slowed down to be understood and fully witnesses by the audience because its so vital to them perceiving the rest of the film. It also creates tension because slow motion creates an atmosphere of suspense and implies that something devastating and drastic is going to happen, and because its going so slowly it increases the length of time you wait for it to happen, giving your heart the time to speed up over the excitement and exhilaration of what’s going to happen, increasing tension to extreme levels.
It also increases the tension because of what pip is running through which could easily trip him up because its all over him, and because it’s so long and compact that Pip and the viewers cant see through it, so you don’t know what could be behind it, or even in front of you. This is effective at creating tension because anything, at any split second, could pop out from behind the crop and capture pip and do something evil and horrific to him. There is also a huge increase in the volume of the background music which suddenly speeds up and involves loud and startling instruments playing mercilessly and furiously, imitating the speeds and qualities of Pips thoughts and emotions swirling like a hurricane through his brain, which obviously increases tension because every things going too fast and out of control and when you loose control of something, or it goes wrong you get intense and mad at it, which is partly the principle of this shot to create tension in the atmosphere.
In Leans film the third shot creates tension in a different approach through the use of sound effects of spooky creatures, like owls, and using a dark, bleak evening/early night setting accompanied by a dead and neglected marshland, that’s got no life on it whatsoever, creation a dismal and distressing image to the viewer. In both the 3rd shots Pip is running frantically to create tension but in leans version Pip doesn’t seen to be running away from someone, but appears to be running to something instead. Leans 3rd shot isn’t as good at creating tension in the atmosphere than the BBC’s because it doesn’t involve loud and energetic music to combine with the breathless running of Pip. It instead uses eerie and uncomfortable silence which enhances a peaceful atmosphere instead of intense, hence it calms and relaxes the audience rather that tenses them up.
Also Leans 3rd shot is a long shot of the marshes whilst the BBC’s third shot is a close up of Pip showing his emotions and facial expressions. From this area the BBC’s shot is more effective at creating tension because it shows how Pip is feeling about what he sees running after him, which we can see and from his reaction and facial expressions imply that it’s not very nice, and because we can’t see who it is that’s after him it creates suspense for the viewers hence tension is increased too. In Leans however, we can only see Pip running and cant see his facial expressions to interpret why he’s running, so we could just assume he’s doing it for leisurely purposes, which isn’t very tension creating at all in that respect, let alone in comparison to the BBC’s.
In the BBC’s version, the 4th and 5th shots involve almost the same things happening as the previous shot, but at different angles and at different distances(Medium shot plus tracking compared to close up plus tracking). This isn’t effective at creating tension in the atmosphere because the camera is of how pips chaser sees Pip, and since a medium shot is further away from what it’s filming than a close up, this obviously means that Pip is getting away and gradually escaping the chase, which reduces the likeliness of him being caught and something drastic happening to him.
In Leans film the 4th shot is a close up of the boy which Is much better and effective at creating tension than the 4th shot in the BBC’s version. This is because it doesn’t show any likeliness of Pip getting away from danger but getting closer to it, and this is easily explained by the way he stares at something with nervousness and horror, which can be seen clearly through how close the shot is.
In the BBC’s version the 6th shot shows a close up of pips feet, which look thin and weak, and have shoes on them that are worn out and have torn and worn laces hanging off them. This is effective at creating tension in the atmosphere because it creates a feeling that he might at any moment fall and that he isn’t strong enough to be running. It creates the idea that pip is very vulnerable and has a high chance of falling, really injuring himself and not being able to get up and run any more being captured and having anything done to him of any terrible measures, which tenses up the atmosphere even more.
In Leans film the 6th shot involves a close up of a huge creaking tree, which creates tension in a similar though in some respects slightly different way through making an eerie, and mysterious mood for the viewer, and creating the sense of danger, that the tree will fall on to Pip and seriously injure him, or even kill him.
The 7th shot in the BBC’s film involves Pip suddenly and drastically tripping up; as expected, by a grave stone in an isolated and mysterious graveyard. This is very effective at creating tension because is shows what has been expected to happen to Pip which would lead to him being captured by the alarming chaser which we still haven’t seen yet, who could now to anything to poor injured pip. The music suddenly stops dead at this point at exactly the same time as Pip fall to the floor, showing that all the energy that pip had to run has now been killed and he’s now left alone and helplessly ‘dead’ on the floor, ready to be mercilessly dealt with by the unidentified stranger. All this is good at creating tension in the atmosphere because it still maintains the suspense of seeing pips chaser who now has all the power in the world over Pip and is in the ideal place to do what he wants to him, without anyone else knowing.
When Pip is at the gravestone in the 7th shot in Leans film, however compared to the BBC’s it creates tension in the atmosphere in a different approach through the use of suspense and the petrified emotions of pip staring around himself nervously because of the uncomfortable position he in in the graveyard. The use of a close up of Pip compared to medium in the BBC’s, helps put this point across because we can clearly see the emotions on his face. Even though Pip is not injured or physically hurt in leans film, it still creates tension in the atmosphere because Pip is mentally scared and paralysed, hence he holds himself back and cannot think straight and get himself to move properly, Making himself vulnerable to what ever else is out their, similarly in the BBC’s film.
The 8th shot in the BBC’s film involves a close up of large manly legs, with great iron shackles attached to them. They are running vigorously, searching madly for something(Probably Pip) and the sound effects involve the loud and breathless breathing of the chaser, and the irritating and intense shaking and clanging of the metal chain connected to the shackle. The sounds get louder, portraying the effect that the chaser is getting closer to Pip, hence increasing tension in the atmosphere because pip is about to be see and captured. It’s also quite effective at creating tension at this point because it still maintains the suspense of seeing Pips chasers face, but what it does show you is that the chaser has escaped from somewhere because of the chains on their feet, and only convicts and prisoners have chains on their feet, hence implying that a prisoner is after pip, and since prisoners are nasty, perverse people, this increases tension because it means that something nasty and perverse will be done to Pip, unless he gets up in time and escapes. The audience want to know what’ll happen next; whether the convict will capture pip or pip will find the strength quick enough to get away, adding to the suspense, anxiety, and intensity of the atmosphere.
The 9th shot is a close up of Pip once more lying helplessly by the gravestone in complete silence in a dream like quality, trying desperately hard to hide from the convict so he doesn’t get captured, and have terrible things done to him by the convict. This increases tension in the atmosphere because, again on the same principle as before it creates suspense in the atmosphere because you don’t know what’ll happen next and you want to know what’ll happen next because, along with the spooky silence implies something big and exhilarating will happen.
Compared to the 9th shot In Leans film, which involves the fast unaware running of Pip straight into the convict whereby Pip comes to him rather than the convict to Pip in the BBC’s version it’s not as effective because Leans takes you by surprise, without the audience or Pip knowing the convicts there. In the BBC’s version you know the convicts there and so does Pip, so you just waiting in suspense for the capture to happen. Leans happens very fast because of Pips nervousness causing him to run very madly and fast, hence it takes you by surprise very fast, increase tension even further to a high climax point. The BBC’s just keeps you waiting in suspense which when you know what’ll happen isn’t very exciting, let alone intense.
The 10th shot in the BBC’s version is a close up of Pips face showing his emotions and nervousness, and him staring cautiously at the convicts legs. This creates tension because it tells us that the convict is getting closer and closer to Pip, and that Pip is trying desperately hard to keep away from him. Pip is clearly frightened of the convict, keeping an eye on the convict constantly, daring not to move, because he knows that now he’s hurt he has no chance of getting away.
Comparing this to the 10th shots in leans film, showing close-ups of Pip and the convict alternatively, we know that Pip is not hurt but hasn’t had the chance to get away from the convict so all his fears of him burst out together, whereas in the BBC’s version Pip is injured and has no chance of getting away from the convict even though the convict hasn’t spotted him yet. This means that atmospheric tension is increased in the BBC’s film due to the audience knowing that Pip will soon be spotted by the closer approaching convict, which increases tension through his ghastliness which is emphasised by the emotions on Pip’s face. The tension is increased in Leans film however, because of Pip’s mind being tormented and his imagination going wild, causing him to dash off quick and suddenly crash into a man he feared to meet most. Both Films clearly involve the emotions on Pip’s face and the weaknesses they have in this situation which make them so vulnerable to the convict, creating tension in the atmosphere, because of the things the convict could do to Pip.
The 11th to 15th shots it involves alternate close-ups of the convict and Pip as the convict gets closer and closer to him. It starts with the 11th shot showing the chains and legs of the running convict which suddenly stop because he’s lost Pip and stops the sound of his shackle so he can hear and determine if he’s still running or hiding as though he’s spotted something peculiar and highly relevant to him. Also at this point the music changes and gets more horrific and louder.
This creates tension because its signifies that the convict has discovered Pip is hiding in the grave yard very near him and the music increases tension because it signifies the racing of the convicts mind as he thinks about where he could be and the thought of getting him for what he desires., The music could signify his conscience almost saying; ‘Yes! This is it! He’s hiding very near you! You find him you’ve got him!’ In Leans case in the 11th shot, the convict doesn’t have to capture Pip but comes Pip comes to him, and the shot involves creating tension in a different approach showing his madness, desperateness and sheer perverseness in mercilessly picking up poor pip and shaking him about like an aggressive child and it’s toy.
In the proceeding shots of the BBC’s version up to the 15th shot, it works upon the same principle as the 10th and 11th, with quick sharp close-up and pan shots alternating between the convicts legs and Pip’s face respectively, showing Pip’s emotions go crazy as he gets closer and the convicts legs run faster and more triumphantly as he spots Pip and comes to attack him. This is effective at creating tension in the atmosphere because it still maintains the suspense of the viewers still not seeing the convict’s face, and because the viewers now know that the convict will finally capture and attack Pip, they get excited, though worried because of how innocent Pip looks, and how nasty and deranged his emotions imply the convict to be.
Compared to Leans film it again creates tension in both different and similar techniques to the BBC’s version in shots 12 to 15. They involve the convict gnawing the bread from Pip’s pockets like a lion to it’s prey, Then they show him tormenting Pip and making him promise to do naughty things for him, which if he fails will cost him his heart and his liver. In all of leans shots they are high angle shots used to make Pip look defenceless and vulnerable, and to emphasise the contrast of this against the convict. This is also used in the BBC’s version with the camera filming pip at an angle high above him to make him look small and weak, and the camera looking up from the ground at the convict to emphasise how huge and tremendously powerful he is comparably to Pip.
In the 16th to 19th shots of the BBC’s version it involves the actual climax point of the scene taking place where the convicts encounters Pip and grabs him, as Pip screams helplessly in mercy, trying to fight the convict, pulling himself painfully away from him in agony and innocents. The shots taken are ALL close-up’s of the convicts Pip’s face, with the convict grinning an evil grin, whilst pulling strenuously and fiercely at Pip’s feet and Pip helpless trying to free himself from his vicious claws. This creates tension in the atmosphere because, unlike Leans film where the convict speaks to Pip like a human, in the BBC’s the convict doesn’t speak at all, growling and raving like a mad beast to it’s prey. This combined with the extreme close-up of the convicts dirty and evil, grinning face and of Pips extreme emotions helps create tension in the atmosphere because it emphasises how evil, inhuman and beastly the convict is, and since the first close-up of the convicts face occurs, which was suspended from us all the time, it implies that the convict has finally succeeded in capturing Pip and will do anything inhuman and beastly to him to get what he wants.
In leans film we get a more calmer, relaxed and easy convict, who talks to Pip asking him lots of questions and threatens him in a more professional manner. This along with too long and very few shots is less effective at creating atmospheric tension because it’s not as fast as the BBC’s and doesn’t frighten the viewer so much because of how humanly the convict acts compared to the ravishing and vulgar beast of a convict in the BBC’s version. In leans film he uses the story’s speeches to frighten the viewers, with the convict pleasurably exaggerating and emphasising the words which scare us most.
The BBC’s on the other hand doesn’t involve the convict speaking to Pip at all, by screams madly at him, giving us the idea that he’s either demented or frightened of what he’s going to do to Pip because he’s so desperate and can’t control himself. Also in these shots it involves Pip screaming for his mum in the BBC’s version, which obviously represents how mentally confused, traumatised and frightened he is because he’s an orphan, and always was, so to cry for someone you know is dead implies your either insane or seriously disturbed by what is happening to you. This creates tension in the atmosphere because it emphasises the terrifying and moving qualities of the convict, which in turn frightens the audience of the convict even more, so when they know he’s got him, they get tensed up over the extremely nasty deeds they expect the convict to do to Pip. In the BBC’s however Pip always appears quite calm, and talks quite willingly, casually and politely to the convict. Pip screams when he first encounters the convict but after that he does nothing, staring at the convicts weird eating habits. Even when he is knelt over the gravestone there is no extreme emphasis and evidence in Pip’s movement and speaking, that he’s scared and ‘crapping himself’.
The last shots (20th to 22nd ) involve instant cuts to seagulls screeching and mix to marshes and opening titles, before the last shot where we see Pip running home towards the camera looking scared. The shot of the seagulls screeching are edited in to surprise us at what we though would be Pip screaming and are also used to show that the place is isolated and no one else is there to save poor pip, creating tension in the atmosphere. There is soft whistling music similar to the haunting music at the very beginning of the scene, which helps maintain an atmosphere of tension, isolation and mystery, which is much more effective than leans film, which involves no music, and the boy running back at the same pace as he ran to it at the beginning.
This could imply that the convict never really struck Pip as he runs as though it all never really happened. The 21st shot involves a mix to the Bleak, desolate though beautiful marshes, which is a lot more calming and soothing than the rest of the film because the shots are much longer and the editing dissolves slowly compared to instantly into each shot. This helps create atmospheric tension and suspense for the viewers because, unlike leans which shows the titles at the beginning of the film, it shows them when the audience have become gripped to the film and want to see more, hence suspending them and making the see all the main credits before the rest of the film. Leans is less effective because the viewers haven’t seen anything yet from because it’s all down to attracting the viewer from first sight, Leans obviously wouldn’t have many viewers left when it came to the actual start.
The 22nd shot shows Pip running towards the camera back home looking scared, and shaken, which is more effective at creation tension that leans long shot of pip, because it clearly shows all of Pip’s emotions which could determine what mysteriously happened to Pip which we didn’t see. In leans however, Pip is too far away from us for us to see his emotions, and there is nothing to keep in suspense from us like in the BBC’s because we saw everything that happened. Both involve darkness setting inn on the location, portraying the effect of darkness and worry in Pip’s head, setting in and disturbing him, hence disturbing and frightening the audience as well.
Talking about the two films as a whole;
Firstly I’ll compare the locations each film used and how they are effective at creating an atmosphere of tension;
We all know that all directors need a setting and location to create a certain atmosphere(in both films cases spooky, mysterious, dark and intense) according to the particular program or film. In Leans film, the setting is in a dark and gloomy graveyard, set in a deserted, neglected and isolated marshland with open fields. The location is clearly artificial since the clouds appear flat and still as though painted, and the slight lighting is artificial because no sun is present and it appears to reflect of the tops of the clouds and landscape. Although evident in being unreal this type of location corresponds almost with the exact description of the location in C.Ds’ book of ‘great expectations’, and since Charles dickens description, like many starts to his novels and books, puts an intense, dismal and distressing atmosphere and mood into peoples minds, so does this.
The location used by the director of the BBC’s film in 1999, used something much more different. For a start it looked much more realistic,(Probably because it was) and the time it was set was different too.(late afternoon rather that a bleak evening in Leans film.)The location again appeared isolated, and disturbing but only because of the silence and lack of animal and human activity. In leans film it was completely dead with muddy wet marshes everywhere, whereas in the BBC’s the location was in a huge field packed with an endless supply of lavish crop and wheat. The BBC uses this to create an intense image of wonder, mystery, and entrapment, where someone would easily get lost in a solitary field of endless crops, unaware of what else lies within them until they’re up close to it, and unable to get help or for help to come because no one would hear your screams and shouts.
Comparing the background music in the two films;
At the very start of Leans film, he uses the aid of dramatic music which effectively creates a scary and intense atmosphere for the audience, because it makes them thing something dramatic and exciting is going to happen, as shocking and moving as the music. The BBC’s version on the other hand also uses sound effects, including a coil and depressing breeze, and birds wailing in the sky’s, but music isn’t as dramatic and tormenting as leans, creating an atmosphere of tranquil and relaxation rather than tension. The music continues to constantly drone on in the BBC’s film, getting louder and busier in climax points of tension(Like when the convict grabs Pip), hence maintains it’s eerie qualities throughout but doesn’t use the power of music to surprise you and suddenly tense you up like how Lean uses it in his film. believe that leans film got a lot of interested viewers because back in 1945, cinemas were a new thing, and the Second World War had just been won, so England, which is where the film was released, needed something to settle down to and enjoy. This intense and exhilarating film would have accomplished that perfectly
Comparing the use of props to create tension;
Every film and TV program needs good props to keep the viewer amused and lavishly entertained, so the director can still acquire his desired atmosphere and mood and also make the characters believable and real to the viewers.
In leans film the convict was chained by the legs so the viewers can easily identify that the strange man is an evil convict. The hooting bird was used to show the viewers that the place was isolated hence creating tension in the atmosphere because it means that your all alone and all your loud and merciful screams of agony cant be heard by anyone. The book was used as a prop to tell the audience that the film corresponds to a book, which would increase tension because a book could have any imaginative, mad and intense story written in it, hence the film could be mad and intense too, putting tension in the atmosphere. Similarly in the BBC’s version, they also use Chains on the chasers feet, showing it’s something brutally evil after Pip, which also for a very long time to create suspense as well as tension, is the only part of the convict you see.
BBC’s version also uses birds as a prop for the same idea as leans, but it uses a more dramatic array of lots of birds, flying high, screeching and going wild in the sky, as though to imply that something frightful has happened which has disturbed them, rather than just one peaceful and unnoticeable owl, which does the same thing all the way through as though nothing has happened. The birds are also used to creates suspense and mystery as because of the place they are edited they drown out the screams and wails of pip, and the shot showing us what happened to Pip, which is quite effective at creating tension because it makes us eagerly wonder in mercy what will become of Pip which they can only find out from their imagination and what happens next. Even though the BBC’s version doesn’t include the book as a prop,(which might not, on the other hand help tense the atmosphere at all) it’s use of props is very effective at creating tension because of all the disturbing and evil things that they symbolise, apply or are associated with. Same again for Leans film but not as concentrated and deep in the idea of creating tension because it’s less focused on and shown less in the shots.
Comparing the use of costume, hair and make-up to create tension;
Almost all directors use costume hair and make-up to make a good television program or film. They need good hair, make-up and costume to make the character look like their desired person, e.g.; an evil man, a strong man a poor man etc, which helps produce their desired moods for the film(in this case intense and erratic). In Leans Film Pip was smartly dressed in immaculate and tearless, dark clothing and had greasy though well managed, short hair, whereas in the BBC’s film they had Pip dressed in torn and worn out shabby boots dirty rag like clothing and with long, scruffy, greasy hair.
In leans film this gives us the idea that Pip is probably rich, hence well looked after and happy, but in the BBC’s it suggests that Pip is probably weak, ill, unhappy and very poor. Because being poor is generally associated with unhappiness, distress and darkness, this implies that in this area the BBC’s film is better at creating tension in the atmosphere because of what it’s associates symbolise; but only slightly: The use of costume on the convict in both films are very similar and effectively portray an atmosphere of tension along virtually almost the same principle; The convicts both have shaven heads,(which in those days only convicts and prisoners did) They wore scruffy, ripped and dark prison uniforms which were really dirty and gave us an image of evilness and terror because witches, monsters and other evil creatures were commonly thought of to wear clothes like these, and because witches and monsters scare and tense us up due to their eerie qualities, this is quite an effective way of creating tension in the atmosphere.
Comparing the sound effects used in the two films.
All directors need good sound effects combined with music to create tension to get the viewer attracted to the film. In both leans and the BBC’s film there were some form of birds whistling, trees creaking and winds blowing a coil breeze. This combined with the music they used mixed up the perfect recipe for creating a scary and intense atmosphere, with spooky and moving qualities. The sound effects were used in different ways in different parts of the film. In Leans the bird (owl), constantly whistled on with out any change from the beginning to the end of the scene and didn’t seem to bother the audience at all. In the BBC’s film however, the birds came in suddenly, relentlessly screaming and wailing. This was shocking, and frightening to the viewers because it was so loud and terrifying and because they expected it to be the screams of Pip since it was deliberately edited in straight after Pip was captured.
In leans film the coil breeze was effective at creating tension in the atmosphere because it began softly and got louder and louder in a spooky, disturbing and swirling cycle. This agitated and tormented the viewer, hence tensing the atmosphere because it meant a storm was arising which could do drastic measures of destruction and spoliation and imitated the nervousness and tension slowly increasing as he ran to a mysterious and isolated place. In the BBC’s film however the wind wasn’t as effective because it was drowned out by the music and because it was too slow to keep up with the speed and tension of Pip running and the speed of each swift and sharp shot. Again the tree creaking constantly played a major role in creating tension in Leans film upon the same regulation as the breeze did, whereas in the BBC’s the creaking tree played hardly anything in the scene, let alone in creating tension. This was because the sound effects of the convicts violent breathing was used instead which is more effective because it gives you the impression of the chaser- which you haven’t seen yet, and his intense emotions.
Comparing the lighting in the films;
In both films there is both lighting and colour, but it is used in different ways to create the intended mood and atmosphere of the film. In the BBC’s version it involves natural light with some slight changes with the use of sophisticated high-tech lighting management on the computer during the shot editing. In Leans version there is artificial light, which is evident from the way it reflects off the artificial background and lights up Pip and the convict in the climax shots, but everything else stays dark. The lighting in the BBC’s film represents a bleak sunset, which with the isolated and eerie atmosphere forms a depressing, disconsolate and irritatingly boring mood.
This creates tension in the atmosphere because when your irritated you get tensed up and uncomfortable, which is what the director of the BBC’s film was trying to do to his target audience. In Leans film though, the lighting is used to light up Pip and make him stand out, showing how innocent he is, because in most cartoons lighting up a character from the rest is usually an angel- a sign of innocence. This helps create tension in the atmosphere because it portrays a larger contrast between Pip and the convict and between Pip and the scary location. This makes the convict and location look even scarier to the audience, making them think something really nasty is going to happen to Pip, tensing the atmosphere even more, making them think something really nasty is going to happen to Pip, tensing the atmosphere even more.
Because there is lack of lighting in both films (though not at same intensities-Leans is lower than the BBC’s)the lighting is effective at creating tension in both films because darkness is associated with evil, hatred and other ghastly things, and because in darkness you see ghosts and anything threatening around you cant be seen in the dark, so could surprise you and do many nasty things to you( in this case the convict to Pip) and no one else would know . Also at night nasty things like murders happen at night, and because everyone’s asleep and your all alone, your isolated, vulnerable and defenceless (in this case Pip) . All this scares and frightens the viewers, hence creating tension in the atmosphere.
The use of camera movement to create tension;
In both films the framing and camera movements change frequently, with those in Leans film lasting longer than in the BBC’s, and the BBC’s involving a lot more shots than in Leans. At the start of Leans film (after the credits) the camera is zooming in, then there’s a long shot. In the BBC’s version however Pip is being chased and the camera is hand held to put us in the convict’s place. Leans film creates tension in the atmosphere because it shows how vast and inhabited the marshes are, and how small weak and insignificant Pip is compared to the huge, neglected and disgusting marshes. Nevertheless in the BBC’s version it creates tension through letting us see how frightened and unguarded Pip is compared to the chaser who we can clearly perceive how mad and desperate they are through the vigorous shaking and swaying of the camera. This increases atmospheric tension further because it implies that if the chaser does capture Pip he will do something desperate, terrible and mercilessly to Him.
When the convict catches Pip in the BBC’s version a close up is use to show Pip’s emotions. When the convict sees Pip and catches him in Leans film however the camera zooms in to show emotion on both the characters faces. In this case the BBC’s version is more effective at creating tension in the atmosphere because it still maintains the suspense of us not seeing the chasers face, hence we can still only imagine for ourselves what the chaser looks like from the close up of Pip’s emotions and reactions. It shows an alarmed, defenceless and fearful Pip desperately trying to free himself from the stranger, whilst screaming and wailing for his mum like most kids do when they are in serious danger, and something they fear highly has got control of them. This puts tension in the atmosphere because it emphasises and exaggerates the terrifying and evil qualities of the convict, who which has now caught Pip could, from Pips intense emotions do anything terrifying and horrific to him, tensing the audience even more. In Leans film though, the camera zooms in to take high angle medium shots, containing both Pip and the convict.
This creates tension differently to the BBC’s version because it doesn’t use suspense and shows both the characters emotions rather just Pip’s. Because of its high angle shot it emphasises the convicts evilness, power and immense size in contrast to small frightened and defenceless Pip. It’s also effective at creating atmospheric tension because, unlike the BBC’s version where it shows Pip’s face and eventually the convicts separately, Leans film shows both the emotions of the characters together. This creates tension in the atmosphere because it emphasises the huge contrast in their emotions; the convict having an evil satisfied grin on his face compared to Pip with a shocked, paralysed and terrified face, which emphasises the audiences wonder of what evil deed the convict will do to Pip.
Comparing the editing and how effective that is at creating tension;
Directors need editing in films to make the film accurate and how they desire it to look. In Leans film the editing was very slow and infrequent, whereas In the BBC’s film there was lots of editing which was very fast. Leans film in this case isn’t as good at creating tension through editing of the film because of how slow and relaxed each change is. The BBC’s film however, is effective at creating tension because of how sharp, short and sudden each edit is, creating a furious, erratic and panicky mood for the viewers, implying that something fast, and terrible is going to occur, tensing them up in the process.
Comparing the visual effects of the two extracts;
There were visual effects in both films, but created tension only through suspense rather than action and madness of the film. In Leans version the credits came up at the very start of the film, and because it was shown in a cinema were he imagined that the viewers wouldn’t walk straight out of the start a film already paid for. Because of this it implied the viewers were left in suspense for 2-3 minutes before they could see the actual start of the film.
This angered the viewers who had paid quite a lot of money in those days when cinemas were new to see the film. Hence when they came to seeing the actual film they were already angered thus tensed up about it which was probably the main aim of the director. In the BBC’s version however, it doesn’t begin with any credits, but plunges straight in to the beginning of the film, getting you excited, tensed up and gripped to it first. Also, because the BBC’s version was a television program and not a cinema film, it wanted to attract the viewer and prevent them from changing channel, so it put on some of the credits after the climax point of Pip being captured, creating tension in that way because it put the audience in suspense of seeing what will become of Pip, for quite a long time(around 1.5 minutes!) and because they are now clutched to the film and really want to see what happens next, so they won’t change channel despite how long they wait.
What I thought of the two film extracts (my own personal opinion);
When I saw the films for the first times, I was actually quite impressed and became very attached to both Leans and the BBC’s film. However I found the start of Leans film a bit boring and hardy very exciting and intense. This was mainly because it began with a bland array of credits like most old films do and all the way through it the movement, speaking, and editing involved in each shot was very dismal, too slow and had no visual effects in it either. Part of the reason why I didn’t find it very ecstatic and exhilarating was because I saw the film after I read the book, hence I knew what was going to happen. The other part was because Leans film was chronological (went along with the book) hence nothing was made to change the film to make it any better and I knew exactly what was going to happen next, when it was going to happen and how it would happen. Even how and what the characters said was exactly how it was stated in the book, hence I felt hardly any tension or power in what was said and thus rather disappointed at the end of the scene.
On the other hand I found the BBC’s version much more exciting, shooting through the shots with loud sound effects and in an arrangement which completely flattered me. This was because it involved hardly any speaking and approached my attention and increased atmospheric tension through having the convict running after Pip rather than Pip just running in to him like in leans. I though the colour in the BBC’s was better too because you could distinguish the tattered and battered clothes easier and could see the emotions on the characters faces clearer and in more detail.
There were a lot more visual effects in the BBC’s version than Leans which kept me gripped with anticipation too. The slow motion of Pip running and falling down by the grave stone kept me clutched and excited because it implies something drastic was going to occur. Even though I already knew what would happen from the book, it got me in this way because the director had fiddled it to begin differently and everything to happen differently to what happened in the book. Hence compared to Leans which comparatively bored me, I didn’t know exactly how or when it would happen and the slow motion kept me waiting in suspense, which combined with the fast flicking of the short shots got me examining closely and wondering at how the scene would terrifyingly end.
In leans film I found it quite surprising at how Pip suddenly bumps into the convict and screams wildly with exaggeration at him. After than most of it was predictable and the emphasis in the convicts tone and actions, which were quite laid back and relaxed. Weren’t very disturbing and traumatising either. In the BBC’s I could easily predict how it would end when Pip fell over and the convict saw him hiding, but was more effective because of the loud constant and intense gasping and breathing of the convict which only got louder and faster as he approached and captured Pip. What really shocked me in the film was how Pip wailed and squealed for his mum as the evil convict mercilessly approached him. I knew that Pip was an orphan and his mum and dad died mysteriously after he was born so to cry for his mum, which wasn’t in the book was quite moving and surprising to me.
As you can see from the graph that I drew in my opinion to the intensity levels through out the scene, it shows that David Lean’s film was less consistent in maintaining tension with high ‘leaps’ of intensity where Pip runs into the convict and when he chucks him on the gravestone, which unfortunately die down very quickly because of how poorly it keeps you in suspense, wonder and excitement afterwards (when they’re talking, quite blandly, relaxed and casually, with out many emotions, and tension etc… ). The BBC’s on the other hand shows quite the opposite with steady increases of tension which remain quite high until the end. This is because when I watched it I was unaware of what exactly would happen next and exactly when, because it was so different to the book. Therefore as I watched it I began to develop assumptions and began to sense when it was going to happen. This was because the shots were always quick and sharp, and the characters movement along with the sound effects were the same, it maintained my tension, along with keeping a few more surprises in stock (like the sudden cut to the birds wailing) to prevent my tension from dying off as it neared the end of the scene.
At the very start of the graph you can see that the tension created by leans was bigger than that in the BBC’s film, and that the BBC’s film accelerates tension at a far quicker rate than Leans does. This was because the big, erratic and drastic music that launched into action right at the very start shocked me, but this didn’t last as it stopped quite soon and quickly too, whilst more silent and relaxed shots took it’s place. In the BBC’s film however tension is minimal, as the scenes start to be exposed gently and soothingly, whilst an image of a small, breathless and panicky boy slowly appears. It then rises dramatically due to the surprise it gave to me as Pip suddenly shoots off into the crops, along with the camera (convict) panting relentlessly after him, and the background music suddenly speeding up, speeding up my heart beat hence tension in the process.
Overall I would personally consider the BBC’s film to be watched by people who have or haven’t read the book of great expectations, because of how well it starts off and grips the viewer, and uses many of the high-tech sound and visual effects to enhance the strong mood atmosphere it creates. Even those who have already read Great expectation or even seen Leans film will find the BBC’s version exciting and very entertaining. The way the director fiddled and reorganised the film to make it more intense and exhilarating worked, and the speed of the shots of all angles and sound effects were impressive and most effective too. Although leans wasn’t as intense or exciting as the BBC’s version (probably because it’s almost 60 years old and a bit out of date now!), it is still worth watching because it’s a lot clearer and easier to understand than the BBC’s since it’s shots are a lot longer and the characters speak and move slower too.
The BBC’s uses flashbacks later on in the film, suspending us from seeing what the convict did to Pip when he captured him, which it think is effective at sustaining high levels of tension, which is another reason why I prefer the BBC’s film version best. Leans is more chronological and faithful to the exact layout of the book, which is why I don’t prefer Leans film because if you’ve already read the book (like me), them you’re not going to find the film very exciting or interesting compared to the BBC’s. One of the obvious reasons why I Prefer the BBC’s is because it’s much more up to date, uses many useful and effective filming techniques, (which there weren’t many of back in 1945), thus is much more involved and stands out more as a ‘film’ than Leans does.