BY: LAURA ROJAS
Films, stripped down to their main elements, are composed of form, structure, and detail. In fact, the formal elements that play together within visuals impact us more deeply than we often realize. Cool tones, warm hues, darkness and light. Shadows. Angles. Perspective. We often look at movie stills and they look like paintings, like studio photographs. When watching a well-made film, we are overcome with sudden feelings of awe, nostalgia, happiness or inexplicable sadness.
In fact, these feelings are likely derived from the way our emotions react to the formal elements- form, colour, shape, texture, space, line, tone, and composition- and the pre-existing connotations we have with them.
However, it’s more than just about formal elements. The first and final shots of a movie are arguably the most important. The opening shot is what draws the audience in, as people are often turned off if they don’t like something from the beginning. The final shot is what the audience is left with- their sense of closure or lack thereof.
Jacob T. Swinney picked up on the interesting way directors do this and decided to contrast the first and final frames of 55 different big-name movies like Dr. Strangelove, Fight Club, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“What can we learn by examining only the first and final shot of a film?” he asks. In this compilation, we can see some interesting similarities and differences. Even if you haven’t seen some of the movies on his list, you can understand the way they feel just by looking at the two shots he singled out. Some of the films with similar themes have comparable colour palettes. Some of them work so well beside each other, it seems as if they were meant to be placed side by side.
Swinney explains his intent by stating that both shots serve in communicating multiple themes. “Some show progress, some show decline and some are simply impactful images used to begin and end a film.”