Continuous media analysis - Sample Essay

Write a continuous media analysis of the opening of Apocalypse Now, explaining the ways in which media language is used to present character, theme, genre, plot and representations. The opening sequence in ‘Apocalypse Now 1’ shows many different aspects of media language. The whole scene contains moving images and sounds which work together with one another to give the audience an overall jist of the entire film. The mise-en-scene in the opening shot in ‘Apocalypse Now 2’ is of a Vietnamese forest. The scene shows the forest with a clear blue sky.

During the wide shot of the woodland, dark, ominous smoke rises upwards. Before any scenery is shown on the film, music of a blues genre and is non-diegetic can be heard and this suddenly becomes very loud when the camera is focusing on the evergreen trees. There is a sound of helicopter blades in slow motion that grows louder until we see the helicopter cross the screen from left to right. The combination of the flames and the sound of the helicopters, gives the audience a foreboding sense of danger.

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Single helicopters then fly across the scene and almost immediately after seeing the smoke and the helicopters, the forest bursts into flames and then there is a slow pan from the right to the left showing the audience the damage which has been caused. As soon as the forest erupts into flames, the words to the music begin. The words are well-suited to the mise-en-scene because the words sing; “This is the end. ” The lyrics to the song correspond to the forest being set on fire and this connotates to the audience that Vietnam is war-ridden and full of warfare.

As the dialogue is in sync with the film, it also reinforces the genre of the film; war, drama and action. The words are repeated yet again later on in the opening sequence when there are more fires and the audience then can see the full devastation which has been caused. The light throughout this shot is bright with natural light until the flames explode into the screen with dull, musky black flames. A statue of a God fades in on the right and only half of the face can be seen.

This tells the audience that there may be some type of religion portrayed in the film or something hazardous may happen during the film. In addition to the flames start dying down, the statue seems to fade away as well. The camera then focuses on a soldier sleeping in his bed. This is a close-up of his face which then fades out into the background shortly after this you then see a helicopter flying from across from each side of the screen. This provides us a low chopper sound. This, again, gives the audience an apprehension of the difficulty that is yet to come.

The facial expressions on the soldier demonstrate to the audience that he is worried and anxious. He is lying in bed and he seems to give the audience the impression that he is troubled by the activities occurring around him. The audience feel as though what they are observing, are the thoughts that the soldier is experiencing. As the soldier is reclining on his bed, he is looking upwards and experiencing a compilation of thoughts and feelings which the audience then observe. The montage continues and you then see various articles in the vicinity around him.

These include pictures and letters on a table, cigarettes and a lighter, alcohol, and a gun under his pillow. All these items present the audience with the type of person the soldier is and they are displayed on screen by a slow pan from left to right. These objects tell the audience that this man is a soldier, who seeks solace whilst fighting for his country. These props signify to the audience that the soldier is a brave man who feels that he should protect his country. The montage ends with a shot of the ceiling fan spinning but resembling the sound of a helicopter.

This represents the helicopters which are flying around in his dreams. The music carries on throughout this scene and the lyrics finally come to an end when you hear the word; “Look” When this word is heard by the audience, the soldier opens his eyes and begins to stir and the non-diegetic music ceases. As the soldier progresses out of bed, the music has finally stopped and the audience can hear the noise of a busy road outside of his residence. You can see that the soldier is naked and his posture conveys to the audience that he is still tired and drowsy.

The mise-en-scene now is in the soldier’s lodgings and you can clearly see the soldier walk up to his window, move the blinds and then the camera has a point-of-view shot and the audience set their eyes on the road outside his house. The first dialogue from a character in the film is from this solider. The words do not make sense and the audience have to distinguish the meaning his words have; “Shit… Zygone” These words refer to the place where the soldier is based and confirm the audience’s feelings that the soldier does not want to be where he is.

This signifies to the audience that the soldier does not feel involved or concerned with the war he is battling against. To conclude, the opening sequence in “Apocalypse Now 3” uses a combination of different interpretations of media language. The lighting throughout is natural apart from the gloomy, dark smoke which shows the audience that the film will be based outside for most part of the film. The different camera angles portray the film for the genre that it is; a drama with action.

The props in the film reinforce that the motion picture will be full of conflict and battle; the gun, alcohol and letters signify to the audience that confrontation will be intoxicating with elements of excitement. The soundtrack in the opening of “Apocalypse Now 4” is very important to the representation of media language as its blend of visualization and sound combines to give an overall effect. With the use of the dialogue within the song, the audience can be given an interpretation of the entire film through just very brief introduction.

The representation given to the audience about American soldiers in Vietnam are that they are men who are going into combat with little or no wish to be involved and do not desire to be placed where they are. Katie Shepherd


F, Coppola (1979) Apocalypse Now Zoetrope Studios:Vietnam 1 F, Coppola (1979) Apocalypse Now Zoetrope Studios:Vietnam 2 F, Coppola (1979) Apocalypse Now Zoetrope Studios:Vietnam 3 F, Coppola (1979) Apocalypse Now Zoetrope Studios:Vietnam 4 F, Coppola (1979) Apocalypse Now Zoetrope Studios:Vietnam



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