Dead Poet’s Society Essay
For my media coursework I am going to study the scene in ‘Dead Poets Society’ were Neil Perry commits suicide.
I will examine the media techniques used in this scene and how they affect the audience. I will discuss how the director uses different shot types, camera angles, camera movements, sound and lighting to create the atmosphere and suspense of the scene.The story of ‘Dead Poets Society’ is set in an American prep school called Welton High. The main characters are Neil Perry, Todd Anderson and Mr.Keating.
Neil is a talented student and is well respected by his friends, he shares a room with Todd. Todd has an older bother that used to attend Welton. Todd feels he has to match his brother’s high achievements. Neil and Todd are thought by Mr.
Keating. Keating encourages the students to think for themselves, he also used to be a member of the Dead Poets Society.When Neil is contemplating committing suicide the lighting and camera movements are vital throughout. If the type of shots and sounds were the same all the time, there would be no drama or suspense. Even though normal shots are used, the director has done an excellent job of making them as dramatic as possible.The beginning of the scene starts with Neil and his father entering a room.
A table lamp lights the room, this is called ‘realist lighting’. Whilst the actors are inside the room, wind can be heard blowing around outside. This is known as an ‘ambient sound’. The director uses practical lighting and background sounds to create a calm but uneasy mood during this part of the scene.When Neil and his father are arguing the camera is pointing on whoever is speaking.
The camera points up at Neil’s father, it points down at Neil. The director uses the low and high angle shots to show that Neil’s father is the dominant character. But when Neil stands up to his father the camera is behind him, showing, perhaps, that he is willing to stand up to his father because he really wants to be an actor.Further on in the argument the camera sweeps across the room in a pan angle movement. In this shot we can see all the characters at the same time.
Neil’s mother can be seen in the middle, because she doesn’t know whose side to take or what to say.After the argument is over and Neil goes to bed there is a close up on his fathers slippers. The sounds in the room are emphasised, like the lamp switch and the rustling of the bed sheets. This gives a feeling of complete silence. The lighting is soft and realist. Even though the scene is relaxed one the audience is in suspense because we don’t know what is going to happen next.
When the camera cuts to Neil’s room there is a big close-up on his, neatly folded, pyjamas. This symbolises his father’s strictness and that he has the final say in what Neil does.As Neil prepares to commit suicide an eerie music is played, sounds are still heard. This shows that it is still silent in the house. The music is known as a non-diegetic sound.
Expressive lighting is used to make the scene more dramatic, this is done using a blue light. The light is soft and easy to watch, it also adds a spooky feeling to the scene.When Neil puts his crown of thorns on his head he goes to the window. This is very symbolic and it makes the suicide seem ritual.
The shot of Neil with the ‘Crown of Thorns’ on his head remind us of how the ‘Crown of Thorns’ was placed on Jesus’s head by the Romans to indicate that he was an ‘impostor’ king. When Neil opens the window the sound is, once again, emphasised. We are constantly reminded that the house is “deadly” silent. With the blue light and the eerie music this part of the scene is very dramatic and surreal.When Neil makes his way down the stairs the camera is at a high angle behind his as he walks down the stairs. As Neil continues down the stairs the camera doesn’t follow him.
This makes Neil seem ghostly and it looks like a shadow is lurking towards the study; this might symbolise death itself. The music starts to get louder and no other sounds can be heard, making Neil seem even more ghostly because his footsteps can’t be heard on the stairs. When Neil enters the study the camera focuses on certain objects, again. As Neil unwraps the gun the music becomes even louder.
This creates a very intense atmosphere and as Neil sits at the table it becomes even louder. The moonlight shines in on Neil and the dominant music plays, this creates a powerful image and the camera makes it even more effective as it zooms out, leaving Neil for the last time.The camera jumps back to Neil’s father. He jumps up out of his sleep, almost zombie like because his sits straight up. This happens just after his son shoots his self. The camera is fixed on one shot and Mr Perry sits up into it.
The audience never hears, or sees, Neil kill him self and we are left in suspense until the last minute. We then hear a heartbeat, maybe Neil’s last. Once again sounds are emphasised, like the opening of doors and light switches.When Neil’s father makes his way down the stairs everything is the exact opposite to how Neil walked down them. There is no eerie music, just the sound of footsteps and the cries of Neil’s mother. The camera is at the bottom of the stairs at a low angle looking up at Neil’s father.
The director might have done this to show the actions of Neil and his father are the difference between surreal and reality. Meaning that Neil’s actions are ghostly and his fathers are very real, e.g. loud as apposed to silent and soft.
When Neil’s father finally enters the study the camera pans across the room at eye level as if it was through Neil’s fathers eyes. It then switches to a close up on Mr Perry’s eyes as he spots the gun. This allows the audience to see his reaction fully. The camera goes to Neil’s father’s vision again and dramatic music is added. Mr Perry dives towards Neil in slow motion, his scream is also slowed down.
This gives a dramatic impact on the audience, it’s almost as if time has stood still. It also lets the pain that Neil’s father is feeling be seen.When the door is opened the camera goes back to normal and the dramatic music stops. All that can be heard is Neil’s parents crying.
The scene ands on a very dramatic and tragic note.This scene is one of the main events in the film. If the techniques that were used weren’t there then it wouldn’t have the effect it had on the audience. The director has done an excellent job on making a very effective scene. Using certain camera angles, music and lighting creates a powerful image and adds to the suspense of the storyline.