The aims of a film’s opening scene include: introduction to characters; establishing the setting; introducing the plotline; building suspense and achieving dramatic impact. I think that the most important element in the opening of a film is how well the director builds suspense and creates a dramatic impact, because these are the factors that will retain the audience’s interest. I believe that the Lean version develops suspense well and this is achieved because there is an eerie delay before the audience meets Magwitch.
The suspense is heightened by sound effects of trees creaking and the wind whistling along with shots that demonstrate Pip’s anxiety through close-ups of the actor’s facial features. Undeniably the shots and overall look of the film are crucial components of an effective opening. Moreover, I feel that the artistry in Lean’s film is superior because there are numerous wide shots of vivid landscapes with bold horizontal lines which will have a dramatic effect on the audience. I feel that the music which accompanied the title credits in the Lean version is very effective because it creates a joyful and light atmosphere.
This ambience directly and sharply contrasts with what the audience feels when Pip is in the graveyard. This distinction creates tension because of how fast the transition is. There is no more music after the opening credits and this makes the sudden change so much more evident and disturbing for the audience. The effect is that the audience’s focus is kept directly on what is happening and I feel that the absence of music is a very appropriate and effective way to do this. The later version of the film used soft music at the beginning which gives the scene an eerie feel.
This is also an effective use of music because it makes the audience feel uncomfortable as they watch because they get the impression that something is about to interrupt. In the later version a drum is also used when Pip is being chased by Magwitch. This could be interpreted as Magwitch’s footsteps as he chases Pip or the heartbeat of Magwitch or Pip. The loud drum beats make the audience anxious. There are also high notes played when the boy is running home and this gives an eerie feel to the images.
It is effective because it continues the atmosphere which has originally been created. It also manages to keep the audience’s attention as they are wondering what has happened and may not be focusing on the screen and the piercing high notes would bring their attention back as well as continuing the mood. Overall however, I believe the earlier version directed by Lean to be more dramatic because not only does the sudden change in sounds capture the audience’s attention, but the music used can create an idea in the audience’s mind that the story will be joyful.
The transition heightens the emotion and connection the audience feels because their perspective of the film has been changed so dramatically and quickly. Lean’s version of the film uses a lot of dialogue and this allows for some subtlety of characterisation. The dialogue lets the audience learn about the character’s and as the audience knows more about the characters they become more engrossed in the plot. The later version of the film uses only one bit of speech when they have Pip say “Mummy”. Although it is a striking and poignant moment it does not allow any depth to be added to the characters.