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The Green Mile Scene Analysis 1 - Coffey's Entrance Ppt Notes

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Autor:   •  June 2, 2018  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,812 Words (8 Pages)  •  58 Views

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The Green Mile Scene Analysis 1 - Coffey's Entrance PPT Notes

Notes [approx. 10.13-18.17 of film]

Scene Summary:

This scene serves as introduction to most of the main characters and, as such, we immediately get to know each man and their varying personality traits. The action centres on the execution wing of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary as the prison guards anxiously wait for the arrival of a new detainee, John Coffey, who has supposedly committed the heinous crime of murdering two young girls. By the end of the scene the audience is left slightly bemused by the paradoxical nature of this interesting character.  

Technical Aspects and Analysis:

  • The scene begins with an extreme close up of a man’s hand unlocking a prison door. This symbolically could represent the notions of captivity and loss of freedom. Keys and locks also represent mystery. Obviously John Coffey’s character is one of ambiguity and Paul and the other guards are about to embark on a journey where they unlock the truth about his puzzling background.  
  • A low angle long shot then shows what this section of the prison looks like. The low angle allows the audience to focus not only on the cells, but also the floor (which the cell blocks are named after). The paradox is immediately evident as green is usually the colour of fertility and life, yet this section of the prison destroys life.
  • As Dean and Brutus prepare for the new prisoner the sounds heard are mainly diegetic and harsh – cell doors slamming, footsteps and the high pitched noise of the phone ringing. These sounds emphasise the harsh existence of prison life.
  • We then see a point of view shot from Brutus’ perspective of the truck pulling up with the prisoner. Again the emphasis is on gates, fences and barriers. Also deep focus is used to highlight the bars on the windows which suggest that prison life will be difficult for the men incarcerated.
  • Paul’s face is then seen in a close up shot as he goes t the toilet and is in excruciating pain. This lets the audience know that he has an illness. A short time later Brutus knocks on the toilet door; the look on Brutus’ face suggests that Paul’s illness is not serious and presents a slightly light hearted tone.
  •  A series of medium and close up shots are then shown as Brutus and Paul discuss the illness. Their level of language (Brutus says, ‘You shoulda take the day off’) and the close proximity in which they stand suggests that they are good friends.
  • Brutus again peers out the window and sees the truck in a long shot from a closer perspective. He states, ‘Damn it’s riding on its axel’ which suggests that someone large is in the back of the truck weighing it down. The mis en scene of the bars also acts as a blocking technique alluding to the detainment of prisoners and the lack of freedom of the characters.
  • Then the camera stays low with an extreme close up of the prisoner’s feet focusing also on the axel of the tires as the large, shackled man steps from the truck to the dirt, making the entire truck bounce as he exits.
  • We quickly see a close up reaction shot of Brutus’ face as he looks on shocked at what he has seen. Now we have an idea of what physical trait of the prisoner’s is most important: his size.
  • The director wants to build this moment up focusing on the size of John Coffey so he only gives us glimpses of the character. This begins as he is walked into the Green Mile and again an extreme close up shot can be seen of his feet which are shackled. We realise also that he is African American from his skin colour tone. Non Diegetic music can be heard in the background which is quite slow in pace. The music is acoustic and comes from a particular instrument – the banjo. Banjoes are an allusion to people from the Deep South of the United States as it is a common instrument they play. It has references to being uncivilized and ‘backward’ [note how much this instrument can be heard when Wild Bill enters in later scenes]. Given that the music is very slow, it presents a curious tone rather than one of fear.
  • Our first introduction to Percy is a medium shot of him yelling ‘Dead man walking’. His first words are very negative and the shot allows us to see his face which has a scowl on it. The director immediately positions us to feel antagonism towards this character. This shot also gives us another glimpse of the prisoner over Percy’s shoulder. He is huge compared to Percy who doesn’t even reach his torso. The shot also shows the prisoner’s arms which are covered in scars and is an allusion to slavery – suggesting that this is a very racist time in America’s history.
  • As Percy continues to yell ‘Dead Man Walking’ repeatedly and enters the Mile, close up shots of the other characters show that they are annoyed by him.
  • This is followed by a series of low angle shots showing multiple characters as they look up at the prisoner as he enters. Paul has previously made several comments about Brutus’ size such as ‘… he can’t be bigger than you’, but as the prisoner walks passed Brutus the medium shot allows the audience to see the massive difference in height between the characters.  
  • The camera then cuts to several close up reaction shots of both the guards and the other prisoners as the John Coffey walks passed them. The lighting shows the shadow of Coffey as he seemingly blocks out light with his big frame.
  • As yet the prisoner’s face has not been seen and the tension has been built to a climactic point as Paul is about to meet the guard. As the prisoner is brought towards Paul the Camera zooms in on Paul’s face which shows concern and trepidation – he doesn’t know what to expect from the prisoner.
  • When the prisoner stops to talk to Paul we are given a final reminder of his size and strength with a point of view shot from Paul’s perspective seeing Brutus’ face looking in awe at the Prisoner’s enormous arms.
  • Paul’s first words as he looks up at the prisoner are, ‘Am I gonna have any trouble with you big boy?’. When the prisoner doesn’t immediately respond, Paul asks, ‘Can ya talk?’ and with this there is a pause from the prisoner as the camera pans from his torso to the first glimpse of his face. Because the scene has focused so much on the prisoner’s size we are expecting his face to be quite formidable. Instead, when we finally see it, we are greeted with a close up from another low angle of his face full of fear and anxiety. His words match his facial body language as he responds in a child like tone, ‘Yes Sir Boss. I can talk.’
  • As an audience we are surprised by Coffey’s tone and demeanour. To reinforce this juxtaposition we again reminded of his size with a medium shot of him compared to the other characters as he about to enter his cell. Percy’s cruel nature is then shown as he hits Coffey with his baton in the chest to move him into the cell. This leads to a series of close up shots cut between Paul and Percy as Paul tells Percy to leave for his inappropriate actions. As such we are made fully aware that Paul and the other characters do not like Percy and there is animosity between them.
  • Percy is embarrassed by this and his humiliation is not helped by another prisoner (Del) who sniggers at him in a close up shot. We are then privy to Percy’s true nature as a medium shot shows him cruelly slamming his baton into Del’s fingers breaking them as punishment for him laughing. The diegetic sound of the baton hitting the fingers reinforces the pain felt by Del at this point. One of the central themes of The Green Mile is crime and punishment. Given that Percy is willing to hand out such a barbaric form of punishment for the trivial act of being laughed at suggests that justice can sometimes be a paradoxical notion. This also foreshadows the falsity of John Coffey’s accusatory crimes and hints that true justice is not always metered out correctly.
  • Once Percy leaves the camera cuts back to an over the shoulder shot of Paul in the cell with Coffey. Several close up are shown as Paul converses with Coffey and we soon learn that John Coffey is certainly not what he seems. Not only does he tremble in fear, but he is also illiterate as he tries to spell out his name (which are the only words he can spell). Coffey’s final words in the scene are childlike and innocent as he states, ‘Do you leave a light on after bedtime? Because I get a little scared in the dark sometimes. If it's a strange place.’ This causes a bemused reaction from the guards who look puzzled at each other but it also foreshadows John’s words later in the film when he is about to be executed and says, ‘Please boss, don't put that thing (the hood) over my face, don't put me in the dark. I's afraid of the dark.’
  • Another central theme of the film is to not judge people by their appearances. This is reinforced in the final shots of the film when Coffey holds out his hand to shake Paul’s. This is another climatic point in the scene and slow non-diegetic music is used as the audience wonders if Paul will respond to Coffey’s gesture. The medium shot shows dark, chiaroscuro lighting suggesting a sense of trepidation on Paul’s behalf. However an extreme close up shows Paul hand clasped in John’s and thus an initial bond has been created between the characters. Again this shot foreshadows the moment later in the film when Paul will hold Coffey’s hand to see who truly murdered the two little girls.
  • The final shots in the scene are two zooming close ups which alternate between Paul’s face and John’s as Coffey states, ‘I couldn’t help it boss, I tried to take it back but it was too late’. These words create mystery and wonder and their true meaning will have important significance later in the film. When Coffey states this, Paul’s face is shown framed by the prison bars suggesting that like John Coffey, Paul too will be made prisoner, when the truth of the story unfolds.

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