By Isabella (UK)
The props, lighting and camera angles create new and impacting frames within Skyfall that produce motive. For example during the end of the narrative when Bond returns to his home to combat Silva, the machine gun is a focus point, this immediately symbolises violence and danger. The gun connotes that much action is to come followed by possible deaths. The placement of Bond is back against the wall with his gun ready connotes that he is in a defense position, meaning that Silva is the attacker and will most likely have the advantage.
The lighting is one of the center focuses within this mise-en scene. The silhouette effect upon Bond and his gun against the lighter yellow toned background creates a striking visual to the audience. It creates a bold outline of Bond and his weapon whilst making the rest of the background appear chaotic with the low lighting and yellow filter, which signifies the situation that he is within producing a dramatic scene. The house does not come across inviting, no homely feels but instead a war zone. Although it was already aged and run down this scene takes away any childhood nostalgia and innocence, instead it has become a battleground. Along with the lighting the house has been made to feel uncomfortable and dangerous by the set design and props. The background appears foggy and with the yellow filter signifies the approaching fire that symbolises destruction and danger. Items have been moved, fallen over and the floor appears worn and battered which further signifies that the house is no longer a home.
When Silva captured Bond and takes him to a remote location, in one scene the camera angle is one of the first things that the viewer will notice. The over the shoulder shot presents Bond in the foreground and Silva in the background walking towards him. This scene is when Bond is tied up in one of Silva’s ‘lairs’. The audience have to watch Silva slowly walk up to Bond, raising suspense and tension, creating an impacting audience placement within this mise-en scene. Also this appears as a low angle shot making the scale of the building large and dramatic to the audience. This is the first time that Silva has revealed his headquarters, therefore positioning the audience in an uncomfortable and uneasy position will produce a more interesting and effective response from the viewers.
Silva plays an unconventional villain due to light colour schemes and some personality traits. The lighting adds to this unconventionality by the high key lighting and the fact that its natural light. The high key lighting in unconventional within a villain’s ‘lair’. This is because typically villains are symbolised with dark colours and dull lighting, creating a dark and mysterious effect upon the character. However Silva has dynamic villain characteristics, which has been amplified in this scene. The high key lighting allows Bond and the viewers to see the whole room which would typically remain a mystery to the hero character. Instead this connotes that Silva is confident, unafraid of Bond seeing the surroundings and knowing where the base is. The main source of light comes from the natural light from the large windows. This is another unconventional factor because when presenting the villains ‘lair’ a pathetic fallacy is usually created, making the scenery dark, at night and eerie. Although it is daytime, in a sunny location producing an interesting approach to the character Silva. This mise-en scene provides the audience with much information about Silva in a way that makes him more interesting and engages the viewers to wait and see what else is revealed about him.
Finally the props add the this successful mise-en scene set up. The primary props that Sam Mendes wanted the viewers to focus on is the computers and bare bone servers. The computers symbolise the modern day villain, instead of a room full of weapons, a room full of computers and servers can be just as dangerous when used correctly. The amount of servers signifies that he has knowledge on the digital world, which can cause much chaos and destruction. The large scale of equipment connotes that he has large projects that require much machinery, providing a threatening representation upon Silva. The many wires and bare bone visuals creates a chaotic, technical appearance and presents Silva as a ‘mad scientist’ representation.
The transition from M being Olivia Mansfield to the new M revealed at the end of the narrative has been significantly emphasised within the final scene when Bond enters the office to speak to the new M. The previous office decorated by the original female M was modern, spacious and contained much natural light from large windows. However this new design from the new male M creates a binary opposite, presenting an old traditional style room. The curtains, chairs, desks and small props such as the lamp all have dark tones, mainly browns almost like a typical crime noir style film. The set design of the room appears wealthy, formal and sophisticated. This symbolises that the franchise has a new beginning, starting with the new MI6 leader signified through the visuals within the scene. The low key lighting also adds to its design and further symbolises that this new M will take a different direction from the previous one.
Another important element within the way this mise-en scene has been constructed is the positioning of the characters. A wide angle side shot of the two characters are stood up facing one another, creating a sense of formality and authority. The desk divides the two immediately outlining that these two characters are not at equal levels. With M being replaced this new arrival had to make a bold and dominant presence to the audience and Bond, therefore this placement has been successful. M is stood at the top of the desk and Bond is at the bottom slightly further away, not signaled that he can sit at the current time. This positioned M as the higher authority over bond, creating a dominant character, and reminds Bond and the audience that they are not close to being equal which this dominance was lost between Bond and the previous M.
Vladimir Propp created the theory that every narrative had the same components. One being that in every narrative the same specific characters can be found, which is evident in Skyfall. The main character types that conform to Propp’s theory is the villain, hero, donor, helper and dispatcher, all producing a diverse and dynamic narrative with interesting characters and conventionality to its action based genre.
Silva is the main antagonist within the film. This has been made very clear by the use of conventional villainous characteristics that he presents, ensuring that there is no confusion for the audience. Some elements that symbolise a villain character is that he threatens lives of innocent people. He is the cause of the MI6 headquarters exploding and many more deaths. He threatens M just before the building blows up whilst she is in her car with other high authoritative figures. This makes him appear as a dominant character who is a threat to the MI6 and the population, especially as he is aware of who is in the care, has knowledge upon personal details and hacks into M’s computer which they are unable to get in control of. It becomes apparent that he has an ‘evil plot’ against M that also endangers everyone else conforming to a villain character type.
He has a secret lair where he holds Bond, and does not have a good relationship with Bond which is expected between a villain and hero. Some traditional characteristics that over time have become less common, such as the villain having a foreign accent, troubled past and disfigurement has been applied to Silva’s character making him a very stereotypical villain. For example it becomes known that Silva swallowed acid in the past which disfigured his jaw which he then got repaired all due to not being rescued by the MI6 when he was captured during his time working for them, resulting in a motive to hurt M. These traits make him a typical villain but has not become a boring, predictable character, instead Sam Mendes has managed to use conventional villain character traits, especially for a James Bond film but still delivered a unique and interesting character to watch.
James Bond plays the hero, this will already be known to audiences due to their foreknowledge of the previous films, but to viewers who are new to the franchise his character type will still be clear due to the conventions that his character conforms to. Bond presents a strong, brave male character that fights against the villain in the film. No matter the danger he continues to try to stop Silva. James Bond has been known to be a subject to the female gaze and an inspirational character to men due to his physical fitness and sophisticated characteristic.
The hero typically saves a damsel in distress, during the narrative Silva captures a woman where he places a glass of alcohol on her head and makes Bond shoot the glass. The hero would normally be able to save the damsel whilst appearing strong and threatening towards the villain, however during this scene Bond fails to shoot the glass connoting that he is weaker than he used to be and Silva appears more superior over Bond. Silva then shoots the woman, creating a negative representation upon Bonds heroic character and produces an enigma to whether he can continue being a hero. James Bond manages to escape from his death in this scene and the theme tune is played, signifying that he is back in control however the unconventional approaches to his character creates an interesting narrative. Finally at the end of the narrative Bond manages to defeat the villain, restoring the viewers doubts on his capabilities. Skyfall introduces a new chapter to the franchise, introducing new characters and presenting old characters in different ways. Bond still plays the hero however in a more realistic way. He is not invincible, which has been shown to the audience resulting in a dramatic and suspenseful narrative.
M plays the dispatcher character role within all James Bond films, providing everyone with a task, including James Bond. In each film she gives Bond a mission that he must carry out and continues to provide information to aid him in completing his mission. The dispatcher often presents an authority figure or guardian to the hero, this is evident in Skyfall as M is his boss and also treats him like a son. She has a motherly relationship with Bond, caring for him more than what is professional in her job role. When Bond shows that he is failing the physical tests and fails the overall test to prove that he is capable of returning to field work M does not inform him or anyone else in order to protect him, signifying her relationship with Bond. There is one factor that subverts typical representations of a dispatcher character. This is gender because a dispatcher is often a male, however M is a strong female character.
Another important character that should appear in the narrative is the donor. This is someone who aids the hero, providing him with equipment that will help him in his quest. In James Bond Q takes on this role and in Skyfall this continues to be the same although with a new character who takes over the previous Q. This character gives Bond his weapons and gadgets that he will need in order to defeat Silva. If Bond needs help Q will provide a solution and any technical help. Traditionally the donor would normally give the hero physical weapons but in Skyfall the statement of a new generation and age is heavily emphasised, which includes the way in which the donor is presented. Along with guns Q also has a high knowledge in anything digital, aiding Bond through modern technology that symbolises the transformation between the new and the old.
Finally the Helper is presented in Skyfall, although not through the entire film. At the beginning of the narrative Eve is introduced assisting Bond in a field mission to capture someone. She lets Bond take the main dominant role but still aids him, providing backup and when he is fighting the villain on top of the train she is ready to take the shot in order to help Bond. Eve does subvert some conventions of a helper character, for example the helper is normally a male but eve is a strong female character instead. Also she does not continue to help him throughout the narrative, she presents weakness which makes her change her career choice, making Bond a solo spy through the narrative. She also fails in helping the hero by hesitating when taking the shot resulting in her shooting Bond. This nearly killed him which is unsuspected of someone who plays the helper. She tried to assist him but is unsuccessful making her a bad representation of a helper character.
The James Bond franchise focuses heavily on its technical elements through each film. Deliberate camera techniques, such as camera angles can change the way in which the audiences interpret the situation. For example during one of the end scenes ‘M’ has a fatal injury, resulting in her death and end of her character within the franchise. During her dying scene a high angle shot is presented whilst being held in Bond’s arms. The high angle immediately makes her appear at her most vulnerable, a binary opposition between this representation and her typical strong masculine approach. The audience positioned from Bond’s point of view, looking down upon her, creating a juxtaposition between Bond’s strength and hers. The technical codes create symbolism and with this angle ‘M’ can be identified with a childlike position. Young children are weak and vulnerable, held in the guardian’s arms for protection, this links with the positioning of the two characters, further emphasised by her worried and helpless facial expression.
The opening scene begins with screaming civilians with a mid-camera shot close to the running crowd. This creates confusion and signifies the chaos within the current scene. Fast transitions are used to signify action and the high speed chase that occurs. It creates a tense and dramatic effect which suits the chaotic action events. Low angles of car tires whilst they speed past the camera, accompanied with loud engine audio emphasises the car chase and action within the scene. Wide angle shots of the environment whilst panning provides the audience with a perspective of the high speed chase within the town and an insight of the location that this scene is currently taking place within. Tracking shots are also used, following behind the vehicles which signifies the intense speed and positions the audience in Bonds perspective creating suspense and appeal. Close up shots have been used, presenting Bond and Eve’s facial expressions. This signifies the seriousness and concentration that they are feeling allowing the viewers to connect with the characters and understand the intensity of the scene.
A Variety of the crowds point of view perspectives have been filmed. This positions the audience in the crowds, as though they are a part of the scene and chaos. It creates an impacting effect, making the viewers feel how the public would feel during this time as the vehicles speed past them on sidewalks. Other point of view shots have been taken such as whilst Eve is driving, the camera is positioned in her seat, as though the audience was now Eve. This presents a different atmosphere to the crowds view. Instead the audience are positioned in control but still among chaos, with crashing cars that Eve must dodge. This signifies the tense atmosphere and provides and insight to her perspective upon the situation.
During the end of the narrative Bond is featured standing on a rooftop in London. The camera pans around the city, representing the British nationality and home for Bond. Each film features exotic and luxurious locations but every film still reminds the audience where Bond belongs and the country he protects. The frame shows a high angle of the city with Bond looking down upon it. This signifies that he is the watcher and protector of Britain. This is an iconic image and represents the nationality of Bond. James Bond appears superior and remains the best spy character to have been created, engrossing millions of people worldwide. This is followed by the iconic theme tune that is a symbol of the franchise, further reminding the audience the national origins of the films.
Levi Strauss produced the theory that within a narrative there will be evident binary oppositions between characters and atmospheres, often with particular characters such as the hero and villain, followed by visual contrasts such as dark and light. A vast range of binary oppositions have been created in Skyfall, challenging the traditional James Bond film conceptions. The main characters themselves have created a contrast between how they are represented in Skyfall compared to the previous Bond films. However the largest binary opposition is between James Bond and Silva.
Firstly the character roles contrast one another, the hero vs villain concept is the most conventional archetype within narratives, especially action genre films. James Bond works under MI6 to help civilians whilst Silva works against them in order to take revenge. Bond and Silva both work/worked for M, but the outcome of both spy’s are largely different. Bond is referred to as the successful ‘son’ whilst Silva is the bad ‘son’ who seeks revenge on M.
Along with characteristics and representation, the appearance of both characters have been made to contrast one another significantly. Both are wearing suits but with opposite colours, Silva has a light suit coat with a dark shirt whilst Bond has the opposite colour arrangement. This symbolises that the two characters are on opposite sides. Bond is captured and Silva is in control whilst on other scenes Silva is the one captured, signifying the fight of dominance and control. Binary oppositions are a convention between the hero and villain typically featured in action genres, however in Skyfall the differences create an interesting and impacting narrative. The different personalities combines with some similar situations between both characters creating a dynamic narrative structure that engages the viewers.
The structure of the narrative has also been produced in an interesting and captivating way by the use of enigma codes, first theorised by Roland Barthes. Enigmas appeared at the beginning of the narrative through to the end. The first being the start of the film, a high speed car chase was presented featuring Bond and Eve. Enigmas were produced upon who Bond was chasing, Eve was unknown to the audience at the time and what is the current situation. This captures the audience’s attention from the start, making the film appear exciting and connoting that much more action is to come.
An impacting enigma code occurred when Bond was shot and fell into the water, leaving the audience uncertain to his future. This was followed by the opening credits, creating an exciting and tense introduction to the narrative anchoring the viewers into watching the rest of the film. This then creates a positive audience reading upon Skyfall.
Skyfall and all the other previous James Bond productions are one of the most renowned action genre films. Throughout the narrative many action codes and conventions can be seen.
The open scene of the narrative has been successfully produced, it immediately informs the viewers that there will be much action within the film. A car chase is presented with fast transitions, intensifying the high speed chase. A low camera angle is presented which then features cars drive past, this emphasises the speed of the chase which adds to the intense action based opening. The fans of the James Bond franchise will have a dominant preferred reading upon this opening scene. It signifies that this latest Bond film will be just as good or better than the previous ones, creating high expectations.
After the car chase the narrative continues to follow Bond in the pursuit to capture the other characters that is regarded as the villain by the audience due to the foreknowledge of Bond always being the protagonist within the narrative within the previous films. The chase then leads to a train scene, where Bond chases the villain down the train and eventually to the roof. A fight scene takes place further adding to the action codes. The new female character Eve is told by ‘M’ to “take the shot” at the antagonist, her hesitation produces suspense and then when Bond falls off the train into the river the enigmas are raised to Bonds outcome. This scene is one of the most impacting because the opening signifies the typical Bond film but then takes a new approach to the uncertainty to Bonds future, this anchors the audience into watching the rest of the narrative, producing much audience appeal.
The film also follows the genre convention of action by the use of guns and explosions. Guns are presented regularly through the narrative, symbolising violence and danger. The use of explosions adds to the intensity of the situations, such as the MI6 headquarters exploding. The CGI presented a high quality effect that added to the overall success of the film and the intense elements within it.
The narrative does not conform to Todorov’s Equilibrium narrative theory. This is because the theory suggests that films begin with an introduction to the characters then a problem occurs which is resolved at the end, however Skyfall begins with the problem, which is the chase scene featuring Bond and an antagonist. The audience is expected to have prior knowledge to the James Bond franchise, therefore it is not necessary for the film to introduce James Bond, instead an action scene builds immediate tension that creates high expectations for the rest of the narrative, creating audience appeal with the thrill seekers.
The end of the opening scene leaves the audience confused to what will happen to Bond after his fall into the water. The intro credits and Skyfall song leave the scene as an enigma creating anticipation. When Bond is captured by the main antagonist Silva, a climax is reached to how Bond will escape. He is held at gunpoint and to the audience is seems impossible to escape. However the arrival of the helicopter and James Bond theme song takes a new turn on events adding to the climatic situation.
Finally the end scene featuring Bond and Silva in their last battle is the last and largest climax. Typical characters that have been featured throughout the Bond films have become an expectation to survive and be in the next film. Although a twist occurs with the death of ‘M’ this builds the largest climax with the fans of James Bond, who have become familiar and attached to the characters. This climax has affected the future of the James Bond films.
Silva presents a variety of representations that are shown through technical codes and conventions. He has a dominant and strong presence through the narrative which is shown by the way in which he first becomes known to the MI6. He blows up the headquarters, for a first move this is a bold statement, emphasising that he is a large threat to them. He also takes over any computers and other digital machinery which no one is able to stop, even the most capable of technicians. This connotes that he has a vast knowledge in many areas from physical weapons to digital equipment that can be equally dangerous and disrupting.
Silva further conforms to the villainous conventions throughout Skyfall including the scene where he is captured by MI6. He is held in a glass cell which is a higher level than everyone else. When M visits him a low angle shot is presented which makes Silva appear at a much higher level than M, appearing empowering over her and the audience. This positions the audience as helpless to Silva, even though he is captured by a highly skilled government force this low camera angle foreshadows that he is still in control and further through the narrative the audience discovers that Silva planned to be captured. Making the MI6 appear weak, as though they are his pawns in his chess like game where he is the king.
Near the end of the narrative when Bond has retreated to his old home with M, Silva enters in a helicopter symbolising that he’s in control, and has the weapons and power to defeat Bond. He is looking down on bond, signifying the danger that he presents to James Bond and M. For the first time in all James Bond films he appears weak and as though there is not much hope, Silva has been the toughest villain he faces. This creates a positive audience reading due to the excitement Silva creates upon his intelligent and interesting characteristics that has added to the overall success of Skyfall.
He has also subverted some villain stereotypes in Skyfall. Conventionally villains are represented as dark, mysterious characters who appear in dark clothing with dark features, however he is presented in in a light coloured coat and has fair facial features. Villains typically are not shown to make them appear mysterious and low lighting is cast over them adding to the dark atmospheric symbolism, but when Silva is shown high key lighting is used and he contains a confident ‘flamboyant’ personality which makes him a dynamic villain, producing a new representation of a villain character which may be considered more realistic to the modern society with the way in which people and social views have changed.
When women are presented in films they are often portrayed as weak characters who are a subject of the male gaze, further explained by Laura Mulvey who created the theory of the male gaze upon women. However M has a different gender representation that produces more realistic and healthy gender presentation. She wears suits that create a masculine appearance accompanied with a strong stride and confident attitude. She has never been sexualised nor submissive to male characters. M has control over many members in the MI6, including Bond who treats her with respect and not like the typical weaker females that he seduces. At the beginning of the narrative M immediately was introduced commanding Bond and Eve, asserting her dominance. When Silva first began to attack the MI6 and herself she did not show weakness or submission. This creates a positive representation upon women.
Through the narrative M’s representation began to change as Silva became more of a threat. It began to come apparent to the audience that she is not as strong as she appeared or used to be in the previous films. She complained through the narrative that she is too old and tired for her job, especially to be involved as deeply with the villain as she was with Silva. Then when Silva escapes she becomes vulnerable with Bond defending her. This positions her in a damsel in distress character role instead of the dispatcher and leader. She is unable to protect herself and needs to be saved by Bond, this is signified in the final battle scene. Bond stays to fight Silva whilst M escapes signifying that she has lost all control. Finally even though Bond defeated Silva she is still injured and is too weak to survive, leaving M with a unconventional representation for a James Bond film.
M has been represented as a mother figure in Skyfall. Silva continuously calls her “Mommy” throughout the narrative and he identifies Bond as her replacement son. Silva and Bond are often presented face to face with opposite coloured suits, creating a binary opposition between these two characters and symbolises the good and bad son representation. Bond is always at her aid even when risking his life, whilst Siva continues to try to hurt M for leaving him captured and tortured as though he had been abandoned by his mother.
James Bond has conformed to a hegemonic male action character stereotype through the franchise which has been continued in Skyfall. He remains in his designer suits, creating a sophisticated representation, along with his confident attitude and strong physical appearance making him a subject to the female gaze and idol to the male audience. In the final battle scene Bond is outnumbered with no weapons but manages to be a challenge and defeats Silva, featuring many action scenes that signify his capabilities and masculine representation. The last scene presents Bond on a rooftop with the British flag and London City behind him. This wide angle shot symbolises that he is the watcher over Britain and the high angle makes the City appear smaller and below Bond as he looks down at it, symbolising power and a superiority. This ends the film with a positive representation of Bond and a dominant.
Although James Bond has been featured as a strong hegemonic character which is still represented through Skyfall, there is another binary opposite representation of him within the narrative. During the beginning and end of the narrative his conventional Bond representation is shown but during the middle of the film presents a different view upon Bond, challenging the typical conceptions upon male action characters. Skyfall has created a realistic appearance upon the usual characters that are normally presented in the films, emphasising the changing of the world and the old are being replaced with the new. The MI6 are reaching a new age with new generations and technology, with its new ways in which people are viewed in society and the media. All these elements have been represented within Skyfall and some through Bond.
The older generation is seen to struggle with the new transition, slowing down and approaching the time to step down. Bond is one main character that shows his struggle with the new change, at the beginning of the narrative Eve shoots him accidentally and falls into water. A low angle shot underwater with bond above is presented, creating the first presentation of Bonds weakness and not untouchable unlike the other films. The water symbolises rebirth with added atmosphere brought from the theme song during this scene. Even though it is expected that Bond will survive the viewers are uncertain to how he will come through and if he will be changed.
When Bond returns to the MI6 he has to go through training sessions, ensuring that he is still capable of field missions. Close up shots of Bond aiming whilst his hand is shaking creates a weak representation upon his character. When he is captured by Silva another close up shot of his hand shaking whilst aiming is featured, further signifying that he is not capable anymore and his time may be over as the greatest spy. He then fails to shoot the glass above the woman’s head resulting in Silva shooting her. As a hero it is conventional for the character to save the damsel in distress, a typical scene within the James Bond films.
However Bond fails to save her, questioning his hero role and presenting Silva as the powerful character. He does not appear clean shaven and smart as he usually does within the films. Instead his suit is worn and his face appears more aged than normally presented, with facial close ups that emphasise his age and that he is no longer the invincible spy. A less confident and vulnerable side is shown, but this produces a realistic representation upon the character. He can get hurt like other people and still has struggles, but at the end of the film manages to regain his confidence to defeat Silva and stay as a field agent. This produces a positive representation upon the character from the audience. With his realistic presentation he is more relatable to the viewers.
Rating: 5/5BEST QUOTES