1.11 – Close viewing essay

As humans, we all run a similar course in life. That course always has a beginning an and end. That is the nature of life. However what makes out life’s memorable are the decisions and choices we make throughout and the impact we leave on the people around us. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an intricate film directed by David Fincher which beautifully intertwines emotions and lessons, and allows the viewers to walk away from it thinking about more than just the film at face value. One of the most prominent messages throughout the film is the nature of life. The idea of the nature of life is enhanced through the directors use of various film techniques. These techniques include things such as: voice over narration, sound, camera angles and montage. Each of these techniques are used carefully to communicate the idea to us, and furthermore allow us to understand yet question the beautiful thing that is life.

The things heard while watching a film have an incredible power to change the way we feel. Whether it’s the calming sound of a bird or the thundering bellow of a storm, it can instantly arise emotions and captivate an audience. In the film, David Fincher uses the technique of sound to translate the idea of the nature of life. In the final sequence, a protruding sound used is the storm siren. The sound of the storm siren appears many times throughout the final extract. To me, the siren represents the nature of life, more specifically the end of life. For example, as Benjamin dies and we fade back to reality, the storm sirens begin to blear. These noises take over the scene and cause everyone in the hospital to go into panic. The sirens continue to wail in the background of Daisy saying, “Goodnight Benjamin” as she passes away. At this point, the siren had appeared twice to signify the death of two characters. It represents the blearing reality that life does eventually come to an end. A second noise which is used frequently thought the end scene as well as the movie as a whole, is the ticking of the clock. The clock represents time, the passing of time and how time in continuous. Time always keeps ticking away, just as our lives do. This is an important sound to integrate into the film, as the passing of time seamlessly intertwines with the nature of life. We hear the tock clicking away throughout the scenes, but most obviously during the very last scene. As the viewer is in the storage room and the water is flowing in, we can hear the clock as we slowly zoom in on the clock. In this moment, we are encouraged to think about time and our time does not last forever. The director was trying to portray to the audience in this moment how even though the clock will keep ticking away, our lives eventually do come to an end. To me, the sound of the clock is a apparent reminder of that. Throughout this film, we are clearly reminded of the nature of life through the technique of sound. Whether it’s never-ending tick of a clock or the blearing screech of a siren, the sounds that surround us are constant reminders of the time we have, and the time we have left.

During the film, Voice over Narration and montage were used to narrate most of the story. Benjamin and Daisy both had moments where they narrated the story over top of a montage. The technique of voice over narration was a vital technique used to tell the story that formed the film. One of the most distinct moments of Voice over Narration was during the montage of the end of Benjamins life. As he grew younger, Daisy narrated. She spoke of how he forgot how to do things and inevitably forgot who she was. using montage and Voice over narration together in this moment allows us to understand how Daisy feels during this time. Daisy’s emotions changed in each scene in the montage. The most distinct line she said throughout this narration was, “He looked at me, and I knew that he knew who I was and then he closed his eyes as to go to sleep”. This line was said just before Benjamin passed away. For Benjamin, this was his moment of recognition. Even though he had lived a backwards life he still left the world like everyone else, and in the arms of whom he loved most. This is the idea that the director was trying to portray during the last few scenes before Benjamin died. Voice over narration and Montage were used beautifully and seamlessly in the second to final scene. The montage was made up of shots of all the people who influenced or had an impact on Benjamins life. However ultimately, the people that featured in this montage had passed away. Benjamin took control over the Voice over Narration in a limited form during this montage, he spoke of how “some people are born to..” then mentioning many different things people can do. these things included, “some know shakespeare”, “some know buttons” and some are “mothers”. I believe, this scene is the perfect visual expression of the nature of life. This shows the viewers that no matter what we choose to do with our lives and the decisions we make, we all run the same cycle of life. Whether we are mothers, dancers or artists we are all human. In Benjamins case, he was born to live his life fully and freely despite his circumstances. Through the techniques of Voice over Narration used with Montage, we are reminded of the nature of life and the cycles that our lives run.

The director used the technique of camera techniques in the film effectively to represent the idea of the nature of life. One of the most important aspects of a film is what we can see, and how ideas are portrayed to the viewer. A camera technique that is frequently used is the zoom in then zoom out shot. An obvious place where this technique is used is when Benjamin dies. As Daisy is narrating, the camera zooms in to her holding Benjamin in the rocking chair. There is a moment when we can see in a close up form, Benjamin and Daisy and the emotions on their face. This added a lot of emotion to the moment and allowed us to see exactly how the characters were feeling in this moment. As the audience, we could tell that both characters were experiencing grief as the end of Benjamins life cycle came. Once Benjamin had passed away, the camera then zoomed out back to how it originally was. This is an effective use of a camera technique as it allows us to see visually the end of Benjamins life. It enhances the idea of the nature of life as just like a zoom in shot, the end of our lives are a constant build up to the end. However ultimately, the world will return to normal. The next time we see the zoom in/zoom out shot is when Daisy herself passes away. The camera slowly zooms into her in the hospital bed and is in a close up shot when she said “goodnight Benjamin”. After this is said, it zooms out through the hospital. This zoom out allows us to see the bustling manor of the hospital. To me, this shows how the world will keep moving on once we die. Even though for us our world stops, our story and the people around us lives do not. This moment also clearly links back to the idea of the nature of life because once we die, inevitably the world must move on, no matter the path our lives follow. The effective use of camera techniques throughout the film allowed the viewer to see visually, the idea of the nature of life and what it looks like.

The idea of the nature of life is a hard concept for us to understand. As humans, we cannot fathom the idea of life or death. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a beautiful film which grasps some of the ideas associated with life. Whether it is being born into a life with not so ideal circumstances or living a perfect life, it shows us that at the end of the day we are all the same. In our lives we are born, we live our lives but eventually and inevitably it comes to an end. Techniques such as sound, camera techniques, montage and voice over narration are used flawlessly to show us the idea of the nature of life. Through watching Benjamin’s story the viewers are left feeling inspired, and moved. It encourages the viewers to think more about the idea of life and the deeper meaning that it has. Furthermore, it shows us a more positive side to death. We go through our lives living them fully and freely, by the time it comes to the end we are ready to move on. Lastly, we are encouraged to remember that just because our physical body moves on, the impact we leave on the people around us and the story we leave behind lasts forever.

Throughout the Curious Case of Benjamin button, the viewers have been allowed an opportunity to see a different side to the cycle of life. The director used camera angles, sound, voice over narration and camera techniques to show us this. The film as a whole was filled with difficult ideas and concepts but the use of these techniques helped us grasp them. The nature of life was an idea alluded to throughout in many moments. Furthermore what makes us different but how we are all the same. Our lives are limited and fleeting, and every day they are running out. So in the end we must grasp every moment we can. No matter the circumstances we are born into or the choices we make throughout.

Cinematography Techniques

Cinematography techniques:

Mis en Scene:   Mis en Scene is french for “placing on stage” is the use of things such as setting, props, actors, costume, frame etc. It is a word for describing how everything is placed on the stage in cinematography or stage shows.

Lighting: Lighting is the produced effect of light. In cinematography you have variations of lighting such as High key or Low key lighting. Different arrangements and uses of lighting can create various moods in the shot.

Symbolism: Symbolism is a technique used frequently in cinematography. They often represent a more important idea or overlying theme. For example, in BB the symbol of the clock is frequently used to represent the bigger picture idea of the inevitability of time. 

Camera shots: There are many different types of camera shots such as: medium shot, long shot, establishing shot, close up shot, low/high angle shots etc. Each shot can create a different mood in the moment. Whether that is happy, sad, intense etc. An important factor of a camera shot is what you can and can’t see in the shot. It shows what the director wants us to see and what they don’t.

Sound: The sound in a shot is everything that we can hear. The sound we hear can range from music, speech, vocals or sound effects. Furthermore, the sound can be a range of volumes: quiet or loud. As well as a range of pitches, high (squeaky) or deep (rumbling). Diegetic sound is produced naturally on screen (WE CAN SEE THE SOURCE). Non diegetic sound is sound that is added in editing afterwards (CAN’T SEE THE SOURCE).

Dialogue: Ultimately, dialogue in cinematography is everything that people say. Whether it is said in the past, present or future. Dialogue is conversation or discussion, has to be said between 2 or more people. Compared to monologue which is just said by a singular person (Mono=One). 

Voice over Narration: Voice over is spoken by a person, normally over the top of something happening in the current moment. Voice over narration, is also spoken by someone who is not seen in the shot. Can often be the thoughts and/or feelings of the character in the shot at the current time. Narration is a monologue unless it is between 2 people.

Music: Music in a film, is normally the score of the film. Wether it is background music, soundtrack, film music

Speeches 2018


As humans, we are naturally scared of change. A new house, a new school, a new hair cut, anything. It terrifies most of us. However, change is an important process that allows us to grow and flourish as people. At the end of last year, my whole world changed. I moved to a new island, a new town, a new house as well as a new school. I had to quickly become optimistic and allow change to happen. Having all these drastic changes happen in my life taught me many things but more than anything.. to accept, allow and appreciate change and not to be scared to embrace a new adventure.

In April 2017, I found out my grandparents were moving to Wanaka. I was heartbroken. My grandparents had been a huge part of my life and I had seen them almost every day since I was born. So the idea of not getting to see them left me devastated. My mum was just as heartbroken as I was and quickly decided she wanted to move too. At first, I really struggled with the thought of having to move school as I had just moved school 1 year before. Let alone moving to near the bottom of the South Island. For the first few months I was in the denial stage, I couldn’t even fathom the idea of living somewhere different. I hoped with all my heart it wouldn’t work out and we would stay Auckland. However that was not the case. Mum already had her heart set on moving to Wanaka and it was out of my control.

I was mainly in denial up until the winter school holidays of last year. My brother, my mum and I all flew down to see the family and to ultimately look for houses. At this point I was still convinced we weren’t going to end up moving, even though my heart knew otherwise. The house hunting process was a massive obstacle we had to overcome. There was one house that my mum believed was her dream home and I loved too. This house made me somewhat excited for the move, It had beautiful black board and batten cladding, a gorgeous large backyard and I even would have had an ensuite. However, that sold the day before we came down. Disheartened, we spent 2 weeks going to a dozen open homes but eventually we put an offer on a house. Once again were in love with it, it was in a perfect location and an adorable little house but once again we didn’t get that one either.  Finally, we found a house in Lake Hawea, we placed and offer on it and in a quick few days the house was ours. At this point it all became real. I finally accepted the fact that my life was going to drastically change.

The next few months flew by in what felt like the blink of an eye.  My life became a blur of tears, packing boxes and goodbyes. The move seemed to creep up on me like a lion ready to pounce. Suddenly was moving day. We loaded our boxed up house onto the truck and we left. We left the small town I grew up in, we left the friends I’d had for years, we left everything that was familiar and everything that I loved. I spent my summer holidays getting used to the new environment but mainly daunted by the idea of starting a new school, as well as trying to hold onto the life I had in Auckland. I was terrified instead of being excited for the new adventure, and the new group of friends I was going to make. It was the fear of change, the fear of change that lingered and echoed throughout me. The fear of something so unfamiliar, something so foreign. It held me back from embracing an adventure. My mum told me the day before school started “great things are never achieved inside comfort zones”. She was right.

To my relief when I started school, I  have never been welcomed so warmly and openly by a bunch of people before. I quickly flourished in the new environment and have made some of the best friends I could’ve ever asked for. All because I took a leap, and embraced a new adventure. Furthermore, I now have a respect for change. It is what makes our life’s interesting and every day unique. Without change, we become complacent with our life’s and blinded from the adventures and opportunities that life offers. So take a leap, embrace a new adventure and don’t be afraid of change. Because you never know, the grass might just be greener on the other side.








The Great Gatsby – Essay

Throughout the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ an idea that Fitzgerald critiques is The American Dream. James Turslow once said  “The American Dream is that dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” However in reality, the reality of the American Dream is quite the opposite. Fitzgerald portrays this through the use of setting. The settings he used throughout the novel portray different aspects of the American Dream these settings include: East Egg, The Valley of Ashes and New York.

The first setting in Great Gatsby that represents the idea of the American Dream is East Egg. Throughout the novel, it is shown to us that East Egg is an location that not only represents the idea of the American Dream but the false American Dream.  We first begin to see this idea shown when the appearance of East Egg is describes to us “Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”. This imagery begins to shape how we portray East Egg and start to attach stereo types about places like East Egg. The “white palaces” allow us to link this place to the ideal of royalty and ultimate wealth. As well as how they “glittered along the water”, the way he words this creates a link to a mirage like image. A mirage is an illusion, just like the idea of the American Dream that East Egg represents. Daisy speaks of a “rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged”, this shows us that the idea of East Egg is like a secret society. It allows us to see that the idea of the American dream is not as it meets the eye, and there is much more to this ideal life beneath the surface. I believe that Fitzgerald uses setting effectively to show us how East Egg is an illusion,  and how the stereo type that society has formed around this wealthy life is false. 

Another setting that Fitzgerald uses to show the idea of the American Dream is the Valley of Ashes. Fitzgerald created The valley of ashes  to represent the fail of the American dream, as well as the reality of the American dream. Fitzgerald first describes the Valley of Ashes as “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens.” The way that Fitzgerald describes this place, allows us to associate this area with something repulsive. This description begins to shape our image of what this piece of land may look like. The word “grotesque” means distorted or ugly, very much like the reality of the American Dream. When he says “where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke”, it shows that there are mounds of ashes that occupy this area. I believe these ashes also  represent the people living here’s failed dream, and how all their lost dreams are piled on top of each other like a pile of ashes.  This an important line as it enhances what the reality of the American dream really is and how prominent it is in their life’s, the failed dream is their homes, chimney and smoke. The line “with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air”, represents the people who live in the fail of their dream. The men that live here move dimly as they are tired and spend their life’s working towards a dream that is never going to become a reality. Their dreams “crumble” just like the facade that is the American Dream.

The final setting that Fitzgerald uses to critique the idea of the American Dream is New York itself. New York represents the illusion of the American Dream, and the ideal life that this city boasts. This idea is enhanced when Nick says “Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all. . . .” even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.” This quote is portrays the idea that anything is possible  when you’re in the city. This line allows Fitzgerald to shape this place that becomes the symbol of the American Dream and represents the life that everyone wishes to be apart of. The line “without any particular wonder” enhances this as it is normal for the impossible to be possible. When Nick says “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” This quote is showing us how the city represents promise, mystery and all the beauty in the world. However, Fitzgerald wants to show us that a place cannot be that perfect. Furthermore, making us question the reality of the American Dream and what the illusion is hiding. 

To conclude, throughout the novel the Great Gatsby critiques the idea of the American Dream through setting. The prominent settings are :East Egg which represents the false American dream, New York which represents the illusion American Dream and the Valley of Ashes that represents the failed American Dream. I believe that portraying these aspects of the American Dream through setting allows us to understand what Fitzgerald’s ideas about the American Dream really are. Furthermore, showing us how society itself sees different aspect of the social classes. The American dream is an idea where everyone is capable of anything and anyone has the same advantage and disadvantages in life. However, Fitzgerald allows us an insight into what the American Dream is truely like and how it is ultimately a dream, a dream that seems to lie just out of reach of all those who try to grasp it.

























Practise Paragraph – The Valley of Ashes and how it relates to the American Dream

Throughout the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’, the Valley of Ashes is a location that alludes to the idea of the failed American Dream. The Valley of Ashes is this place that everyone who’s dream has been let down seems to end up. The American Dream is an idea where everyone equal and have equal opportunities. However, the people living in the Valley of Ashes have never had the same quality of life as those in West or East Egg. We are first introduced to the Valley of Ashes when Tom and Nick are driving through it towards Manhattan. It is first described as a “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens.” This description begins to shape our image of what this piece of land may look like. The word “grotesque” means distorted or ugly , very much like the reality of the American Dream. It is distorted into a perfect idea when in reality it is quite ugly. The fact that “ashes grow” enhances that the let down of the American Dream is constant. There are always more people who’s dreams are being letdown as time goes on. When he says “where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke”, it shows that there are mounds of ashes that occupy this area. These ashes also almost represent the people living here’s failed dream, and how all their lost dreams are piled on top of each other like a pile of ashes. The line “with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air”, shows how tired and hopeless the people living here are. How they work hard to try accomplish their dreams, however they will always be stuck in this poverty. Fitzgerald has described this area in a way that makes us feel repulsed by the place and the people that live there. However, these people’s dream has ultimately just been let down. They haven’t been able to accomplish their American Dream so therefore fade away in the Valley working for nothing.

Exploration of the Great Gatsby – Characters

Describe how 3 characters changed throughout the novel:

Nick- At the start of the novel, Nick describes himself as a non-judgemental character. He seems like almost the innocent character, the outsider. Throughout the novel, he becomes very involved in the exclusive world that is East Egg, getting involved in the wealth that both the Buchanan’s and Gatsby are both apart of. However, with such an involvement in this world, he still feels like an outsider. He says, “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” This enhances that he felt apart of this world but still an outsider, hated this world and loved it at the same time. At the end, he is utterly disgusted with the world. How the rich hide behind their money, and how no one turned up to Gatsby’s funeral. Also throughout the book, he begins to judge each character more and more. Which contradicts his statement “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments”.

Daisy- When we are first introduced to Daisy, it is made clear that she is absolutely made of money. She appears to live this perfect life in East Egg. She also appears to be a kind hearted, innocent person, she would’ve been described as “the golden girl”. However throughout the novel, we see she as many more flaws than we would’ve originally thought. For example, she has no relationship with her daughter etc. We begin to see her become sad as she is having to pick between Gatsby and Tom. At the end of the novel we see her true colours, when Gatsby dies. Daisy runs away with Tom, and ultimately hides behind her wealth.  

Gatsby- When we first meet Gatsby, he is on the end of his dock reaching out to the green light, or as we know it his hope. Before we officially meet Gatsby we hear many things about him such as: him being an Oxford man, how he killed a man, how he was German spy during the war and more. These rumours begin to shape our opinion on Gatsby. Throughout the novel it seems like he is just a man in love with a girl. However, as the book develops it becomes clear that he has this whole life planned around Daisy. Almost an obsession. His character almost becomes scary and controlling. Also it is obvious that he is involved in illegal trades and has a dark side to him. Ultimately, he meets his sour end. Throughout the whole book all he wanted was daisy, and when the phone rang before he died he believed it was Daisy.


Explration of the Great Gatsby – Ideas

Myth of the American dream 

The American dream is an idea alluded to constantly throughout the book. The American Dream is this idea of a dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. Unfortunately, this idea is a mere illusion.  New York city is almost a mirage, and the perfect life that West and East egg boast is just the rich hiding behind their money. Throughout the book, it is shown that Gatsby aspires to be apart of this world . Right from the age of 17, he wanted to be this rich gentleman, so he became Jay Gatsby. In the scene where Tom turns up at Gatsby’s house, it shows that no matter what amount of money Gatsby has he will never be apart of this exclusive society that is East Egg. When Tom says to Nick “We’ve got to go. Tell him we couldn’t wait, will you?” it shows that not only could they not wait a few extra minutes but cold not even have the decency to tell him theirselves that they had to go. Another person who’s American Dream ultimately fell flat was Myrtles. She lives in the Vally of Ashes, in an unhappy marriage and works hard but yet never gets anything in return. However, she lives of this fake American Dream life when she’s with Tom. She has this life where she has all the money in the world yet she still finds herself unhappy and wanting more. She begins to get so caught up in this world that she believes its real. When in reality, she will always live in poverty and her and Tom could never be real. I think Fitzgerald is trying to show us that this American Dream is an illusion and is far from the reality of America. Ultimately, the American Dream is simply a dream. A dream that seems to lie just out of the reach of every person that tries to grasp it.

The Inevitability of Time

The inevitability of time is an idea explored thoroughly throughout the novel The Great Gatsby. From the start of the book it is obvious that time is a huge factor in the way the book plays out. It all started when Gatsby went to war and did not see Daisy for 4 years. These 4 years were extremely significant in both Gatsby and Daisy’s lives. When Gatsby says, “Can’t repeat the past? …Why of course you can!”, it enhances that Gatsby believes that it is possible to go back in time and erase the last five years. However in reality, time is something you cannot reverse or erase, no matter what time will go on. A symbol of time alluded to throughout the book is water. Water represents the idea of time in many of the significant scenes. For example, the scene where Gatsby and Daisy spend their first day together again. The rain stops and they live out a perfect day together but at the end the rain starts again. In this moment the rain represents how it seems that time stops for Daisy and Gatsby when their together but in reality the rest of the world is still moving on. Gatsby’s dream is to go back in time and erase the past 4 years but the only way for that to happen, Daisy must tell Tom she never loved him. Daisy however, could never say this because she did love him once. I believe Fitzgerald is trying to enhance the fact that we all wish that we could stop time or go back in time, where in reality its not possible. Even if time seems to stop, it will start again. Time is something neither Gatsby or Daisy can escape, and no matter how hard they want to go back in time, it is simply not possible.

Exploration of the Great Gatsby – Symbols

Symbol 3 quotes from the book that support the symbol 3 moments when the symbol appears Major characters that the symbol is connected to What the symbol is representing Important things that the symbol reveals about characters and ideas
  • we were to see the grounds and the swimming−pool, and the hydroplane and the mid−summer flowers but outside Gatsby’s window it began to rain again 
  • There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the water as the fresh flow from one end urged its way toward the drain at the other.
  • Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.




















The colour White
Yellow and Gold
The green light

The American Dream

An ideal that all humans should have equal opportunity to pursue happiness and success.

“The American Dream is that dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” – James Truslow Adams ‘Epic of America'”

Locations that relate to the “American Dream”:

East Egg- These people were born into the “dream”. FALSE

West Egg- These people “bootleg” their way to their top but are never fully accepted into the elite social group. CORRUPT

Vally of Ashes- These people work hard and they never make it out of poverty. The dream constantly fails them.  FAILED

New York- These people are the illusion of the dream. That New York is the perfect place when it isn’t. ILLUSION


Quote breakdown – ” Her voice was full of money”

“Her voice was full of money… That was it. I’d never understood before. it was full of money that was the inexhaustible charm that rose girl fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals song of it… high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl…”

  • Powerful, valuable, attractive 
  • Money is attractive
  • Sounds like: high society, posh, UK, confidence
  • She had so much money but just does what she wants
  • She embodies everything that comes with wealth
  • You never get tired of it 
  • It never runs out of charm
  • Bells & coins jingle
  • Advertisements have jingles
  • The jingle draws you in, like Daisy’s voice draws you in like Gatsby
  • You hit it and it’s not a bad but not a nice sound. Attention grabbing & not always pleasant
  • Daisys colour
  • A symbol of wealth
  • Money
  • “so good”, perfect, trophy