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.

2 Replies to “1.11 – Close viewing essay”

  1. Kiera,

    I know you missed a period on this however it still looks like you have a ways to go.

    I can see where you are taking this essay and enjoyed reading the way you have framed your central idea in your introduction. A couple of things to remember:

    • Essays should be written in the third person. At times you are dipping into first person and this makes your essay less formal. First person should only be used when you are giving personal opinion and only then the pronoun should be “I”.
    • Make sure you are describing the use of your technique in detail and using the correct terminology, addressing the impact that the director hoped to have with the technique and explaining how your chosen technique communicates your central idea.

    Mrs. P

  2. Hi Kiera,

    You’re paragraph on sound is your strongest at the moment. You have provided an in depth discussion into the use of your technique and how it communicates you central idea.

    Remember, for every technique, you need to discuss the impact that it has on the audience and the contribution it makes to the overall idea being communicated.

    Mrs. P

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