Firstly I would like to address the idea of conventions. Conventions refers to the typical features of a media product, establishing a common ground. I would also like to note that my media product is a short film which has interlinked the two genres of mystery and fantasy. This relates to the concept of hybrid genres, where two or more distinct genres are merged together to create a united genre. Despite my short film exploring the novelty genre of fantasy, it also features a dark nature with an underlying psychological element. In relation to the mystery genre, it slightly coincides with Todrov’s narrative structure theory. He explains that all films follow the structure of beginning, middle and end. The mystery aspect of my film slightly distorted the narrative structure in the sense that the narrative wasn’t as clear-cut as most film usually propose to be. I’d also like to state that this blog post is in lower-case, yay!
FANTASY: is a genre of fiction that commonly used magic and supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting (EXACT DEFINITION).
One of the ways in which fantasy films are identifiable are through the use of clothing and props. For instance,many of the characters in fantasy films wear extravagant and eccentric pieces of clothing. Fictional princesses usually wear clothing which embodies their personality traits. For instance, Little Red Riding Hood wore the colour red; red signifying her lust for danger and exploration of a darker world. However, she wears her hood to protect her. The hood covers her head, almost symbolising her mothers’ and societal demands clouding any rebellious thoughts. Female characters are usually presented as inferior, having no significant heroic role. They are seen as innocent and in need of protection; this is the usual stereotype. The reason being is because fantasy films are typically aimed at a demographic of young children who have only been instilled with the ideals of females being ‘damsels in distress’.
^ The way in which both these representations of Little Red Riding Hood are similar is that they both show her subservient position. The animated Red has big eyes, hair in pigtails, and just a general innocent facial expression. These characteristics are shared commonly amongst female fantasy characters. The idea of this is to make the audience drawn towards the character. They act as a diversion of people’s real life problems: A form of escapism. Whereas most fantasy films toy with the positive aspects of innocence and the idea that there is a ‘happy ever after’, our film explores a more darker turn of innocence. Emily is seen as the prey of Rak in some sense. The dark sexualistaion of her character was to reflect real societal problems. The over the shoulder/ High angle shot also illustrates Rak’s power over Emily. Essentially, I wanted to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
^ Another key feature of our film is that both Emily and Rak are school characters. School children are not really prominent characters in fantasy films much, with the exception of ‘The Harry Potter’ series. In that film series, the school children are seen as ‘good’ characters in a world against evil. For example, Harry’s innocence and purity was the reason for him not being murdered by the antagonist. I wanted to represent Emily as a pure school child and thus covey this through her school clothing. She wears a poncho, which is quite similar to the Red Riding Hood cape. They are both free and loose. I feel like this symbolises Emily’s open mind and free spirit. In the short film, despite all her worries she still converses with Rak. She represents a bird, whereas Rak represents a wolf. Their relationship is quite animalistic in the sense that he’s waiting to ‘prey’ on her. He devises psychological tactics to get her exactly where he wants. As a wolf may be hiding under camouflage, Rak hides under this broken down character who seeks the comfort and companionship of a school peer. We wanted to still keep intact the disguise and fool part of the original tale, where the wolf dresses as Red’s grandma. Many antagonists in fantasy/fairy tale films use deception to attain what they want/need. For instance, in the ‘Snow White’ tale, the evil queen disguises herself as a poor elderly woman to provide the poisonous apple to snow. I guess many fantasy/disney films do have an underlying psychological element, but our film focused this in a greater depth. Whereas, Emily’s uniform is very loose, Rak’s is very fitted. His uniform connotes the way in which he has been constrained. He has fallen under the ideologies of a hierarchical high school nature. He believes there is a clear distinguishment between his ‘geek/loner’ role and Emily’s ‘pretty and acknowledged part’. He doesn’t believe he can be Emily’s counterpart. This complies with the values of traditional fairytales. It is always the brave and heroic male characters who get the princesses. However, Rak is the antagonist in this film and antagonists never have a good ending in fantasy films.
Where the clothing choices fits in with the mystery genre is that they both are wearing school uniform. Again, school children are not really explored in mystery films but when they are, they are usually murdered victims. Whilst fantasy films tend to follow Todorov’s narrative structure of beginning, middle and end, mystery films don’t quite embed an equilibrium. They may work in reverse in the sense that the death equals to the end, and the mystery is the middle, what they’ve discovered equals to the beginning of the film. Our film on the other hand also has a ‘cycle’ like narrative, . For example, when Emily says the definition of redemption, she states the word, “saves”. She also says “saves” when the jogger finds her. We wanted to reiterate the idea of saving and how both her and Rak needed saving. In fantasy films, it is usually just the female character who requires saving .Characters in mystery films also tend to be police officers, detectives etc… They are controlled by the state, similarly to schoolchildren. The use of a social system as a basis for mystery films is because mystery films include realistic crimes that can be solved by those with authority. Our film differs by us giving the audience the authority. They are given the role of the detective.
STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER:
What I find really interesting about our film is that we have combined two very opposing genres in creating it. Fantasy films always tend to be joyous, in contrast to mystery films which are quite dark. The way in which they represent their characters are quite different also. As I have previously discussed, fantasy films show females to be suppressed. Fantasy films embody the same archetype of woman. Mystery films differ by usually having a dominant female character. They usually solve the mystery, whilst still reinstates the idea that ‘women use brains and not muscle’ . However, many of the female characters in mystery films are involved in some action.
^ Molly Ann’s character for example is a strong female character. She personifies the strength that the woodcutter had in the Little Red Riding Hood Tale. She comes to frighten Rak away and even makes the bold decision of taking pictures of him. She is also jogging through a forest at night, an action most fantasy female characters certainly don’t partake in. She still wears pink to embrace her femininity, but to also show her strength as a character.
The use of the prop of drugs in our film was to sort of raise awareness about the challenges teenagers succumb to. As this was our only key prop, we wanted to signify it’s importance. Emily takes the fairy dust as a way of escaping her problems and taking herself to a different world in which she can escape her life. You may not associate drugs with fantasy films at first but when I thought deeper into, I realised there were signifiers of drugs. For example, Cinderella becomes addicted to the idea of living a life of riches and she uses the help of magic to transform her life. Magic in this case was the cause for her downfall. The Evil Queen in Snow White’s became addicted to the idea of being acknowledged and having her presence made known. Her uncontrollable desire for beauty and youth was shown through her drug, the magic mirror. In mystery films, drugs are a frequent prop, which many narratives being based on the implications of an underground drug culture.
ICONOGRAPHY/MISE EN SCENE:
^ Above is a still from the beginning of the film. The location is an enchanted forest. A magical location is a very key feature of fantasy films. The ‘preset filter’ and high key lighting suggests that this is a location where positive things will occur. However, enchanted forests and plain forests in general are usually locations where battle occurs or more specifically death in mystery films. The slight dark undertone to the filter indicates this, however the application of the sparkle effects allows the audience to not have any acknowledgement of whether this is a light or dark film. Emily is the focal point of this frame and narrative. She is placed right in the middle of this mid-shot so the audience can be drawn to what she says. This was crucial as this is the part where she says the definition of redemption, a crucial clue as to how the film may play out. Mystery films are always throwing out clues. We obviously had to make sure the clues were more apparent to the audience because of our duration of our film. For instance, we allowed the audience to know Rak was stalking Emily, but they still have to put the pieces together to see how the later events came about.
^ This still evokes a sense of isolation a doom. This is characterised by the iconography; a young woman alone walking into an unknown and gloomy place. The use of longshot further demonstrates the isolation of Emily. She is depicted as a small object placed in a bigger location. Fantasy/fairy tale films usually focus on the isolation of the main female character at the beginning. This location is very different to that of fantasy films but common of mystery films. It is a garage which is a industrial, urban setting. We wanted to establish the idea that dangers can be found in urban and slightly rural areas. There are trees present on the end of this garage tunnel, which could suggest that the natural areas are the most dangerous, which supports the conventions of both fantasy and mystery films. The low key lighting portrays the danger that is ahead of her.
However, quite few mystery locations include weird lairs or offices. These locations are still eerie to create a suspenseful area. Rather than using high key lighting and daytime light they play around with artificial light, which may perhaps have a blue tone to it. This subway tunnel has artificial lighting which almost creates a distorted sense of reality. Linking back to the idea of clues, I want to note that Emily walks through several journeys/paths, which suggests that everything is interlinked. It also shows her as having a dominant lead in her life, which is disrupted after she interacts with Rak.
^ We also wanted to include well known features of other fantasies. This links to the idea of intertextuality in which media platforms take inspiration from different media sources. Many modern fantasy films which have adapted an infamous childhood tale, explore this idea. In this still, Emily is looking into the mirror. We wanted to relate this to the magic mirror the evil queen in Snow White uses. She looks at the mirror for reassurance but the truth is that she is lost and she doesn’t know who she is. This is the feeling we wanted Emily to give off. Mystery films also usually adopt a theme of scariness. We wanted Emily to look at Rak straight after to give a fright to the audience. Also the way he’s positioned in the frame is very ambiguous. The audience do not know whether he’s going to kill her or greet her. Mysteries play with ambiguity quite a lot. Mystery films also take a first person point of view. “The Lovely Bones” is a perfect example of this. We know the important parts of the plot because we can see through the main character’s point of view, however the people within the film are unaware of what is going on.
^ Above is an example of where we combined elements of fantasy/fairy tales and mysteries. Emily comes across pieces of paper trailed on the forest ground. They’re her diary notes and the aim was for her to realise what was happening and to wake up from this psychological escape fantasy land she created. Again this reinforces the idea of her following her own journey and leading her own paths. In a sense, she saved herself as well. Diary notes are a key prop from mystery films, usually left by a dead victim. They usually are cryptic notes, to allow the protagonist discover what happened. We laid out the diary notes like clues. These clues were also very reminiscent of the breadcrumb trails from the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.
^ Blood is another small theme that is explored in mystery. Blood obviously correlates to death. Blood again acts a clue in mystery films to signify to the protagonist how the murder occurred . Blood is not something that is found amongst fantasy films because it is so literal, thus detracting people’s minds from the escape world they have created. Blood is also a very dark (literally 😀 ) signifier, therefore traditional children based fantasy films wouldn’t want to feature it frequently as it could be upsetting.
Mystery films tend to use a lot of fade to black transitions to create a suspenseful atmosphere, but also to not detract from it’s focus. Our film has adopted an editing style that is exemplified of fantasy/fairy tales. The fantasy aspect is in relation to the jump cuts we used. For example in the subway scene, we used jump cuts as Emily was walking to create an exhilarating feel. It was almost like a chase scene, which can be found in countless modern action packed fantasy films. We chose a more slower editing technique when it came to the fairy tale part because fairytales are dainty, with usually no action. For instance, we had to be very careful with the scene in which she reads her diary notes,. it had to be in sync with the voiceover.
.We used several pieces of music. For the fantasy scenes, .we used very fairytale like music to create a neutral atmosphere. We had to be very careful with the scene where she wakes up in a forest. We chose a piece called ‘Solitude’ and we even muted the start of the clip to reflect her isolation. In fantasy films, they wouldn’t opt to use dramatic and orchestral music scene if the actions and movements of the character were slow. She even had gaps in between her voiceover. The pace of music had to be steady and balancing but also still evoke emotion. We changed the music and the pace in the more dramatic scenes. Most films would use dramatic and intense music in an action-filled scene to create emotion. Music is such an important part of fantasy films and mystery films so we had to create smooth transitions between dainty music and enigmatic music. The voiceover was also a very identifiable feature of fantasy/fairy tale films. It allows you to connect with a character in a more personal level. Where we added a mystery touch to the voiceover was when prior to Emily taking the drugs and her thoughts of Rak could be heard repeatedly. The repetition created an unsteady vibe.
^ The dialogue between characters is also another crucial point to take into consideration. Rak’s speech reinforces his dominant male character by appearing as aggressive. This is typical of antagonists in all types of films. There are certain conventions that all genres of films share; the personality of the antagonist being one.