15th November 2018

Visual text essay

7. To be successful, a text must bring us moments of joy

Dystopian visual texts usually contain moments of joy. However, this is not what makes the text successful but rather the use of film techniques and the underlying themes. Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report understands the importance of film techniques as he uses cinematography and symbolism as a way to evoke emotions and bring significance to the theme, invasion of privacy. The ideas of a film hold more relevance in comparison to the joy the audience experiences; this is what makes a text influential to modern society. Thus it is successful.

The joy the audience experiences throughout the film may be positive. However, it does not necessarily make a film successful, rather the ideas it introduces that keeps it relevant. A standard convention found throughout Dystopian visual texts is the use of symbols which reflect a sense of surveillance, usually an eye as it is the most unnerving. Minority Report is not an exception of this convention, as it uses the symbol of an eye to convey the theme of invasion of privacy through surveillance. The eye often reoccurs throughout the film, usually alongside the pre-crime unit during their raids as it represented how the people whose privacy is being invaded felt, which is watched. This is shown during the scene in which the pre-crime unit is trying to find John Anderton, the protagonist, as a low mid shot of one of the officers reveals a montage of eyes being played on the screen behind him. This motivates the idea of an invasion of privacy through surveillance, as the pre-crime unit is searching apartment complexes to find John Anderton through the usage of robots which scan their eyes to identify who they are. The symbol of an eye does not only represent the surveillance of the people but also how everyone who has eyes is prone to be controlled as their eyes are what they use to be recognised by the government. It is almost as if the vision they have makes them less able to see. This type of insight into the theme of invasion of privacy through surveillance is what allows for this film to stay relevant, as the refreshing look at the symbol of an eye keeps audiences focused and interested. The joy experienced is fleeting. However, the ideas and warnings given to the audience are more significant. Steven Spielberg uses this attention to bring warnings about the future to his audience, as the usage of surveillance becomes more complex we will begin to see this warning of no privacy become a reality. This symbol of an eye is constant within dystopian pictures, an example being within Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaidens Tale  TV show and novel. As the spies known as eyes invade the privacy of the people of Gilead much like how the pre-crime unit creeps on the potential future of people as well as using technology to keep tabs on everyone around them.

Another instance of the eye symbol conveying a warning is during the scene in which there is a wide shot of John meeting with his Drug dealer who is eyeless; he has no eyes as it means the government can not identify him. The drug dealer states ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’ which reflects the idea that in this society your eyes are the key to everything. This reinforces the warning of an invasion of privacy, as the drug dealer is technically no longer an identity, but rather someone who sees more than the people with eyes. Dystopian films usually contain warnings like this in order to connect with the audience, as either the warnings are already occurring or they are close to occurring. This is what keeps dystopian films relevant, the way they convey their ideas in order to bring warnings to their audience rather than relying on having their audience feel joy in order for their film to be successful.

The use of cinematography to communicate ideas is a fundamental convention in the dystopian genre, as the directors use angles and camera movements to express the purpose of the scene. The cinematography is more critical to the film’s success in staying relevant than the joy the audience experiences, as it presents the viewer with complex ideas that relate to modern-day society. Minority Report manages this expression of ideas well, as the visuals the audience experiences helps them view their society in a new light, as the movie shows different warnings through film techniques, one of them being cinematography. The audience can see this with the pre-crime unit, as they are usually shown from a low angle shot, this is seen during the pre-crime raid as they are shown from a low angle close up of their faces. This presents the pre-crime unit in a dominant light, as it makes them seem more intimidating and more significant than they are. Steven Spielberg used these angles to pronounce his ideas warnings, his purpose for this was not to only reach his audience but rather extend further than that. This use of angles is common in dystopian films, as they use low and high angles to show a character in a powerless or powerful position. John Anderton starts off the film with low angles as he is a character of power and dominance, however, after he is convicted of pre-murder his angles start to become higher up which shows him in a vulnerable position opposite to the beginning of the film. The scene of the pre-crime officers with a low angle shot, and the transition from a low angle to high angle for John offers a unique perspective on the warning that even the powerful can become vulnerable in a society full of surveillance. As well as the impression of a high angle shot which can appear to look like a surveillance camera angle. This presents the warning of no privacy through surveillance; as Johns angle becomes higher so does his need to hide from the surveillance of the government and pre-crime unit.

These warnings show the audience a possible look into the future, which is more valuable to the audience than the sense of joy, as it allows for them to appreciate the quality of the film more as they can relate to the potential future. This makes the film more relevant in society, as the ability to relate to the warnings and the ideas is what draws people to the film. The relevant success of a film does not innately rely on the emotions or joy people feel while watching a film, but rather how the audience interprets the ideas and warnings expressed.

The cinematography is an essential part of a dystopian film, as it keeps the gfilm successful regarding relevance, as it helps shape the ideas of a film and how characters are portrayed. Steven Spielberg has used cinematography rather uniquely, as his films such as Jaws reveal more to the audience than the dialogue as we get to see the point of view of the shark as well as the humans. He also does this in Minority Report as the use of an overhead bird’s eye view during the scene in which the robots are going through the apartment complex scanning eyes is rather effective, as we see how these robots that check your identity is invading their privacy. This panning bird’s eye view shot allows the audience to see how far the pre-crime unit goes in order to find a criminal, in this case, John, even though they believe they are doing good they are invading other peoples space while doing ‘good’. Steven Spielberg introduces the audience to the warning of an invasion of privacy through surveillance through shots like this, as it gives the viewer a direct insight into the malicious truth about surveillance and privacy. The audience gains more from these warnings than from the emotions they feel, as whenever they think about surveillance or privacy, it will be interrupted with the angles and scenes shown in Minority Report. This is what success is in the film industry, managing to stay relevant in peoples minds even after the film is complete; having this effect on their audience is more important than the emotions felt.

As we have seen, for a text to be considered ‘successful’ it does not have to evoke emotions such as joy, but rather bring relevance to the warnings and ideas they bear as well as being able to stay relevant in a time full of incoherent visual texts. Films like Minority Report and Blade Runner 2049 express, these qualities as their directors, understand what society needs to comprehend their potential future. Neither text makes the audience feel joy but instead makes them contemplate their society.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. There are some significant strengths to this essay. You are making good progress in addressing the statement – but this is where I encourage you to go further. I can see that you are trying to redirect your response to focus on the ideas of the text – and this is good. But you must go further. Keep it simple: The director’s purpose is to communicate warnings to us through the use of: symbolism, cinematography and film effects. Beside this, the moments of joy the viewer might experience are trivial.

    If you can articulate these ideas with more clarity (remember it’s ideas through techniques, not ideas and techniques) then the rest of the content of this analysis will serve you well.

    Secondly, you must be much more specific in your reference to examples. Talk about scenes, shots, symbols and effects with the same exact detail you use when quoting from a written text. Check my example paragraphs for methods of doing this.


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