Tag Archives: Friday Fundas

Friday Fundas: Breaking the 4th Wall

Breaking the 4th Wall 

4th Wall is an imaginary wall between the stage and the audience in a theatrical play. If a room is being shown then only the set has 3 walls and the 4th wall is the one through which the audience would see the play. The idea of 4th wall was made explicit by philosopher and critic Denis Diderot and spread in 19th-century theatre. This concept has now extended to movies as well.

Breaking the 4th Wall is a term referred to when the characters on the screen interact with the audience. This should not be confused with narration. One of the recent movies which had used this technique is Kadhalil Sodhapuvadhu Eppadi. The entire movie is handled in a way where the lead character is talking to the audience about the the love and breakup with his girlfriend.

Another example for breaking the 4th wall is from the Woody Allen’s Annie Hall

Watch the following opening sequence from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day off. This is another movie which broke the 4th wall and had the main character interact with the audience throughout the movie.

Breaking the 4th wall when used appropriately based on the demands of the script would engage the audience at a different level. However this may not be appropriate for all the movies. This technique is also often used in movies or TV shows targeted for kids.

There is a also an extension of the 4th wall concept which is termed as 5th wall. This is an imaginary wall that exists between the film critics and the film makers. This deals with the barriers in engagement with the film critics and the makers.

Inspiration of Rajni’s Famous Cigarette Scene from Ninaithale Innikum

In Ninaithale Innikum there is a comedy sequence of Rajni getting into a bet with a rich man.

Rajini Throwing Cigarette
Rajini Throwing Cigarette

The bet is as follows he has to throw the cigarette into the air and hold it by his mouth 10 consecutive times. If he does that he would win the Toyota car of the rich man, if not he would have to part away with his little finger. The scene is so gripping at the same time so hilarious, backed by some brilliant performances. Factually the scene is inspired from the short story Man from the South written by Roald Dahl. The only difference being in the short story the bet is about lighting a cigarette lighter continuously for 10 times with just one click. Alfred Hitchcock included this as an episode in his TV Series “Alfred Hitchcock presents“. Later this was re-made into the opening episode of Dahl’s show “Tales of the Unexpected” in 1979 and again re-made in 1985 for “Alfred Hitchcock presents” series in color.

So many people had shot this sequence with different actors, the value of suspense and holding the audience or reader to the seat with a very simple plot is a brilliant piece of work by Roald Dahl.

Epistolary Movies

Epistolary Movies – The term is based epistolary novels. This refers to a particular style of writing the screenplay. In this style the story is narrated as a series of letters or diary entries. In the modern day this could be a series of text, audio or video blogs.

Writers used this technique mainly to avoid a third person narrative in their scripts. This gives the opportunity for the writer to narrate the story in first person. Many popular movies have employed this technique either completely or in parts to make an effective screenplay. The recent movie The Lunchbox is an epistolary movie script where the main plot moves through the exchange of letters between the lead characters. James Cameron had used this in Avatar for narrating the incidents on the Pandora Island through the protagonist’s video blog. Ghajini is an example of epistolary script which is through a list of diary entries. In comparison to a character narrating it to the audience or another character this gives a more realistic and effective timeline jumps as it covers only highlights which are inherent nature of letters or diary entries.

Dark Comedy or Black Comedy

Dark Comedy – Also referred to as Black comedy is a genre of movies which deals with very serious subject in a lighthearted manner. Usually the serious subject involves difficult and hopeless situations in life like death, crime, natural disaster, war and so on.  It is also used to deal with subjects that are usually considered as taboo and causes discomfort among the audience if told normally. The use of comedy lightens the mood and it becomes a powerful medium to convey the most difficult things across and is thought provoking.  Some of the popular movies in the recent times that employed dark comedy and has been successful at the box office are Delhi Belly, Inglourious Basterds, Avan Ivan.

Friday Fundas: Inspiration for Avatar

In the 2009 hollywood blockbuster Avatar the Na’vi’s the inhabitants of Pandora had a blue body, tall, with four fingers in each of their hand. In a 2007 interview with Time magazine, James Cameron  said “The name Avatar is an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form. In this film what that means is that the human technology in the future is capable of injecting a human’s intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body.” His inspiration for this appearance of the Na’vi was from a dream his mother had. She had seen a blue skinned woman who was 12 feet tall which he considered to be apt for Na’vis.  He said ” I just like blue. It’s a good color … plus, there’s a connection to the Hindu deities, which I like conceptually.”

The floating “Hallelujah Mountains”, was an inspiration from the karst limestone formations in China. According to production designer Dylan Cole, the fictional floating rocks were inspired by Mount Huang (also known as Huangshan), Guilin, Zhangjiajie. James Cameron had noted the influence of the Chinese peaks on the design of the floating mountains.

Cameron said  “the Na’vi represent something that is our higher selves, or our aspirational selves, what we would like to think we are” and that even though there are good humans within the film, the humans “represent what we know to be the parts of ourselves that are trashing our world and maybe condemning ourselves to a grim future”

Source: Wikipedia

The movie was a treat to watch and the one that had re-defined the movie experience for the audience…!

Friday Fundas: Bullet Time

Bullet Time: It is a special and visual effect technique in which a row of still cameras are used to capture the scene. They are activated either simultaneously or with a phase lag. Later these frames are digitally assembled together to produce an effect of changing the view point of the audience in an orbit going around the scene. Bullet time is a trademark of Warner Bros. This technique although had been in existence for a long time, it was popularized by the film The Matrix released in 1999. One of the unique points of the film was to show bullet time visuals of the actions happening inside the Matrix. In particular the scene in which Neo escapes the stream of bullets fired towards him had been very popular.

The technique although dates back to the 19th century even before cinema. The Californian governor had engaged in a debate on if all the legs of the horse is in the air when it gallops. To settle this Eadweard Muybridge had done some experiment with still cameras taking the picture of galloping horse by arranging the cameras along the race track  and each camera was actuated by a taut string stretched across the track; as the horse galloped past, the camera shutters snapped, taking one frame at a time. He then arranged the photographs in on a glass disk and spun it in front of a light source. Could this have been the inspiration for Thomal Alva Edison to invent motion pictures?

Now this technique is being used in Free viewpoint Television (FTV)  in filming live shows.  At the time of The Matrix FTV was not mature… the filmmakers still did an wonderful job of creating a whole new experience.

Source: Wikipedia


Friday Fundas: Establishing Shot

Establishing Shot

This is a term used in Film Editing. An establishing shot is a shot that sets the context in the movie. This is used very effectively during the editing process. For example if the story or plot involves the characters in Malaysia then a view of the Petronas tower would be a establishing shot. Post this the scene of two people discussing in a coffee shop would set the context for the audience that the scene is happening in Malaysia. In reality the shot might have been actually taken elsewhere but through the establishing shot the appropriate illusion is created.

In the movie Chandramukhi some of the shots in were caned in Mysore Palace but through establishing shot of the house the audience believed the set up was actually inside the house. In many movies you might have seen the shot of a flight landing or flight take off as an establishing shot to show the scene has transferred between locations. This technique was particularly used in old movies extensively. However in the new movies this is used to a lesser extent. A simple technique if not used correctly audience loose the context of the screenplay.