Tag Archives: action

Homework #2 – Opening Scene: Apocalypse Now (Clubs)

The opening scene of Apocalypse Now can certainly be described as “intense”. The scene opens with an aerial view of a forest of Palm trees. Simultaneously, you can hear the chopping sound of a helicopter propeller cutting into the wind – and in the background, the start of the song “This is the End” by the Doors. As the introduction to the song progresses, elements in the film change and smoke enters the scene amongst the palm trees. It isn’t until the very start of the first set of lyrics to the song that the forest completely incinerates into flames. The lyrics begin with the sentence “this is the end…” Then, the scene begins to fade and, therein, introduces a cross-cut scene including a very young Martin Sheen.

The premise of the film is based on the Vietnam War (1955-1975). In my interpretation of the movie, the opening scene was the precursor for the way chaos and war was going to be depicted in the film; the viewers are immediately introduced to aspects of war, such as chaos and catastrophic events – circumstances very real in a war setting, at the start of the movie. Bits of information would reveal itself throughout the opening scene. On a night stand are formal documents fanned out and a vintage photograph of a female; additionally, the viewer is shown a bottle of cognac, a lit cigarette in the character’s hand, and a gun resting just below his pillow.

The camera primarily focuses the viewer’s attention onto the characters forehead and eyes, while simultaneously showing the previous scene of the trees caught on fire and helicopters. Perhaps, insinuating the character’s involvement in the catastrophic event. From the viewer’s perspective, it’s easy to infer that the film takes place during a time of chaos. Likewise, chaos becomes a continuous aspect presented throughout the entire film.

Movie Link:

Homework #2: Opening Scenes-Jurassic Park to Close Encounters with Katy Perry?

T-rex stops traffic in Jurassic Park (1993)
T-rex stops traffic in Jurassic Park (1993)

Bordwell and Thompson begin chapter 2 in Film Art with a discussion of the importance of opening scenes in movies by contrasting the differences between two Steven Spielberg movies, Jurassic Park (1993) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Watch the opening scene for Jurassic Park and note how this is what Bordwell and Thompson describe as a “hard” opening filled with action that helps build suspense toward an encounter with a T-rex. You can access the Jurassic Park opening scene here. I couldn’t find the opening scene of Close Encounters online but if you know the movie, you would’ve recognized the reference in the Pepsi lead-in to Katy Perry’s Halftime Show for last week’s Superbowl. Here’s a link to the Richard Dreyfuss character Roy’s first encounter with aliens and note Pepsi’s allusion to this classic sci-fi movie.

Share with the class a favorite opening scene by including a link in your post (video.google.com and youtube are good sources for video clips) and discuss why you find the opening so compelling. If you can’t find a clip and want to discuss a film anyway, include a link or an image to the movie.

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #2, Diamonds and Spades will submit a Post and Clubs and Hearts will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

To students submitting a Post, make sure you Check off the Category “Student Posts” to get credit for the Homework Assignment and tag your posts (i.e., add the name of the movie as your tag)! In order to post, you have to be a member of the class, simply click “Join” on the Class Profile to become a member. If you’re unsure how to submit a post, follow the instructions under Blogging Guidelines and/or contact me!

To students submitting a Comment, choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on. Watch the clip in their post and tell the class what you think are its strengths/weaknesses.

Homework #2 is DUE by Tuesday February 17th.
Don’t forget Diamonds and Spades Post, Clubs and Hearts Comment, note your blog group! Email me if you forget.

Fun Fact: We will study the French New Wave director François Truffaut who appears as a scientist/UFO-expert in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.