To introduce us into using Textual Analysis we re-visited technical terminology that we learnt in our GCSE course such as: Sound Design; Camerawork; Editing; and Mise en Scene. To practise using these terms, seeing how they create effect and analysing TV Drama using these categories we were shown a dark comedy called “Flowers” on Channel 4.
There were various types of sound design shown in the first episode of “Flowers” such as: diegetic sounds; non-diegetic sounds; composed scores; compiled scores; and sound effects in order to create a specific effect on the audience.
Non-Diegetic sound is sound added in post-production to have an effect on the audience. The first example of a non diegetic sound used to create effect in “Flowers” is the theme tune. The programme began with a sombre and somewhat mellow theme tune which created a dark mood. Using such a melancholic tune leads the viewers to believe that the programme will be gloomy and dark. However, this is disproven as comedy is portrayed through the dark events, such as the tree branch snapping in the opening scene when Maurice Flowers attempts to hang himself. The contrast allows the viewers to find light in the situation whilst also relating to the situation. This theme continues throughout the programme as cheery and upbeat music is played over the top of bitter circumstances. This allows everyday, negative events to seem funny. On the other hand, on occasion melancholic music is played at a sad part of the show. This allows the viewers to feel sympathetic prompts the audience’s mood to reflect the mood of the characters. When something bad occurs, a high pitch whiny sound is used in order to add suspense to the situation. It also makes the viewers feel uncomfortable when watching adding to the eerie tone.
Throughout the episode a narrator explains the setting and actions of the characters. The tone of the narrator shares many similarities with the stereotypical narrator at a pantomime or child’s film. By doing this, the audience feel younger and more immature therefore allowing them to enjoy the jokes and to feel more free to laugh at the problems of adulthood. The narration has a mono-tonal voice and speaks in rhyme. This allows the programme to seem much more structured and almost like a structured story. Once again, this contrasts with the actions occurring in the scene as they come across as fairly random and crazy. The narration also displays a juxtaposition to the seriousness of the situations shown in the programme. This also allows the otherwise formal and sincere programme to seem lighthearted and amiable.
Diegetic sound is sound that purports to come from the world of the film. The creators of “Flowers” have used diegetic sounds such as dialogue, squeaky floorboards and tree branches snapping to create an effect on the audience. An example of diegetic sound used to create effect in “Flowers” is when the daughter, Amy Flowers, begins to play the piano at the anniversary party. At first the piano tune is fairly calm, however as the drama and chaos increases the tempo, dynamics and energy that she is playing also increases. This creates a foreboding effect as the audience know that when the chaos gets too much and when the music gets too fast and too loud something will happen to stop all of the noise. When the accident occurs, the music instantly stops as there is no more tension and suspense to build. During the scene where Maurice attempts to hang himself, specific audio pieces are enhanced such as the feet crunching against the leaves, the rope against the tree bark and the crow. These are simple noises but have strong connotations such as the crow. Crows are a sign of death and darkness and so by using the caw of a crow the scene becomes more morbid. They also allow the scene to be more alluring and serious. This added seriousness and tension adds to the humour when it goes wrong.
Various different shots are shown to be used in the programme in order to create specific effects on the audience. Not only this, but the creators of “Flowers” have used varying shot movement and angles to represent and create effect.
To begin with, a long shot is used in order to display the setting to the audience. This gives the audience an idea about whereabouts the programme will be set and give an overall tone. The long shot also displays how isolated the family are. This builds to the mysterious tone. Throughout the episode there are many close-ups. The close-up shots allow the audience to see reactions and expressions in more detail. This allows them to feel empathy for the character. Towards the beginning close-up shots are used to keep the actions of Maurice Flowers a mystery. This adds a tension to the scene which allows the relief and comedy to be at a higher level when it goes wrong. Once the fondue machine explodes, a mid shot is used in order to display not only the facial expression of the character that the contents landed on, but also to show the mess that it has made. As the chaos at the party increases, an argument begins to emerge. In order to display this argument and all involved, a mixture of a two shots and a shot-reverse-shots are used. By using these, the audience can view the whole argument whilst also experiencing the reactions and seeing the facial expressions as each character reacts. Two shots can also be used to display relationships. In the kitchen, a two shot is used in order to show a conversation between Maurice and his son, Donald. Not only is the conversation displayed to viewers, Maurice has his back on Donald throughout the conversation. This displays the distance to their relationship which adds an awkward and pessimistic mood.
Camera movements also build moods. When Donald asks, “Why’s the tree broken?” the camera moves around Maurice to a close-up of his face to see his reaction. This shows his expression as he becomes aware that his secret may be revealed; this allows the viewers to feel sympathy towards him. It also adds tension and awkwardness which is relieved when Donald turns it into a joke. A common camera movement used in “Flowers” is tilt. Often, the camera tilts upwards to show the body and then focuses in on the act occurring or facial expression to reveal emotions attached to that. This reveals the mood to the audience allowing them to empathise with the characters.
An example of shot and camera movement used together is when the daughter, Amy, is playing the piano and a dream like sequence of the neighbour is displayed. The shots are transitions and have many layers to them, the image is blurred and is very slow and smoothly moving. This combined with the warm colours, nature of the shots and music gives a creepy and odd mood off. It is also partially uncomfortable and displays the abnormal features of the Flowers family.
“Flowers” uses continuity editing as the story is being told in a chronological order. This type of editing adds a sense of reality and order into the programme, allowing the audience to feel more involved, to be learning/experiencing different things and to be going through the day alongside the characters.
Towards the beginning of the programme there are fewer camera shots and each shot remains for longer. This adds a calm and smooth tone to the programme but changes as the action of the programme increases. It also forces the audience to look at the awkward reactions present in order to display a definite tone and mood. When the chaos at the anniversary party increases, the shots become much shorter and there are a lot more. This allows the audience to see the reactions and actions of everyone in the scene, but also adds to the build up excitement and tension alongside the music.
Mise en Scene
Mise en Scene is a french phrase which translates to “putting into the frame” or “staging”. It includes everything that you see in the frame whether it be the positioning of actors, their makeup/clothing or lighting. Each thing displayed in a shot is there for a reason and is there to create an effect.
The setting of “Flowers” is in a stereotypical English countryside. There are green fields surrounding, the weather is dim and cloudy and the colours are fairly dull and neutral. This creates a fairly ‘normal’ yet sombre tone for the show. The weather, lighting and setting is quite dark. This forebodes the upcoming programme as it is a dark comedy and also prepares the viewers for the gloomy upcoming events. It also matches the dark humour that is used throughout the programme.
The mother of the family, Deborah Flowers played by Olivia Colman, wears very stereotypically ‘mother-like’ clothes. She wears a cardigan and a tweed coat and has a short, simple bob haircut to match her natural looking makeup. Having characters to match their stereotypes allows the audience to connect to the programme more as it seems to be more realistic and relatable. The daughter, Amy Flowers, is presented to be the opposite of her twin brother, Donald Flowers. She has dark hair that frames her pale, thin face. These are all common stereotypes of an ’emo’ or ‘goth’. The characters stereotypes are not solely displayed through their clothes, hair and makeup. When Shun draws a picture, he draws some sort of cartoon in the style of anime. This backs up the nationality of his character and adds to the comforting familiarity.
Arguably, the main prop of the episode is the hangman’s rope. This rope displays the intentions of Maurice Flowers and gets across to the viewers the darkness of his character. Other various props such as a grand piano, fireplace and a wall full of books adds to the setting of a typical English home which also allows the viewers to relate.
During the title sequence when being introduced to the various family members, they seem to be partially obscured by the lighting. This displays the family to be dysfunctional and allows the viewers to become interested and intrigued into the characters of the programme.
The directors of “Flowers” also use composition to display the characteristics of characters in order to create a specific mood. At the beginning of the programme, there is a shot to show the father, Maurice Flowers, in his office. The whole room is dim with a lit up Mr Flowers in the centre. This shows that he is an important character but also makes him seem isolated and alone. This displays his feelings of depression to the audience from very early on, therefore allowing the audience to feel sympathetic to him throughout. When Shun and Maurice are in the shed having a conversation Mrs Flowers enters wanting to have a conversation with Maurice. All three characters are shown in the shot, however Deborah is shown in the centre stood outside of the shed. This positioning shows that she is the outsider in this situation and is distant from the other two. By doing this, the audience automatically can infer that the relationship between Maurice and Deborah is uncomfortable and somewhat forced. Composition can also be used to display authority and control. For example, when Deborah wanted the anniversary party to go ahead Maurice was shown to be higher up and looking down on Deborah showing that he had the most authority. However, as they began to agree they are shown to be on the same level. When they are shown on the same level in the shot together it is almost as if they are pretending that everything is fine which creates a somewhat awkward mood. Another example of this is when Amy Flowers is shown un her room. She is shown to be alone and isolated in an attic converted bedroom. She is presented in darkness and in the centre of the shot alone which presents to the audience that she has a wacky, lonely and odd persona.
The writer of “Flowers”, Will Sharpe, uses these various techniques in order to create a specific effect on the audience. The dark comedy has a mix of comedy, drama and darkness and so at different times these features will be used to create different effects and moods upon the audience.