Discuss the ways in which the extract constructs the representation of ability/disability using the following:
- Camera Shots, Angle, Movement and Composition
- Sound Design
In order to answer the statement, we watched the first 2/3 minutes of the first episode (Study in Pink 01×01, 2010) of the BBC drama Sherlock.We were put into groups of 4 and we all shared our ideas with each other.
The extract that we were shown is of Dr. John Watson (pictured above on the left, played by Martin Freeman) dreaming about his past in the SAS. He is shown to be distressed by these flashbacks which suggest some sort of mental disability such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He then wakes up and is shown to have a walking stick; this displays the physical disability that he has gained from his experiences in the war. We then see Watson with a therapist who suggests to him to write a blog about what occurs to him in his everyday life. John Watson sees this as pointless because “nothing happens to [him]”. However, this is ironic as this then leads to the first episode where he meets Sherlock Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Camera Shots, Angle, Movement and Composition
There are various ways in which the extract uses camera shots, angle, movement and composition in order to portray ability/disability.
The extract begins with a dream/flashback of John Watson fighting in Afghanistan in the SAS. This dream is displayed by using point of view shots. By using this type of shot, the viewers can see and experience what John had previously experienced with his time at war. The shot also displays that this part of his life is still present in his mind and he is unable to disconnect himself from this part of his life. He is unable to leave the soldier part of himself behind and experiences PTSD firsthand as a result of this. For the duration of the dream, lens flare emphasises the hardships and reality of war that is constantly replaying in the mind of Watson. The flashback scenes are filmed using a handheld camera; the unstableness of the camera represents how unstable Watson is mentally… his mind is all over the place.
After the dream, the extract cuts to a birds eye view shot of Watson in bed. The shot enables the viewers to be looking down at Watson. The composition of the shot shows him in the centre, these two features put together display his vulnerability to the ‘real world’. The shot could also be viewed as fairly voyeuristic; this also backs up his vulnerability. The audience then see John Watson sat upright on his bed in his dull bedroom. The shot shows Watson isolated in the dull room, this displays his isolation and vulnerability from the outer world. It also displays that he is separated and unable to connect to anyone. The camera then dollies out in order to display the rest of the room. This is when viewers learn that Watson is not only disabled mentally, but also physically. As the camera dollies out, a walking stick is shown. The walking stick is positioned to be across the room to Watson; the fact that he has it placed away from him shows his reluctance to help and to accepting that his life in the SAS is over. Following this scene, the walking stick is somehow shown in each camera shot. This reoccurrence displays the importance of the walking aid to Watson’s life and so emphasises his disability which was presumably gained from an accident in Afghanistan.
Watson is then shown to make what is presumably his breakfast. He brings out an apple and a mug of coffee. The camera has a shallow focus on the mug; this brings the audiences attention to the army logo on the mug. It also links back to the dream of life in the army that was previously shown and tells the audience that his mind is trapped in that way of life and he cannot let go of that lifestyle.
The scene then changes, Watson is now in a therapist’s office getting help for his mental disability. In the shot showing Watson sat down in the therapist’s office he has been positioned in the rule of thirds so that he seems to be separated from the surroundings; this shows how detached he is from the ‘real world’ and how he can not snap back or adjust back into reality. The shot is also filmed from a higher angle meaning that as the audience, we are looking down at him slightly; this allows him to seem more vulnerable and weak due to his mental and physical disabilities. It also suggests that this is how people in society view others with disability, society looks down on, judges and pities the vulnerable. When the camera dollies into Watson towards the end of the scene the audience are drawn in to focus on him and his emotions. The audience feel a sense of sympathy towards him and focus on him as he is the main character in the shot and scene.
Here is the mind map that my group produced in order to come up with analysis for camerawork…
The scene begins with the dream of Watson at war. In order to display how hard, fast pace, energetic, chaotic and active this event was, fast pace editing has been used. The more frequent shots match how chaotic and frenzied the war was and could also represent the mind of Watson now because of it. Watson is meant to be sleeping, the fact that his dreams are this upbeat and active whilst he is meant to be calm and relaxed show how much the war has effected his mentality. In contrast to this, slower editing pace is used to show the life of Watson in present day. This could suggest the slow pace of him adapting back into the normal world but cold also represent how before he was always active, running and never standing still compared to present day where he can barely walk to his walking stick; this shows how the disabilities from war limit him in his everyday life.
When dreaming of his lifestyle back in the war, cross cutting is used to show how distressing Watson finds these flashbacks and memories of his past. The scene displays footage from the war and then cuts to Watson breathing very heavily. This shows that even in his new life, flashbacks often trigger a sense of panic, horror and trauma showing that he is not coping with the terrorising images in his mind.
When Watson is shown to be on his laptop trying to think of something to blog, the audience can see his face in the screen. However, this then fades out into the next scene in the therapist’s office. Not only does the fade display the slow passing of time in his life now that he is disabled and alone, but it shows his lack of enthusiasm into attending the session. This reluctance displays his shame of his own disability and how he feels as though he needs to cover it up. The fade also shows his isolation from the outer world.
When Watson is shown to be in the therapist’s office, shot reverse shot is commonly used; this allows the audience to see the reactions of both the therapist and John Watson. The facial expressions of Watson display his discomfort and lack of social skill when trying to adjust back into civilised life. Even though both characters are shown through shot reverse shot, the therapist seems to have much more screen time then Watson. This shows viewers that she is comfortable in this situation whereas Watson is not as he is embarrassed by his disability and his mental disability is stopping him from opening up and becoming comfortable in the situation.
Here is the mind map that my group produced in order to come up with analysis for editing…
During the war dream there are many exaggerated sounds such as gunfire, shouting and screaming. These sounds display the chaos in Watson’s mind and the loudness could represent how much he wants his old life back. These sounds can be classed as diegetic sounds because even though they are being presented in a dream, they are meant to be purporting from the world of the film. Also in the dream there are a stream of echoes at the beginning; this displays the distortion and trauma of war and also show the echoes in his mind on a daily basis. Eery echoes are also often associated with being haunted and so it could be argued that Watson is being haunted by the echoes of his past. When the stress of the dream becomes too much for John Watson he suddenly awakes. As soon as he does this the extract goes silent. This noticeable juxtaposition displays the mundaneness of his life that his mental and physical disability has brought upon him. The clear difference also shows the contrast between his old and new life. When waking up from the dream, Watson is shown to be in a state of shock and relief. This is shown through the diegetic, exaggerated sound of his heavy breathing. The heavy breaths show the stress and horror of Watson’s past creeping up on him. This is the first moment in the extract where the audience sense a form of PTSD within Watson. On the other hand, the heavy breathing could be displaying how scared he is of adapting and adjusting to his new life. As soon as Watson awakes there is a slight, high pitched ringing sound, non diegetic, being played. This adds discomfort to the scene which shows the audience how he feels in his new life and within his own mind.
When carrying out actions such as getting the mug and apple in the scene, the sounds are exaggerated hugely; this shows that these are the most exciting things happening to Watson now that his life has been limited due to his mental and physical disability. They also emphasise how lonely he is and contrast to the previously exaggerated sounds in the war zone in order to show how his life has changed so dramatically. Whilst sitting on his laptop with the mug and apple, there is a distant car horn. This shows how isolated he now is and how disconnected he is from the ‘real world’. He then opens his laptop onto an empty blog page. In this same shot we hear the therapist speaking for the first time;this is a sound bridge and connects this scene into the next whilst showing that the two are connected and the blog will be vital to Watson’s recovery.
When in his therapy session there is no music in the background, there are also many pauses and silences. The silence gives the scene a very awkward and uncomfortable tone; this represents how Watson feels when talking about his mental and physical disability as he feels embarrassed and ashamed by them. The silence also adds to the reality of his disability. The therapist is shown to be starting conversation, asking questions and trying to prevent the silence. Dr John Watson seems reluctant to talk which further proves his shame of his disability and how uncomfortable he feels connecting to others as he has felt isolated for so long.
The music played in the background throughout is very mellow and minor; this mirrors the mind of John Watson and helps to portray to the audience how his disabilities make him feel. However, the mellow music is then hugely juxtaposed by the upbeat, forte, composed theme tune. This juxtaposition displays how John Watson’s life was before he managed to get over his sense of isolation and dis communication and before he became an associate to Sherlock Holmes.
Here is the mind map that my group produced in order to come up with analysis for sound design…
At the beginning, in the dream of Watson fighting back in Afghanistan there are many props to set the scene including: guns; army, camouflage uniforms; helmets; tanks; run down houses; camouflage netting; plus much more. The lighting is bright and all characters are shown to be active. All of this allows the flashback to seem not only chaotic, but exciting and adventurous. This is then juxtaposed as the audience see John Watson’s apartment for the first time. The room that Watson is shown to be in is dim coloured, plain, dimly lit and very simple. The contrast shows how his disabilities have taken the excitement and purpose out of his life and how he is so drained of energy that he does not bother to brighten up where he lives and decides to lead the most simple lifestyle that he can. When the scene shows the whole room, two bottles of pills are shown to be in the front centre of the rooms. This shows that these pills dictate his new life, just like his disability controls what he does, who he sees and how he sees life. The colour palette of the room is simple and somewhat depressing; this shows how the disabilities that he obtained from the war have made him feel.
When sitting in bed, Watson is displayed with a plain black background behind him. The background is representing how his life has turned upside down and is now dark and plain everyday. The bed that he is shown to be sat on has been neatly made; this is a common trait of army personnel and shows that there are some parts of his past life that will never leave him. The army and his disability will always be a part of him, he just has to learn to find a way to adapt and adjust back into normal life. The scene then pans to reveal the walking stick on the opposite side of the room. By using the rule of thirds, the audience are drawn to see it and the eyeliner between Watson and the walking aid shows how much he relies on it in his new life. The walking stick is from then shown in almost every shot. This constant appearance shows his dependence on the stick and how this is now a part of him that he will have to learn to live with.
When Watson takes an apple and a mug with the SAS crest on it, there are various ways of reading the items and how they present the disability of him. The two items contradict one another, the army mug is a souvenir of his past, exciting and adventurous life, whereas the apple is showing his new simplistic life he must lead due to his disability. The two together show that both sides of his life are constantly playing in his mind. Another way to view it is that the apple is used in order to relate to Biblical terms.The apple could be perceived as the fruit of life showing that Watson wants his old, fuller life back. Also, the dreams,flashbacks of war in Afghan and PTSD could represent the devil tempting him just like the devil tempted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden with the apple.
Watson then goes into his draw in order to get out his laptop to try and blog due to the advice of his therapist. When taking the laptop out, a gun is revealed below it. These two objects show the two sides to his life. The laptop represents his new life as it directly links to his therapy sessions due to his disabilities, whereas the gun links back to his old life in the army and shows how he can not let go of his dreams and enter reality. They juxtapose the two lives that he is replaying.
Here is the mind map that my group produced in order to come up with analysis for mise-en-scene…
Here is the trailer for the episode displaying much of the scenes that I have mentioned in this post…