We brought you a video created by Baltimore-based filmmaker Jacob T. Swinney several months back, in which he showed the first shot and last shot of over 50 films in succession. Today, I present you with Swinney’s second venture into the First and Final Frames series he has created, now boasting 70 films in the video to compare the beginnings and ends of.
There is a template that exists in the world of filmmaking when it comes to writing a script and building a story. This template, created by screenwriter Blake Snyder, includes both the opening shot and closing shot of the film, as important moments to be planned from the first draft of the script. The purpose is to use those two moments of the film to see how the events of the story have changed the world or the characters of it. An interesting take on this concept is shown in the video by using the film The Machinist. The shots from the film take a look at the startling difference in Christian Bale’s physical appearance. It is actually a reversal of the guiding concept that Snyder talked about, because the first shot is technically the end of his story, and the last shot is its beginning, as it shows how the act of taking an innocent life drove a normal healthy man into an emaciated and unstable wreck.
This story concept is not a solid rule in film, however. Sometimes, the opening and closing shots are treated as bookends that simply give the audience a visual cue to understand when the end has arrived. In 1989’s Mystery Train, the use of the same shot depicting a train traveling in one direction at the beginning and the opposite direction at the end is a great example of this technique.
A third possible use of planning these shots would be to give an audience an idea of how a story’s focus and purpose may change over time. Danny Boyle’s Sunshine opens with a shot of the sun in space. For most of the film, it seems quite obvious that the overarching concept of the film is for a small crew on a space ship to save the sun from dying out, but the closing shot that depicts a stark winter on Earth, and the people living in it, allows the audience to understand that the true purpose of the story was to save the people back home on Earth. This purpose is spoken of, but never truly hits home until the audience sees just how bad things had gotten on Earth. This small-stakes to large-stakes jump give the audience a greater sense of empathy toward the characters it saw just recently give their lives in a struggle that no one today could truly understand.
To see a film these days, it can be very difficult for an audience to truly understand and appreciate the amount of time, effort, planning, and love that must be put into it by everyone involved in its creation. Of course, that may not be true of all movies, but the ones that really matter and stay with us throughout the years are pieces of art. It is only when we must dissect them in a manner as these videos have that we can sometime appreciate the pieces that meant so much to someone else.
Let us know what you think of the video in the comments below!
HT: Laughing Squid
Featured image credits belong to Columbia Pictures