Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Contrasting Images during the Opening Credits of Murder in the First

There is a significant number of contrasting and graphic images illustrated throughout the opening credits of Murder in the First (1995). The film opens with no images, but rather the chaotic mixture of sounds, including sirens blaring, footsteps running, and voices yelling. The sound of two gunshots is herd, followed by a voice saying, “I give up Mr. Glenn. Please don’t hit me.” This beginning part is ended with “Call the press!” Beginning the film in this manner is impactful and powerful, but it is strange that amid all of the chaos and disorder, the media and the press is on the mind of Mr. Glenn.

The next scene is a very sharp distinction from the opening of the film. The scene shifts dramatically, as it goes from the confusion of the attempted escape to a news report depicting the escape. However, the music accompanying the news report seems inappropriate and unsuitable, as the music sounds triumphant and somewhat cheerful, even though it is describing a very serious event. The news portrays the death of two of the escapees in a very light manner, as he says that those two prisoners were “destined for the morgue.” The news report then shows an image of one of the dead bodies with a guard standing next to it, waving and smiling at the camera. In addition, the news reporter describes the warden as “proud” and explains how he “congratulates” the guards for catching the escapees. This scene seems very unfitting and out-of-place in relation to the seriousness and atrocities that are illustrated throughout the rest of the film.

The following scene switches to a grotesque image of the body of Henry Young huddled on a slab of concrete in his solitary confinement cell. Once again, contrasting images are prevalent throughout this scene. After Young is thrown a small amount of food in his dark, tiny cell, a scenic view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge is presented, then it flashes back to Young attempting to slit his wrists on the brick in his cell. This constant change from Henry Young’s solitary confinement cell to the world outside of Alcatraz creates an emphasis on the horrific treatment of the prisoners of Alcatraz.

Furthermore, the next part of the film shows a prayer being said, but quickly switches to an unsettling image of the associate warden, Mr. Glenn, whipping Henry Young, while a guard stands outside the cell with a neutral and indifferent expression on his face. Moreover, Young is shown eating his measly pieces of bread inside of his dark, filthy cell, while an image of the guards eating sandwiches outside by the water on a bright day is presented immediately after.

These constant opposing images create a strong impact and powerful depiction of the horrifying treatment of the prisoners of Alcatraz and the gruesome conditions that they were forced to endure.


1 comment:

  1. The first time I watched this movie, I was in the library, and some of the grotesque images were ones that made me yelp causing many stares from the students nearby. Some of the more graphic scenes I remember were when Associate Warden Glenn was shaving and nicked his neck causing him to yell out in furry and punch his bathroom mirror. This part of the movie didn't seem necessary; it just acted as a way to make the associate warden seem more aggressive and commanding than when he was in a normal business suit.
    The other image I distinctly remember, follows the previous scene where the associate warden has Henry Young pinned up, basically interrogating him and demeaning him. By the end of their conversation the associate warden takes his razor and cuts Young's Achilles Heel to ensure that Young received the message he was trying to pound into Young: "No one escapes from Alcatraz."
    It's interesting you mention the contrasting images of happy, then gruesome because initially I just saw it as a relief from the constant gross images that kept appearing. Now I realized it was this contrast the made the grotesque moments more gruesome and made the happier moments more enjoyable. Although the transitions between these scenes were somewhat jarring, this roller coaster of ups and downs made the story dramatized enough to keep the story interesting.