Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Changeling Essay by Ashley Akunna

Clint Eastwood’s Changeling starring Angelina Jolie, is a tale of a mother’s struggle to find her missing son. The film’s cinematography helps to illustrate much of the California setting and time period in which the film takes places. In the first few opening scenes, the bond between mother and son is established by the camera. We see mother and son leaving a trolley, while the camera closes in on their hands as they clasp. There is a lot of framing of people by windows and doorways. For instance, when Jolie drops her son off at school, the camera stays in the trolley, the two figures are framed by the trolley window. Also, after her son is missing, there is a scene where Jolie sits in his bedroom. The camera is outside the doorway, as the doorway becomes a frame. I feel that this is done to create a feeling of loneliness and separation. Because we are not allowed into these personal moments, we feel left out of the feelings she is going through. The scene in which Jolie goes to work, the last time she sees her son, this moment is intensified by the camera moment. The audience is given a clear indication that something is going to go wrong. Jolie stands outside, as her son watches from the living room window. As she walks away, the camera pulls away from the house. This shot decision was done to suggest the separation that the two characters will face, from that moment onward. It strengthens the feeling of separation and loss. When Jolie enters the house from work, her son is now missing, the camera takes on an omniscient view. We watch from above as she searches her house for her son. The camera does this, to suggest the emptiness of the house now that her son is gone.
The film uses establishing shots to give the viewer a sense of time and place. The camera usually starts in the horizon/sky and moves down towards traffic, and people, etc. In these opening scenes we are able to see the old fashioned cars, the palm trees, the distinctive California look, milk trucks driving by. We know that we are in California during the 1920s.
There is a sense of voyeurism in the film. The camera takes on an omniscient view several times. When Jolie calls to report her son missing, the camera is right above her right ear, as she holds the receiver. This is done purposely to magnify the sense of someone watching. In the film we find out that her son was abducted by a pedophile. These camera angles coincide with themes of perversity and peeping, which are evident in the film.
Towards the end of the film Jolie has a private meeting with her son’s suspected abductor in which she interrogates him mercilessly about her son’s fate. As the abductor refuses to tell her, he is dragged out of the cell. Jolie is left hanging onto the cell’s bars, as the camera moves away from her. This is done to suggest that Jolie is trapped in her own “prison”, because she doesn’t know what happened to her son. The camera becomes the abductor, and as he is dragged away, so is her hope for closure.

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