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Analysis Project #1: Shot-by-shot breakdown of a scene

Scene analysis: from M (dir. Fritz Lang, Nero Film, 1931)

23 shots from Elsie’s home, when the clock strikes noon, where Elsie’s mother is preparing lunch for her girl who she is expecting should be coming home from school.

Part 1.

SHOT 1:

Framing:

CU

Camera Placement:

Shot slightly from a low angle. POV shot (as if Elsie’s mother was looking at the clock).

Description of the content:

Clock. Ringing/chirping because strike of noon. Elsie’s mother smiles after looking at the clock and shakes the suds from her hands.

Composition:

Clock is placed on the wall, shown in the center between kitchen utensils.

Lighting:

Normal. Sunlight coming in from the windows. Shadow of the clock cast on the wall.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. There is movement by the clock. The bird is coming in and out of the peephole, and the bells are striking back and forth.

Sound/Music:

“Cuckooing of the bird” coming from the clock. As well as the ringing of a church bell.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 2:

Framing:

MS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content:

Elsie’s mother smiles after looking at the clock and shakes the suds from her hands.

Composition:

Laundry. Washboard, buckets.

Lighting:

Normal. Sunlight coming in from the windows.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. There is movement by Elsie’s mother who shakes the suds from her hands/arms.

Sound/Music:

”Cuckooing of the bird” coming from the clock. As well as the ringing of a church bell.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 3:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content:

School entrance. People in heavy coats standing by the doors.

Composition:

Most people are in black coats. Everyone is facing the doors. Somewhat of a balanced composition; doors are in the middle.

Lighting:

Normal. Outdoors.

Depth of Field:

Strong depth of field, as if shot from across the street.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Cars in the shot are driving by, and bicyclist is peddling by. People are making slight movements and chatting with the people by them, and one man is smoking.

Sound/Music:

Church bell continues to ring. Honking of a car horn.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 4:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on from a side view.

Description of the content:

Elsie’s mother is by the stove tasting the food.

Composition:

Lots of kitchen utensils shown; pots, cups, plates, etc. Smoke coming from the hot food.

Lighting:

Normal. Sunlight coming in from the windows.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Elsie’s mother lifts the cover from the pot, stirs it up a bit and brings the spoon near her mouth to taste the food and smiles.

Sound/Music:

Church bell continues to ring, slowly fainting away.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 5:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on

Description of the content: 

Elise is waving bye to her 2 friends. While doing so, she goes onto the street without realizing and almost gets hit by a car. The sound of the honk scares her and she immediately backs away onto the sidewalk. Cross-guard then approaches her and helps her to cross the street.

Composition:

Man in a big coat and wearing a hat is the background. His shadow is cast on the wall as he is walking along. Then we see two woman and a man walk by. This man is also in a big coat and wearing a hat, and is carrying what looks like a briefcase in his arms.

Lighting:

Normal. Outdoors. Shadows are formed.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. People in the shot are moving. Cars are driving by.

Sound/Music:

Honking of the car horn.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 6:

Framing:

MS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content: 

Elsie’s mother is setting up the table.

Composition:

Cabinet in the background, filled with white dishes. Chair is pulled out. 

Lighting:

Normal. Sunlight coming in from the windows. Shadows on the right side.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Elsie’s mother places the cup, the rolled up napkin on the table, and then wipes the dish with a towel. She is meticulous when we see her move the napkin slightly as if to make sure it is in the “perfect spot.”

Sound/Music:

Clattering of the plates.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 7:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content:

Elsie is bouncing the ball (14 times) and walking up to the poster. We learn the little girl’s name is Elsie Beckmann.

Composition:

People walking by, shadows of them cast on the floor and walls. Man in long coat and hat leaning on pole reading newspaper. Shadow of the mysterious man against the “poster of the wanted murderer.”

Lighting:

Normal. Outdoors. Many shadows are formed in the shot.

Camera Movement:

Trucking as Elsie is walking on the sidewalk and bouncing the ball. As she throws the ball up against the poster, camera tilts up so we can read the poster.

Sound/Music:

Bouncing of the ball. We hear the voice of the mysterious man who talks to Elsie.    Then we hear Elsie’s voice.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 8:

Framing:

MS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content: 

Elsie’s mother standing by the table, putting finishing touches into the food.

Composition:      

Cabinet in the background, filled with white dishes. Chair is pulled out. 

Lighting:

Normal. Sunlight coming in from the windows. Shadows are formed in the shot..

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Elsie’s mother is slicing ingredients to put into the food. Then she looks up at the clock.  

Sound/Music:

Faint sound of the cover of the bowl being placed on the table.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 9:

Framing:

CU

Camera Placement:

POV shot. Shot slightly from a low angle.

Description of the content:

Clock. Reads 12:20pm. POV shot – it’s what Elsie’s mother is looking at.

Composition:

Clock is placed on the wall, shown in the center between kitchen utensils.

Lighting:

Normal. Shadow of the clock cast on the wall.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. There is movement by the clock. Clock chimes are swinging back and forth.

Sound/Music:

No sound.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 10:

Framing:

MS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content: 

Elsie’s mother looking at the clock while standing by the table, putting finishing touches into the food.

Composition:

Cabinet in the background, filled with white dishes. Chair is pulled out. 

Lighting:

Normal. Sunlight coming in from the windows. Shadows are formed in the shot.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Elsie’s mother is cutting ingredients into the bowl of food. She places the cover over the bowl again. As she hears the sound of footsteps in the hallway, she smiles and heads to open the door.

Sound/Music:

Sound of footsteps in the staircase.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

This was a reverse shot. Straight cut.

SHOT 11:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot from low angle (as if looking from the bottom of the stairs – POV shot)

Description of the content: 

Top of the staircase. 2 girls going up the stairs (same girls Elsie was waving bye to earlier).

Composition:

Staircase and windows.

Lighting:

Normal.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Girls are walking up the stairs.

Sound/Music:

Sound of footsteps going up the stairs. Elsie’s mother talks to the girls. The girls answer.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 12:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content:

Elsie’s mother standing by the railing of the staircase looking up at the 2 girls. 

Composition:

Staircase. Door is open.

Lighting:

Normal.

Camera Movement: 

Camera is still. Elsie’s mother looks up at the 2 girls and then down to the bottom floor. She walks back into the house and closes the door.

Sound/Music:

Sound of the girls’ footsteps still in motion.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

This was a reverse shot. Straight cut.

SHOT 13:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot from somewhat of a high angle.

Description of the content:

Old blind man is selling balloons/toys by a staircase. Man wearing a hat in a long coat is buying Elsie a balloon doll (with eyes, arms, body and legs).   

Composition:

Round staircase. Balloons. Small toys. Old man with a “blind” sign around his neck.

Lighting:

Normal.

Depth of Field:

Long depth of field, as if standing far away from them.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. People in the shot are making movements (Man in long coat is getting money out of his pocket. Old blind man is passing the balloon doll to Elsie). Man places money into the old blind man’s hand. Elsie walks next to the man as they take off.

Sound/Music:

Car horns. Whistling of a unique tune by the man in the long coat. Elsie’s voice.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 14:

Framing:

MS to a LS.

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content:

Elsie’s mother is standing by the stove.

Composition:

In the kitchen. Walks to the door. We see the postman Mr. Gehrke.

Lighting:

Normal.

Depth of Field:

Long depth of field. See the stairs and window behind the postman.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still at first. Then it pans left to the door. Elsie’s mother walks out of the shot as she says “Just a moment.” Elsie’s mother comes back into the shot, and then we see Mr. Gehrke walk up the stairs. Just as Elsie’s mother was about to close the door, she decides to go out into the hallway and look down to the bottom of the staircase.

Sound/Music:

Door bell rings. Elsie’s mother talking to Mr. Gehrke.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 15:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

POV shot. Shot from above as if looking down.

Description of the content: 

Quiet empty staircase with no sight of Elsie.

Composition:

Lots and lots of stairs.

Lighting:

Normal.

Depth of Field:

Long depth of field.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still.

Sound/Music:

Elsie’s mother shouts “Elsie!”

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 16:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content: 

Elsie’s mother is standing by the staircase railing in the hallway.

Composition:

Door. Window. Staircase.

Lighting:

Normal.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Elsie’s mother is walking back into the house and closes the door. She looks up at the clock.

Sound/Music:

Shutting of the door.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

This was a reverse shot. Straight cut.

SHOT 17:

Framing:

CU

Camera Placement:

POV shot. Shot slightly from a low angle.

Description of the content:

Clock. Reads 1:15pm. POV shot – it’s what Elsie’s mother is looking at.

Composition:

Clock is placed on the wall, shown in the center between kitchen utensils.

Lighting:

Normal. Shadow of the clock cast on the wall.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. There is movement by the clock. Clock chimes are swinging back and forth.

Sound/Music:

Bird from the clock chirps once.

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 18:

Framing:

MS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content: 

Elsie’s mother standing by the door looking very concerned. She puts her hand to her stomach (clenching it). She walks towards the window.

Composition:

In the kitchen. Elsie’s mother has the magazine in her hand. She moves this bottle from the window out of her way. We see the laundry she was washing.

Lighting:

Normal.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still at first. Then pans right to follow Elsie’s mother to the window. Elsie’s mother makes a face when she hears the noise from outside, and proceeds to go see what is going on. She opens the window and screams out “Elsie” numerous times.

Sound/Music:

Hears voice of a man coming from outside the window. Thud from the bottle by the window when she moves it. Elsie’s mother shouting out “Elsie!” (2 times)

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

This was a reverse shot. Straight cut.

SHOT 19:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot from high angle as if looking down to the bottom of the staircase.

Description of the content: 

Quiet empty staircase with no sight of Elsie.

Composition:

Lots and lots of stairs.

Lighting:

Normal.

Depth of Field:

Long depth of field.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still.

Sound/Music:

Elsie’s mother shouts “Elsie!”

Shot Duration:

Short take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 20:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot straight on.

Description of the content:

Quiet empty attic.

Composition:

Clothes hanging.

Lighting:

Dark. With minimal lighting coming in from the small windows.

Depth of Field:

Long depth of field.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still.

Sound/Music:

Elsie’s mother shouts “Elsie!” (2 times)

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 21:

Framing:

CU

Camera Placement:

Shot from a high angle.

Description of the content: 

The setting on the table.

Composition:

Empty plate, empty cup, empty chair (which is not straight).

Lighting:

Normal.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still.

Sound/Music:

No sound.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 22:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot from a high angle.

Description of the content:

The ground (grass) with Elsie’s ball rolling out from the side.

Composition:

Grass, leaves, Elsie’s ball.

Lighting:

Normal. Outdoors. With shadows formed in the shot.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. Elsie’s ball rolls out from the right side into the center of the shot.

Sound/Music:

No sound.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Straight cut.

SHOT 23:

Framing:

LS

Camera Placement:

Shot from a low angle.

Description of the content:

Telephone lines with the balloon doll that Elsie was given earlier. 

Composition:

Lots of telephone lines. Sense of balanced composition with the tower being in the middle.

Lighting:

Normal. Outdoors.

Camera Movement:

Camera is still. The balloon doll is floating and eventually flies away out of the shot.

Sound/Music:

No sound.

Shot Duration:

Long take.

Edits/Transition to the next shot:

Fades out into black.

———————————————————————————————————————

Part 2.

This scene early in the movie introduces to the viewers what the film is going to be about. We can notice a lot of patterns revolving around circles or round objects. Such as the shots of the clock, Elsie’s ball, the balloon doll given to Elsie, as well as the empty plate on the table. There is also a large amount of shadows in the shots. We see that the mysterious man talking to Elsie is presented as a shadow. Almost every shot, shadows of people or objects are cast on the walls or on the ground. Another thing I have noticed is that in various shots, there are men in long coats and wearing a hat in the background. Some of which are more obvious than others, like in shot 7, there is a man leaning against a pole reading a newspaper. Lastly, the sounds we hear in the scene all send out a sense of tension. Like in shot 5 when the car almost hits Elsie, we hear honking. When Elsie was given the balloon doll, there is also the sound of honking as well as the whistling tune by the man Elsie was with.

———————————————————————————————————————

Part 3.

The emphasis of circles or round objects may be used to help understand the movie and how things happen. The round clock is what tells us that time has passed and shows that Elsie is not home yet. The ball Elsie was bouncing as she was walking down the sidewalk was found lying around by itself on the grass. The balloon doll given to Elsie was found floating in the air by itself. Also the empty plate on the table reveals to us that it has been untouched, showing that Elsie has not come home at all. Although we don’t see what exactly happened to Elsie, these shots allow us to imagine what has happened and to expect it to be something negative. Some viewers may get the message of karma from the emphasis of these round objects, like the saying, “What goes around comes around,” as in the wanted murderer in the poster will eventually get what he deserves.

There is also a large amount of shadows in the shots. We see that the mysterious man talking to Elsie is presented as a shadow, therefore we are left wondering who this man could be until he is revealed to us. Shadows could be used to convey the existence of the underground world, as well as the murderer who has to live in his “shadow” and is trying to hide from the world.

In many shots, we see men in long coats and wearing a hat. I feel as though these men are purposely added in the shots to make us guess who could be the killer. Since we are only given a shadow of the mysterious man at first, who we are able to tell from the shadow image is wearing a long coat and a hat, we tend to question if any man we see in the shot can possibly be the murderer. By doing this, Lang makes it as though any man on the street in a long coat and wearing a hat is possible of being the murderer, so that we have to keep paying attention until the killer is revealed.

It can be determined as foreshadow when the car almost hits Elsie in Shot 5. Whenever something bad is about to happen, we hear either the honking of car horns and/or the tune of the man’s whistling.

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~ by Avah Au-Yeung on October 14, 2011.

3 Responses to “Analysis Project #1: Shot-by-shot breakdown of a scene”

  1. I really loved this analysis and you a chose a wonderful scene. I also chose a scene from “M”, but I realized that many people didn’t, even though it had so many great scenes to choose from. You did a great job describing this scene and I learned so much from reading this! 🙂

  2. WOW– this is an incredible job with a scene that continues to haunt me every time I see it. Wonderful organization and detail, but best of all, you come up with some very interesting theories regarding the thematic use of certain formal techniques. The stills really help!

  3. Really good job analyzing this scene! Like Tazin said above, this was interesting to read because not many people chose a scene from “M” to analyze, and this was one scene that sticks out to me. I for sure have learnt a few things from reading this!

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