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A Close Reading Of A Ten-minute Extract From ?The Age Of Innocence?. Essay, Research Paper

(Dir: Martin

Scorsese, 1993.) ??????????? As a

Martin Scorsese film ?The Age of Innocence? stands in a different genre.

However, it uses the conventions of a film set in this era and of a romantic

drama. Scorsese also employs other interesting conventions to assist in the

development of the narrative as well as of characters, themes and ideas. The

use of these conventions can be found in the extract which involves some of the

first scenes of this film. It takes place at the Bouford?s ball and then moves

onto Mrs Mingotts home.This scene opens in the foyer of

the Bouford?s home. The seamless cut made by use of continuity editing makes

this scene seem as though it is part of the last, there is a natural, swift and

smooth flow on screen. This emphasises and is in fitting with the action just

witnessed on screen; that of swift ballroom dancing, as well as with the

accompanying classical and elegant music which flows from the last scene to

this. We are introduced to the grand foyer, rich in colour and, as our narrator

describes it is a? ?boldfully

planned? home thatScorsese has placed us in. This all adds to the

elegant mise-en-scene. The whole of this scene is centred on Newland Archer,

the camera moves with him as though another guest belonging to this society.

Scorsese has used camera work of this kind in other films in order for the

audience to be able to see what the characters on screen see. Servant men, also

looking grand in their flamboyant uniforms, greet him in the hallway. The men

seem to heighten Newland?s position in society to the audience. They are at his

service and as Newland makes his way up the staircase they line the stairway,

standing like guards honouring their general.This is one of the first scenes

of the film and it is here that the audience are introduced to the narrator.

This female voice is as graceful as the swift camera movement and the other

non-diagetic sound, the classical music. The voice, although respectfully

formal, is rather friendly. She serves as the omniscient narrator throughout

the film, the audience is informed of a lot by her, a key tool in the discourse

of the film; she speaks as though she is part of the society we are viewing. It

is as though she is the voice of a Jane Mansfield novel; it was in fact based

on a novel written by Edith Wharton. A narrator of this kind is commonly found

in a romantic period drama. It is this narrative voice that has informed us,

indirectly that the person we see on screen is Newland Archer. This scene is interesting, as Scorsese seems to use

Newland?s character to expose his audience to a range of themes and at a deeper

reading can show some insight to the narrative that lies ahead in the film. As

the servants greet Archer Newland, they take his gloves and lay them on a table

that has many pairs of white gloves on it. The camera focuses directly on the

gloves and table, this is important as the theme of hands, as a fragment of the

body is a reoccurring theme throughout the film. It is found later in this

extract when the next scene opens on the view point of Mrs Manson Mingott, who

is looking though a spyglass at May?s ring, more importantly at her hand. Hands

seem to signify a number of things on a deeper level in this film, May?s hands

seem to represent that which is innocent and does not harm its self but is

harmed, Mrs Minger says it is ?tampered? but ?the skin is white?.

Hands in the film can also emphasise the theme of appearance. In this same

scene Mrs Manson Mingott discusses how her hands were modelled in Paris she

also says that May?s hand ?sets the ring off?. Earlier in the extract

the camera follows Newland Archers hand as he delicately picks a white bud from

the flowers that May is holding, hands in this scene signify the breaking of

innocence.Temporal order, together with the guidance of our

narrator, helps in the flow of understanding in this extract. As Archer moves

through the Bouford?s home, the camera tracks him throughout, however, the audience?s

attention does not stay with this character he seems to be used as a tool to

guide us through the home, allowing us to see its grandeur. Scorsese uses paintings in this film to almost serve

as a separate narrative that almost mirrors that of the film, in this scene the

paintings seem to also foretell some of what is to come. As Archer passes the

lined servants on the stairway and arrives at the top of it, the camera pans

side ways to show a large painting of an eloquent looking female, reminding the

audience of the status of the owners of this home. The next painting we are

drawn to is also large; the scene is in snow and shows two women, one in red,

one in white collapsed. Later in the film Scorsese brings this painting to life

in an almost identical setting. The bleak scenery is where Newland Archer comes

to visit Ellen, dressed in red. We already have seen May presented in white

colours throughout the film. Perhaps Scorsese was hinting towards what would

happen in Newlands future in the narrative with these two characters, perhaps

towards the ?collapse? of Newlands morals and his guilt due to his feelings

turning away from May and towards Ellen (as these colours are reminiscent of

the two characters). The audience are then moved through the ?ethylated

drawing rooms? and into the ?crimson drawing room?. Here hangs ?The Return

of Spring?, a nude painting, which our narrator explains; the Bouford?s had the

?audacity? to hang in plain sight (more insight into their society

operates). In the next drawing room two significant paintings to the films

narrative hang on either side of an arched opening. Each seems to represent the

two main females of this film. One is the image of a lady dressed in yellow,

with blonde hair she seems to remind us at a second viewing of the film, of

Ellen, as Ellen is associated with yellow settings and Newland sends her yellow

roses (which also fill this room). The other painting is that of a female

figure in pastel colours such as that which May is associated with throughout the

film. This figure is in a crowd of people, signifying that May is placed in

society along with many of the characters in this film.? ??????????? In the ballroom there are a number of paintings of social

gatherings, they are almost mirroring the action on screen. This is emphasised

by the fact that there are also large mirrors hung on these walls, reflecting

the happenings in the ballroom and suggesting that like the paintings, these

people are concerned with appearance. In the following scene paintings are used

to reflect the personality of Mrs Mingott in her home. She sits with her dogs,

on the walls hang many paintings of dogs. The use of paintings is used

primarily to reflect this society but also to emphasise how important

appearance is to this society. The theme of appearance is a convention employed

in many films of this genre, as is the discovery of how that particular society

functions. In the second scene of this extract a painting in Mrs Mingotts home

is brought to the attention of the audience. This is on a wall full of

paintings and is of a wall full of paintings. This is extremely effective in

emphasising the society and its concerns with appearance. Although not in the

same extract, it is important to note that when Ellen and Newland are alone and

together the audience are given the impression that these two are not concerned

with appearance between the two of them. Scorsese places them in a room with no

paintings on the walls. The walls are bare with just the faint outlines of

where they once hung. Empty picture frames lean against the walls.? At some points Scorsese seems to over use

the paintings, however this may be how add to the idea that society drowns on

with their ideals of how important appearance and possessions are. ??????????? In the ballroom the music continues to bring to life the

pace and tone of this graceful social event. The audience is then introduced by

the narrator to Julius Bouford who seems to give great impact by Scorsese?s use

of slow motion in this meeting, we discover that he is unsavoury in his person

life. The motion then returns to normal when the audience arrive at where May

stands with some other ladies discussing her ring, on her hand. The ring is

later used, as discussed earlier, to draw attention to Mays hand. It is also

used in this extract to assist the relationship that Newland and May have. May

uses the ring as an item to show people, she is showing it to her friends and

then to Mrs Mingott, again the idea of appearance is brought up here. Their

relationship could suggestively be for appearance. When leaving Mrs Mingott?s

home, later in the extract, someone comments that the ring is catching on the

sleeve of Mays coat as she puts in on, this is just as Newland and Ellen are

talking, perhaps to suggest that the two talking is what disrupts the

relationship between Newland and May, (which is what eventually does).??????????? From the ballroom Newland and May move out into the

garden where she holds a small bouquet of white flowers, signifying innocence.

As discussed earlier, the audience?s attention is focused upon Newland?s hand

as he picks a bud, disrupting innocence. Flowers and colour are used

effectively within ?The age of Innocence? for a number of things. The

flowers of pastel colours are always worn by May and she always placed in a

setting of these flowers, signifying her innocent personality. Yellow roses,

(like the ones Newland sends to Ellen) are associated with Ellen. The drawing

room with the paintings that seem to represent May and Ellen seems to

overwhelmingly be filled with yellow flowers. Looking back over the film this

is perhaps suggestive of the way in which to Newland, Ellen?s presence takes

over much more of him than May?s. The pastel coloured painting is walked past

and ignored by Newland; it has hardly any impact against the yellow that fills

the room.??????????? One colour of great impact in this extract is red. Red

fills much of the Bouford?s home; the carpet in the foyer as Newland walks up

the stairway is red, as are the walls, the curtains and the seating. This is a

deep rich red colour and signifies passion to the audience, a passion that is

to come between Newland and Ellen. It also continues to be used throughout the

film. In romantic period dramas the theme of passion is commonly found.??????????? From the garden, the scene cuts to the ballroom again

where the camera gracefully follows and moves with Newland and May as they

dance with the many other couples waltzing with each other. The camera than

takes a birds eye view, looking down on the whole ballroom floor, with the

Bouford?s initial in the centre as it allows the audience to see the

choreographed movements of the people below, there for appearance?s sake, as

their lives are lived.??????????? This extract does not contain all of the elements of this

film however it contains much of them. The narrator is introduced in this

extract. Themes of appearance, innocence, order, and corruption are introduced

here through the use of paintings, colour, flowers and even hands. These are

themes which have great significance in the film and are continued throughout.

The genre of the film as a romantic period drama is felt throughout this

extract and the society, which the film looks closely at, is depicted

effectively here, it seems almost unconsciously done and may not be as Scorsese

intended. However, at a close reading it appears to have been complexly

structured to seem this way, by the clever use of direction.

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