domingo, 8 de novembro de 2009

Studies #2 - Shura's Opening Scene

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Shura by Toshio Matsumoto is a demoniac experience, a cinematic nightmare which uses tension in order to build the slow destruction of a man haunted by his tragic fate. Let's see how the opening creates a dream-like atmosphere of a terrific huit-clos without exit.


1st cut [00:00-00:06] - Production Names.

2nd cut [00:06-00:44] - The colorful setting sun plunges the movie into darkness until its very end. Cinema reveals itself as the despair of night.

3rd to 9th cut [00:44-02:24] - Opening credits. A monk rings the bell as midnight comes. Something will sure happen.

10th cut [02:24-02:37] - Narrative ellispsis. We see our protagonist, Gengobei running madly, affraid of someone or something (we don't know) chasing him. And when he turns back to see what is chasing him, a great moment of cinema and editing unfolds:

11th cut to 16th cut [02:37-02:54] - Repetition cuts. In order to underline the terrific tension in which Gengobei is found, a series of quick cuts repeat the same exasperating motion of looking back. As we all know, repetition in extremis, leads to the greatest anguish. Additionaly, what he sees is nothing but police lanterns chasing him. To obliterate the subjects of the action is the same thing as recognize its general aspects. For that reason, what counts here is only the idea of being chased, not the reasons nor the protagonists.

11th cut

12th cut

13th cut

14th cut

15th cut

16th cut

17th cut to 2oth cut [02:54-03:40] - The desperate chase continues. Gengobei has to hide somehow. He runs to the house of his lover, escaping the unknown demons who are chasing him.

21st cut [03:40-04:30] - Gengobei crashes the door, entering in a world far more frightening than the one he was avoiding. He starts walking deeper into the house, hearing the uncanny sounds of crows. He then stumbles across a severed hand.

22nd cut to 23rd cut [04:30-04:37] - Gengobei is affraid. Repetition in this short and quick cut allows an illusion of continuity as if the camera actually had moved with Gengobei's stepping back. In reality, it was only a cut trick:

21st cut

22nd cut

23rd cut

24th cut [04:37-04:52] - Gengobei finds himself alone among a pile of bodies laying on the house, including his lover. With the hope of escaping those who were chasing him, Gengobei only finds his efforts absurd. That is the logic of nightmares.

25th cut to 27th [04:52-05:07] - Gengobei's Lover is dead and Gengobei watches his own corpse. The blood running outside her mouth proves that it is futile to struggle. Gengobei is the spectator of his own death. Formally, the 27th take is a genius one. The camera, unlike the 22nd and 23rd take, doesn't cut and keeps filming in one breath the passage of the shot of the body to the moment when Gengobei gasps. This is only possible because of the dark background which can give us the illusion of a cut to the next scene, thus breaking continuity.

25th cut

26th cut

26th cut

27th cut

27th cut

Cuts 25 to 27
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28th cut & 29th cut [05:07-05:39] - The nightmare reaches the summit of its own fallacy, and its precisely there that Gengobei wakes up. I want to say something here, though. As the nightmare keeps getting worse, can't life itself be a dream among others? Shura, in fact, ends with a tragic climax, in the same way as Gengobei's dream ends. We can say that dreams are prophetic but it's more than that: life itself dissolves into tragedy, life itself is just a dream which we can't escape. Such is the bitter true of Shura's claustrophobic madness.

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