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Many believe that a film has one purpose – to tell an entertaining story. Usually, this is achieved by having a compelling narrative and fully developed plot, while other aspects, such as CGI, editing, musical score, and unusual cinematography are just nice bonuses to the overall goal of being entertaining. However, some films dare to step out of the conventional frames and try to get their message across through the use of different and extraordinary sound, editing, and cinematography techniques. Even without a concrete plot, they succeed in being compelling and emotional, engrossing viewers in the visuals and reminding them of their own experiences. These types of movies become universal and personal at the same time, as each viewer can find something they identify with. The Long Day Closes is a perfect example of one of these movies. Through the use of certain elements of mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing and sound, it manages to convey a character’s emotions and overall themes of the film, such as not fitting in, escapism, anxiety, and routine, in one single scene – “Tammy’s in Love”.
Mise-en-scene is one of the strongest contributors to the feelings this scene conveys, as it accentuates the order and uniformity that follows Bud everywhere he goes – church, school, and even his favorite place, the cinema. The use of a screen full of neat rows packed with people, transitioning from scene to scene, from the movie theater, to the church, to Bud’s classroom, shows just how monotone and dull life can be sometimes, even if it’s filled with different activities and people. The muted color scheme and natural light are also used drive that same point further in – sometimes, life is filled with people who all look and dress the same, and it can be dreary and depressing even in the most exciting environments. The mise-en-scene shows people acting in the same ways: lighting a cigarette, standing up and kneeling, lining up in a row and marching out, which adds to the feelings of routine and conformity. When you are not exactly like everybody else, you immediately stand out. Therefore, the mise-en-scene in this scene helps the audience feel the emotions that Bud is going through – the monotony, and feeling like you have to conform, become just like everybody else, and follow the routine.
Another way that this scene conveys Bud’s emotions is through the use of specific cinematography. All of the shots in this scene are overhead, and most of them show both the people and their backgrounds. Because of this, the audience can feel Bud’s detachment from the “real world” and can identify with him wanting to escape from it by going to “the pictures”. The tracking camera and the deep focus of every shot only accentuates this feeling, as it makes the scenes all blend together, and yet still conveys the passing of time, almost making the viewer feel like they’re floating through life, not really impacting anything and not forming any meaningful relationships with the people they meet, as they all seem like the same faceless mass. The detached floating from shot to shot helps convey even more of the routine that Bud experiences, as all the scenes are of places that he frequents, which could be understood to mean that that is how he perceives his world – continuous, rarely changing, and going through the same, repetitive motions. Therefore, the use of long and full shots, as well as tracking camera movement and overhead shots, makes the point that Bud is experiencing detachment from the world because of its monotony, and seeks a way to escape the routine by going to the movies.
A similar message is being conveyed by the use of editing in the “Tammy’s in Love” scene. Specifically, all the transitions between the shots are dissolves, which let the last shot linger as a new one is overlaid over it, blurring both shots together for a split second. The use of dissolves adds to the feeling of everything being a repetition of things we’ve already seen and experienced, like the pews in the church being lined up the same as the seat rows in the movie theater, as well as the desks in the school. It all meshes together, making even completely different settings feel the same, increasing the feeling of monotony and boredom that was explored in the film and accentuated even more by the other visual techniques used in this scene. Overall, the use of this type of editing makes it seem like all of Bud’s moments and experiences are blending together into one, never-ending scene, until something exciting or funny breaks him out of the monotony.
Finally, the sound in this movie is masterfully used to convey Bud’s emotions, such as happiness, confusion, and anxiety. In this specific scene, the emotion explored by the sound is his anxiety about school and church. This can be felt because of the use of sound clips from other movies from that period being played as a voiceover off-screen, over the song “Tammy’s in Love” and the sounds that the characters are making in the shots. For example, in the church shot, a man is heard saying “and in pulpit, talking interminable nonsense, the Reverend Lord Henry D’Ascoyne. The D’Ascoynes certainly appear to have accorded with the tradition of the landed gentry and sent the fool of the family into the church”, which could mean that Bud doesn’t place much faith in the church anymore and thinks it might be “nonsense”. Similarly, in the classroom scene, there is a voiceover of a man calling someone “a shower” and “an absolute rotter”, expressing Bud’s frustration with the overly strict school rules and his teacher.
The sounds of the characters in the shots make it seem like the scenes are actually happening in real life, and make the non-diegetic sounds feel even more like commentary. The song “Tammy” provides a calming and familiar setting to the scenes and reminds the viewer of how much Bud’s mother likes to sing, connecting these shots in which Bud is not present, to him and his family in an intimate way. Since music follows Bud almost everywhere he goes, be it home, church, or school, it makes sense that a scene depicting his inner struggles would use a full song as a backdrop. Therefore, it can be said that the music and voiceovers help convey Bud’s anxiety about not fitting in, as well as connect scenes that he is not physically in to Bud and his mindset.
To conclude, the use of cinematography, editing, sound, and mise-en-scene is extremely important in this movie, as it conveys all of the emotions and struggles that the main character is experiencing. Mise-en-scene and the editing express the monotony and routine that Bud is feeling, while the cinematography shows why he is seeking a way to escape from it in the form of watching movies. Finally, the sounds connect the viewer to Bud’s inner world and show the anxiety that he is experiencing about not fully fitting in the conventional Liverpool society. The Long Day Closes is a fantastic film that deals with the struggles of growing up in a completely new and deeply emotional way, using traditional movie-making techniques exceptionally well and engrossing the audience even without a concrete plot.
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