Friday, 11 March 2011

How to ruin thirty days in a night (by violating the Dayenu Principle) On the last day I teach in a quarter, I like to leave the students with a memorable example—something so memorable they'll hold the lessons of the class close long after they leave. For my "slow horror" course, I chose to remind them that the purpose of a film is to manipulate its audience, and that this is readily apparent when films falter. The film in question is the David Slade (of Twilight: Eclipse fame) helmed 30 Days of Night. But being a good professor, I had them read the Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith books first. Here are the final panels of the first series, in which—spoilers abound from here on out—the protagonist, Eben, and his wife are sitting on a hill after having toughed out thirty days of Alaskan night in a town, Barrow, overrun by vampires. It's a clever premise—vampires select a town that far north in order to feast undisturbed for a month—but they're defeated when Eben injects himself with vampire blood, becomes a vampire, and defeats them. He saved the town, Jesus-style, but now must die, Jesus-style, as the sun's about to rise and turn him to ashes. Here are the final panels: Notice the quiet beauty here: he dies a dignified death, off-panel, in the arms of a wife who loves him, and then she cries. It's a fitting end for a man who's sacrificed his life to save the woman and the town he loved, and Niles and Templesmith handle it with class. Here are the same moments represented in the panels above as David Slade would have them, starting with an establishing shot: Moving to a close-up of Eben, played in the film by Josh Hartnett: It's not in the book, but I'm not the sort of stickler who wants a literal translation, so whatever. I understand, the camera was a little close to Hartnett and you couldn't see Melissa George's Stella, so the audience would be clueless as to how she felt about her (in the film) ex-husband, who she only realized she'd fallen back in love with after he'd doomed himself to save her: I was wrong, apparently the camera wasn't close enough to Hartnett's face to register the fact that he's about to die, so an extreme close-up is very much in order. REMINDER: SHE JUST FELL BACK IN LOVE WITH HIM AND DOESN'T WANT HIM TO DIE. HE DOESN'T WANT TO DIE EITHER. NOR DOES SHE WANT HIM TO. NEITHER DOES HE. THEY ARE A COUPLE. Actually, this medium close-up works: it demonstrates their intimacy by placing them both in frame, and by panning out a bit, allows the audience to witness his impending death from a comfortable perspecti— THEIR LOVE IS A BEAUTIFUL LOVE. AND DYING. THEY HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DYING LOVE. Just in case you forgot where we were and what was happening, a re-establishing shot. Slade doesn't think you're an idiot with the short-term memory of an untrained seal, but he's not sure you aren't...

Become a Fan

Recent Comments