DMU Animation studies

Ieva Beleskaite


Critical Studies

Sound analysis. Listening (2015)

In this post I am going to analyse one minute and 13 seconds of a movie Listening (2015). Analysis begins at 33:00 of movie and ends at 34:13.
In this scene main character is determined to continue his research on telepathy. Protagonist uses prototype technology to read his colleagues mind. Mind reading is broken off by main character as he gets disturbed by read information.


Listening to colleague's mind



Voices and speech

From speech in this short period a viewer can already determine that characters are American. They have a standard, midwest American accent. Characters are from working class and are somewhat educated.
In the beginning, tone of the voices is a mixture of sadness and determination. Later on as mind reading begins timbre changes into seductive, sexual context. Overall, tone is quite soft, but deep.
Voices are used mostly in mid-space. When mind reading begins whispers and overlapping voices created mid-space atmosphere. Because of echoes, it is hard to determine what test subject is trying to say. However, one clear message comes through. Side character Jordan telepathically says to main character “David, take my body”. This sentence arrives in close up space, loud volume, dominating all over sounds. Afterwards an immediate change of space: from Jordan’s close up voice a viewer is transported back to reality’s mid-space as protagonist David breaks off the connection.


Music is used to enter a new scene of testing telepathical machine and to create a sinful yet angelic atmosphere during mind reading. At first music is digital and cyber. This choice is linked to unnatural context of experiment itself. With crecendo and fast pace rhythm a sense uprising tention and uneasy atmosphere is created. Later on as mind reading begins, two soundtracks overlaps each other: side character’s voices and female voiced choir. Choir is linked to church, which connects to heaven. So high and soft notes makes telepathy a blessing. However, the angelic voices rhythmically creates a disonance which disturbs heaven like atmosphere and add ups a sense of sin. It makes sense, because main character is hearing sexual context from a woman who is not his wife so that makes this a sinful moment.

Sound effects

Two most significant sound effects used in this piece was crickets in the night and thunder sound of beginning  of telepathy. Crickets created a nice and easy diagetic atmosphere. Pretty natural and realistic. Sound fades out as electronical music dominates. A sound effect of thunder is related to unexpected powerful source of information flowing through main character’s brains.

Used literature:

  1. KULEZIC-WILSON, D. (2008) Sound design is the new score.  Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, II (2), pp. 127-131.

Cinematography. Listening (2015)

In this post I would like to talk about cinematographical point of view in a movie called Listening (2015), directed by Khalil Sullins.


Photographic aspects of the shot

This still contains high contrast. Dark background behind film character highlights the subject while white floor points out darkness of blood. Because of high contrast a reflection of shot character’s face is crystal clear.
Image is tinted in blue filter. It gives a sense of coldness, which naturally can be associated with death, betrayal and sadness. In addition, still contains a wide range of colour white. Usually, white colour is associated with purity or heaven, but here it brings out coldness.
In this particular scene speed of motion was rather frozen than fast paced as it was before character got shot. Frozen, fixated perspective created a sense of tention and suspense. The viewer does not know if the main character survived.
Shallow focus draws eye to personage’s face and it’s reflection on the blood. By this character’s hand seems further away while in fact logically thinking it is closer to the viewer.


An unusual, rotated still is actually a point of view of first person subjective. Seeing the world through main character’s eyes enables the viewer to see what the character focuses on. Which is deep focus of friend’s face and his blood. Furthermore, tilted image allows to understand that first person subject is laying on the gound. Also, camera’s placement lets the viewer know that the shot character is really close. Almost as if an extended hand movement is need to touch the blood.
In conclusion camera’s angle and distance creates a feeling of realism.

Used literature:

  1. NICHOLSON, W. (2010) Cinematography and character depiction. Global Media Journal – African Edition, 4 (2), p.196-211.


Mise en Scène. The Excursionist

In terms of mise en scène I would like to analyse a movie called The Excursionist (2013; directed by Audrius Južėnas). It’s a story of a ten year old girl who escapes from a deportee train and goes on a 6000 km long journey back to her homeland Lithuania. Here I present a frame from film’s trailer.


Setting and Props

Action takes place in a traditional wooden hut where majority of Russian citizens from countryside used to live in 50 years ago. Blurred out picture and cross on white cloth suggests that in a house lives a religious person. Blue curtain on the right side of the frame may be placed there to separate space in the room. It may also be there to hide main character – little girl.
Rays of sunlight indicates that it’s morning as only from this angle sunlight could illuminate whole room.
The mood of scene is a bit gloomy, but full of hope at the same time.
A fact that characters are close states that they have a close relationship. Or at least the woman tries to get closer to a little girl.
To sum up, the genre of the film is a historical drama.

Costume and make-up 

Modest clothing suggests that a woman is poor. Simple scarf hiding hair is a clue that a woman is an orthodox.
The girl’s naked shoulders shows vulnerability.
Clothing colour difference is crucial as well. While old woman wears light blue, plain coloured scarf and dark blue top, the girl is dressed in white. White colour represents innocence of a young child, purity. Blue shades connects to calming nature, yet coldness and perseverance of character.
Make-up was used to highlight character’s modesty, create a sense of realism.


Colours used in this frame are rather warm than cold. Even the blue has a sense of warmth.


There are two visible and one invisible light source.
Visible ones would be direct sun rays from window in the background and small candle light providing a little bit of light in the corner of a room. The main bright white light plays a metaphorical role of hope,  indirect link to Bible images.
Low-key lighting also creates a strong shadows of main characters.

Figure, expression and movement

A woman looks tenderly into girl as she offers bread and honey to a girl. However the girl looks rather confused and lost as she does not understand the language an elder is speaking.
Body language is fundamental as it creates a feeling of someone who is lost being offered help and safety.

This image breaks a stereotype that all Russians were cruel to Baltic nations. It’s false. In fact, a lot of deported Lithuanians wouldn’t have survived if not for generosity and hospitality of locals in GULAG camps.

Used literature:

  1. GIBBS. J. (1946-78)The life of mise-en-scène visual style and british film criticism. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.

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