The term film genre refers to the methods of film categorization based on similarities in the narrative elements from which films are constructed. In Collateral the use of dark and bleak mise-en-scene and camera techniques make Collateral suspenseful. The non-diegetic sound adds to this. In Trading Places the use of comic surprise, verbal humor and physical humor make Trading Places a comedy. The main codes and conventions of suspense thrillers are that of an intensive plot, set period of time or number of deaths and enigma codes.
In Collateral you would find an intensive plot, you would also find a set period of time or number of deaths and a dark and bleak mise-en-scene. In the opening sequence of Collateral there are quite a few codes and conventions, which are mise-en-scene, enigma codes and that of the opening engages the audience and sets the tone of the film. The main codes and conventions of a comedy films are generation of laughter, comic surprise, verbal humor and physical humor. The opening sequence contains most of the codes and conventions like comic surprise, verbal humor, physical humor and surprise.
The opening sequence of Collateral starts off with the introduction of Vincent in the airport, this then cuts to a montage of the taxi depot where we finally get introduced to Max. When we get introduced to Vincent we immediately feel engaged as Vincent is in the centre of the frame walking towards the camera, Michael Mann creates this effect by introducing a key character in the beginning of the opening sequence and exposing little information about him, this makes the audience feel gripped immediately.
Similarly Vincent is shot in an over cranked way, the director creates this as the suspense and tension heightens because the audience is waiting to see what happens next. We also get a good look at his appearance and begin to form questions about him and who he is. The non-diegetic sound effect of Vincent’s footsteps echoing makes the audience feel eager and wonder what will happen next as he moves closer towards the camera the effect of the echo also makes Vincent seem intimidating. This creates suspense as the audience gets immediately drawn into the story by the suspenseful codes and conventions and techniques used by the director.
The opening sequence of Trading Places starts off with a montage sequence, which leads onto the introduction of Louis Winthorpe and which then leads onto the introduction of Billy-Ray-Valentine. There are many different techniques that make Louis and his role in the sequence comical for instance, when the “spoilt” Winthorpe childishly waits for his butler to open his car door, this is done by surprise and physical humor and creates a comical effect as you would not expect Louis to be that spoilt and stuck up. There are many ways which make Louis different from Vincent.
Louis is very spoilt and blatantly posh and arrogant . Whilst Vincent is a suspicious and somewhat isolated character. In Trading Places we see Louis getting tracked by the camera as he is walking through the hallway getting greeted by everyone first, this shows Louis’s self importance by making Louis the “special” character in the shot. Vincent is different as his sunglasses hide his identity and make him suspicious and unreadable. Similarly we see the butler of Louis Winthorpe choosing Louis’s clothes for him from a wide variety, this again shows how spoilt Louis is and how everything gets done for him.
However Vincent is very active and peripatetic, we see Vincent in the airport which shows he travels from place to place. The mise-en-scene of the surroundings of Winthorpe is very colorful and happy however Vincent’s surroundings are quite dark, bleak and unhappy. This is shown by Winthorpe’s butler who does everything for him and makes Winthorpe seem very spoilt, however Vincent is very solo and does everything himself, his profession of a criminal adds to his unhappy mise-en-scene.
The montage sequence of Collateral play’s a huge part in introducing the genre of the movie by including the introduction of the two main characters and their atmospheres. Throughout the sequence the non-diegetic sound of the music adds suspense because the sound is like a heartbeat, which therefore creates tension and draws the audience into the story. Another technique used to create suspense could be the camera techniques where in the montage the camera pans to different isolated people where finally it reaches a target and slowly pans up reveling Max.
This creates suspense as the audience are eager to see who this new character is, the buildup increases this tension and suspense as the editing techniques and the cuts from one area of the depot to another make you ask questions on what this is leading to and what for. The whole montage is suspenseful as it includes the introduction of Max by slowly using camera techniques and codes and conventions to portray to the audience little information about the character and his habitat.
Trading places starts off with a montage sequence which itself is humorous. The non-diegetic sound is from the comic based opera, the Marriage of Figaro which satirizes the French aristocracy. This pompous sounding does not mix with the poor lifestyles of the citizens. Alongside this we see the butler preparing breakfast for his “master”, then the shot cuts to the homeless man who is using newspapers as a duvet. This is surprising as you would not expect this, and also this generates a smile or laugh. All these techniques create a comical effect.
The difference between the montages in both films is that both films covey different messages to the audience by using a range of methods. In Trading places the montage effect contrasts the poor and rich lifestyles which we see different images of. The effect of the montage is satirical as the contrasting images cutting from one to the next allow us to satirize the rich Americans. However in Collateral we see the montage of different people who are somewhat isolated from each other. Its purpose is also to serve as a slow and suspenseful build up to the introduction of the protagonist, Max.
When we get introduced to Max, we immediately ask questions on who this character is. In the montage we slowly get an idea of Max’s character by camera techniques and codes and conventions. Suspense is created as the audience is made to ask question as to what is significant about this place until the camera pans up to Max’s face. Further suspense is created as camera shots focuses on individual characters like the man speaking on the phone and Max doing his crossword, also the separate cuts of the images of people emphasize their independence and isolation.
A feeling of suspense is created as the audience want to know more about this world; Max’s world. Furthermore the non-diegetic sound has a constant beat indicating on-going action, also the diegetic sound of the goings on in the taxi depot like the car engines and mechanics draws the audience into the scene and therefore creating a feeling of suspense by keeping the audience hooked in the scene and making the audience understand more about Max’s world. In the montage of Trading Places the message being conveyed to us it that the rich upper class is very arrogant and self obsessed.
This is shown in the sequence where we see the hardworking middle class eager to catch the train then suddenly the camera cuts to the rich upper class that are relaxing and getting their work done for them, this therefore makes the audience satirize the rich upper class. Similarly we can see a clear comparison between the two lifestyles of Louis Winthorpe and Billy-Ray-Valentine, we see that Louis Winthorpe is very self-indulgent and relies on others however Billy-Ray is poor and begs on the street.
In the montage of Collateral the message being conveyed to us is that everyone has a mission or dream, this is shown in the montage sequence of the taxi depot where there is an extreme close up of a postcard in Max’s taxi contrasting a dream or ambition. In the same way we can see a clear comparison between Vincent’s and Max’s lifestyle. We see that Vincent is a criminal and somehow enjoys what he does, however Max is a taxi driver and dislikes what he does, this emphasizes on their contrasting lifestyles and the differences between their emotions.
In Trading Places, as soon as Billy-Ray-Valentine is introduced generation of laughter is created by the mise-en-scene of Billy-ray, his red hoodie and greenish tracksuit make him different from the rich characters in the movie, this creates a comical effect as the audience suddenly get alerted by bright colors and ask questions in their mind about this separate character. Similarly later on in this part of the scene, Billy-ray seems somewhat lower than the duke brothers, In this scene we see Billy-Ray begging the Duke brothers for money or something but the duke brothers refuse and start hitting Billy-ray .
The camera techniques emphasize this by shooting a high angle point of view shot of Billy-ray and the duke brothers. This creates a comical effect as this shows the contrast in their social postures. More laughter is generated as Billy-Ray starts flirting with a women passing by, as she gets away, Billy-Ray suddenly changes his mood and calls her a “bit**”, this is an element of comic surprise as you would not expect Billy-Ray to change his mood unexpectedly from a flirty emotion to an aggressive abusive kind of emotion.
This creates a comical effect as the audience suddenly gets surprised by the sudden change of mood which thus generates laughter. The mise-en-scene of Billy-Ray is quite poor and informal but Vincent’s mise-en-scene is quite sophisticated and formal, his sunglasses somewhat conceal his identity and cause an atmosphere of suspense. Billy-Ray causes a comical effect by his use of verbal and physical humor whilst Vincent’s character creates suspense by the camera techniques like shallow depth of field and close ups.
Furthermore Billy-Ray is like a petty criminal but Vincent is a sophisticated criminal, this is ironic as Billy-Ray makes us laugh when he does commit a crime but when Vincent commits a crime we get held in suspense. Likewise, Billy-Rays criminal nature is very obvious and Vincent’s criminal nature is quite hidden, this is shown by Billy-Ray’s verbal humor as he tries to get away from the officers, he uses religious gestures to lure himself out of trouble, however in Collateral we do not know that Vincent is a criminal until he does his first offense, his grayish formal suit and sunglasses hide his personality and criminal nature.
Trading places and Collateral are good film choices to compare, as one is comical and the other suspenseful. In Trading places the characters and narratives are appropriate for the genre as they all have set roles, for instance Vincent in collateral has a mise-en-scene of a formal grayish suit and sunglasses to conceal his identity. All these create suspense, likewise Billy-ray’s mise-en-scene is very colorful and bright, these of which create a feeling of humor. All these characters are suitable for their genres as the mise-en-scene, camera techniques, sound and editing techniques all blend with the genre.