Film Analysis

1068 words - 5 pages

Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night is a 1934 romantic comedy film. During the period of the Great Depression, classical films looked to reaffirm the importance of marriage, family, and behaviour “at a time when marriage rates were down and families were struggling to stay together as economic pressures mounted.” The film stars Clark Gable as reporter Peter Warne and Claudette Colbert as socialite Ellen “Ellie” Andrews. Against her father’s wishes, Ellie has eloped with King Westley. When her father demands the marriage be annulled, Ellie runs away to meet her new husband in New York City. Though Ellie tries to hide her identity, she is recognized by Peter who offers his assistance in ...view middle of the document...

The characters’ desires establishes goals, and the narrative is driven by their need to achieve these goals. Plot development is structured by the journey or road trip, charting the progression of events in relation to Ellie’s main goal: “I've got to get to New York without being stopped. It’s very important to me.” Action is motivated by obligations or deadlines, such as the bus departure times. To enhance and extend the film’s narrative, oppositions (lack of money, robberies, detectives, etc.) arise to create conflict. The film follows the structure of a beginning, middle, and end. The films’ causal chain of events is completed in the end as Ellie assume her inherent role as Peter’s wife and we learn the fate of each character.
The film’s narration is unrestricted, presenting information to the audience that not all characters are aware of. In this film, there is little gap between the story (all shown and inferred events) and the plot (order of onscreen action). Cross-cutting is used to show simultaneous action taking place at two different locations. During telephone conversations, the frames cut back and forth, showing both sides of conversations. While information is freely give to the audience, the withholding of information from characters drives the plot, creating conflict and resolutions. After Ellie proclaims her love for Peter, the next morning he leaves to visit Editor Joe Gordon to sell his story and get enough money to marry her. However, believing Peter has abandoned her, Ellie resolved to call her father and officially marry Westley. The audience is aware of the truth while the main characters are kept from select information until the end.
It Happened One Night relies on continuity editing, the standard in classical cinema. This continuous or invisible form of editing works to improve the flow of the action, not interrupting the audience’s understanding of events onscreen. In this classical film, the editing should not disrupt the progression of images presented the audience. Time within the film is linear and continuous and actions are always completed. Match on action is used by merging two different views of the same action, making it appear uninterrupted. Flash-forwards or flashbacks...

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