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Shine & Kung Fu Hustle

In: English and Literature

Submitted By deronss
Words 4679
Pages 19
Scott Hicks is the epitome of ingenious when it comes to channelling his creativity into his wonderful creations. Some attributes of Hicks directorial style demonstrated in my chosen visual text Shine include camera work, music, and the terrifyingly subtle use of lighting to develop the atmosphere and create apprehension in the audience. On the contrary, Stephen Chow’s ostentatious special effects, camera work, lighting and sound in Kung Fu Hustle in no way waned to present the same ideas and rivet the audience on to the end of their seats to witness the anticipated metamorphosis of antagonist to protagonist.
In Shine, Hicks’ concoction of multiple cinematic techniques effectively portray the idea of the change and the transition from the suppression of the individual to the strength of the individual. Hicks’ use of specific techniques helps the audience learn more about Peters Authoritarian mindset and further develops the oppression felt by David’s character whilst portraying the idea of change. This enables the audience to understand the more complex underlying themes in the film and makes the audience more aware to the specific role of each character in the film and how they are all intertwined with each other at a deeper level. Consequently, it successfully challenges us, the audience, to consider how we might have felt in David’s situation and helps us draw conclusions about the nature of relationships and family dynamics.
A scene, in Shine, that Hicks uses cinematic techniques, lighting, music/sound, symbolism and dialogue is scene ten where David has decided to defy his father and accept the scholarship to The Royal Academy of Music in England. The aforementioned techniques augment the audiences’ understanding of the relationship between David and his father Peter. In addition to that, they clearly portray the idea of change from the suppression of the individual to the strength of the individual. At the beginning of the scene, we saw David trying to make his way into the house in pitch darkness unbeknownst to him that Peter was waiting in the lounge. As Peter interrogated and reprimanded David, Hicks used a low angle shot on David to show the audience the subservience that Peter was demanding of him. This made the audience feel very agitated and concerned for David’s safety because the character proxemics between David and Peter were very unnatural: Peter abruptly forced himself into David’s comfort zone. Subsequently, we saw David revert into a fetal position notwithstanding his desperate attempts to cling on to the edge of the wall. Additionally, we perceived Peter as the dominant figure in the scene because he was in the middle of the frame whereas the framing on David was very tight as he was on the edge of the frame. By combining these techniques, Hicks was trying to give the audience insight into David’s character and intensify the sympathy felt by the audience towards David. In addition to that, the low key lighting amplified the anxiety felt by the audience because the lighting emulated that of an interrogation chamber which evoked a sense of danger or oppression in the audience quite facilely. At this stage, we realized that the diegetic sound of the clock ticking changed into a scathingly soft augmented note. Before this, the clock ticking was the only sound we heard other than David and Peter talking. This was because Hicks wanted to symbolize the inaction of David and show the audience that time was passing; David was wasting his life living under the repressive hand of his father. The abrupt change in sound was an indication to the audience that inaction may actually transform into a resolution.
Hicks employed a CU shot as David asserted “I am old enough to make up my own mind.” When the sound changed, we witnessed a terrifying CU of Peter as he literally heaved David into a physical encounter. Hicks utilized the steadicam to clearly portray the turmoil that dwelled within the Helfgott residence as the hasty camera movement made the audience distorted and thus created more apprehension in the audience because we saw a CU of David getting beaten up by Peter. This made us, the audience, actually ‘feel’ what David may have been experiencing and actually stipulated the audience into being more than just a spectator; in fact, it compelled us to be involved. This accompanied by the quick cutting of reaction shots of the rest of the family also caused perturbation for the viewer. From this, we started to question the reason for such violence. Moreover, from the helpless reactions of the rest of the family we started to realize that we are just like David and his family: we are helpless. No matter how concerned we are for David or anyone like David, we can’t do anything to prevent or withdraw someone from this abuse; this is actually one of the most lachrymose conclusions we can draw from the fighting scene. Nonetheless, this notion was juxtaposed when Hicks used a high angle shot of David actually standing up to his father. This accompanied by an ECU of Peter engaging David in an embrace alleviated the tension and made us think that Peter was going to apologize for his ludicrous behaviour but this restoration of faith in Peter was obliterated when he made David feel like he “will never be anybody’s son.” When David finally left, we saw a CU of Peter burning every picture of David where the fire that reflected in his eyes was an overt symbol for the rage he may have felt. In a dissolve sequence we saw the ashes transform into white doves outside the Royal Academy of Music, a redolent symbol of the liberation of David from his repressive past.
In my opinion, Shine is a masterpiece of circularity and subtle intricacy. Every technique: visual or verbal, is equally significant and deliberately used to convey a certain message. In just one scene, Hicks’ meticulous choice of visual techniques such as lighting, camera work, character proxemics, framing amidst verbal techniques such as music/sound, dialogue, and symbolism leaves the audience in the most memorable of places. Hicks’ is not only very successful in showing the audience the metamorphosis from the powerlessness of the individual to the strength of the individual but he also gives us insight into the relationship between David and Peter and more specifically gives us insight into Peters character. For example, the myriad of techniques such as low angle camera shots, character proxemics, framing and low key lighting used simultaneously before the fight made the audience feel very agitated and observant quite successfully because it made us feel very sympathetic and compassionate about David’s safety even though nothing had happened yet. Furthermore, the most interesting component of the scene was the actual fighting. Here, the director is very successful in making the audience feel powerless through his astute employment of the steadicam and the quick cross cutting of reaction shots from the rest of the Helfgott family. This is because we clearly saw everyone else in the home standing there helpless as David was getting beaten up by his father. The directors effective use of cross cutting demonstrated the families’ reactions but all they could do was scream at Peter to tell him to stop: unfortunately there was nothing else they could do to stop this abuse and this is enigmatically saddening for me because it is an affirmation that Hicks is grounding the film in realism as much as possible to illustrate the wretched reality of the life of abuse. From Hicks’ effective use of these techniques we also learn a lot about the character of Peter. In another scene we witness Peter telling David that he “is a very lucky boy” because Peters father destroyed his violin but Peter let David experience the joys of music. From this, we come to realize that Peter himself was abused as a child. Not only that, but it was also established that Peter lost his family to the Holocaust. All of these factors combined psychologically devastated Peter and transfigured his frame of mind into that of an authoritarian personality. Subsequently, all his actions were rationalized by an authoritarian mindset and in some ways explained why Peter would have reacted so illogically to David’s disobedience. Moreover, the fact that Hicks deliberately shot the fighting scene below a picture of Peter’s father is fascinating because it shows the audience the propagation of the multi-generational cycle of abuse. These two concepts are fundamental to developing our understanding of why David was so defiant of Peter. Again, Hicks’ devious subtlety is exceptionally successful in helping us to understand these more complex underlying themes within the film. These features in the film effectively showcase the director’s concerns and style. This is because Hicks’ previous works are mostly constituted of documentaries which in reality are very subtle with camera movement and lighting as it is supposed to depict reality. This has influenced Hicks’ style which is effectively presented in my chosen scene as, just with documentaries, Hicks uses subtle camera work and lighting to depict the reality of violence and the change that it effectuates in people. Undeniably, Hicks’ sophisticated use of techniques and style worked together effortlessly to show the audience the reality of abusive relationships and family dynamics. Hicks’ use of steadicam accompanied by CU shot of David and Peter fighting worked effectively to show us the effect of violence on an individual and resulted in the audience to actually challenge the idea of abuse. Not only that, but it resulted in us to actually challenge the imposed authority of adults on children. Hicks’ successfully portrayed an example of a flawed adult figure who executed heinous acts on a child for wanting to pursue their dream. This successfully showed us that adults are not as perfect as they are perceived to be and consequently I begun to challenge the family dynamics that governs our society. Conventionally, as children we are told to obey adults as they are all there to protect us but obviously this is not true because some adults are deranged and may try to take advantage of a child’s innocence. But in accordance to conventional family dynamics, we begin to realize that there is a fine line between an adult caring for a child and simply dictating their lives. So Hicks is very successful in giving us insight into the reality of relationships and he also helps us realize that some people only love us conditionally so we must liberate ourselves from them to save ourselves just like David did. Another issue that Hicks raises is actually the helplessness of the spectator. His concoction of tumultuous cross-cutting and reaction shots of David's family tell the audience that they are as helpless as the person being mistreated. In reality, we can do nothing to help people being mistreated especially when it has been going on for a while.
With abuse, the victim often tends to develop a masochistic attribute and often tends to protect the person who is maltreating them due to the psychological manipulation that they endure. So by showing the reaction shot of the family and their inaction, Hicks successfully portrays the grim reality of life that all we can do is delicately provide support and assurance for those people. Hicks is an idol for having the courage to share with us the harsh reality of life: seldom do we see such prominent literature in contemporary media. This is an important lesson of morality that Hicks shared with us because as good members of the society we are compelled into helping an individual in distress but our arms of concern may not always have propitious outcomes due to the unforgiving nature of abuse. So sometimes it is best to remain restrained.
In Kung Fu Hustle, Chow’s intoxicating use of visual-sound poetry through cinematography, symbolism and music not only take the audience into an exhilarating journey of discovery and triumph, but it also presents the audience with the notion of the metamorphosis from antagonist to protagonist which in turn effectively portrays the idea of redeeming oneself and fighting for their dreams. Not to mention, Chows effective use of these techniques helped the audience learn valuable, yet easily disregarded, rudimentary lessons about life in reality.
A scene in Kung Fu Hustle where Chow effectively utilized cinematography, symbolism and music was the scene in which the ‘main character’, Sing, had a change of heart and consequently decided to confront the notorious “Beast” in order to repress the Beasts evil intentions. These techniques extend the audiences’ understanding of the idea of accepting ones destiny and clearly portray the notion of changing oneself to conquer adversities. At the outset of the scene, we saw Sing: a trivial, confused delinquent desperately trying to be accepted in the infamous Axe Gang. When Sing first challenged the Beast he claimed that “I scare myself when I fight” nonetheless this was juxtaposed as he made a fist which he “never seen… this big” but his actions of retreating from intimidation portrayed cowardice. After the Beast and the proclaimed ‘Helen and Troy of Paris’ fought, we saw the leader of the Axe Gang, Sum, demand Sing that he kill the Beast. Chow used a low angle shot on Sing as this was occurring and the character proxemics between Sing and Sum was also very contrived. Subsequently, a CU shot of Sings face showed a change in heart which resulted in him striking Sum into a comatose state. After this, Sing infuriated the Beast by hitting him. The sounds came to an abrupt halt as a mordant, progressive minor organ started to play. Further, we saw a MS of the beast beating Sing up accompanied by the CU of scars on Sing. This, in conjunction with the perspective shot (from Sings perspective) of the Beast hitting him made the audience extremely terrified and sympathetic towards Sing because Chow’s clever use of the perspective shot actually placed the audience in the action and made them experience what Sing was experiencing. Furthermore, the CU of scars showed the audience the extent of damage that Sing suffered. This is interesting because Chow wants to show us the reality of life that one cannot always win even if they are fighting evil or trying to overcome adversities. Perhaps Sing getting “beaten to a pulp” was Chows way of showing the audience that the past and the present are intertwined, the concept of karma; what goes around, comes around. This makes sense as Chow himself was “quite interested in the intersection between the past and the present.”
When the Lovers of Paris took Sing to the Pig Sty Alley to help him recover, a CU showed Sing drawing a lollipop with his blood as “his last wish.” This symbol in itself had an underlying story: a mute girl he once tried to save from older bullies gave him a lollipop as a token of friendship but he scornfully repudiated the friendship because he was humiliated by the bullies. As he drew the lollipop, the soaring chords of traditional Chinese music commenced. The effective integration of CU and emerging music was clear in illustrating that this was a significant moment in the film as the lollipop was a symbol of redemption: even though he made “mistakes all the time… at least he has finally made good” by changing his malicious intentions and trying to make amends for all the wrong that he has done. As the Beast entered the Pig Sty Alley, a subjective camera shot from his perspective showed the audience a beautiful butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. Chow successfully used this as an overt symbol of rebirth to further illustrate that Sing was now a new man and essentially evolved into something more delectable: which was his metamorphosis from antagonist to protagonist. As Sing and the Beast commence fighting, the audience comes to realize that the setting of the fight is the same as earlier in the film when three noble Kung Fu masters practiced with each other. Chows effective use of mirroring further deepens the audiences’ understanding that Sing is a re-incarnation of those Kung Fu Geniuses’ and that he is the propagation of their legacy. In addition to this, Chow uses special effects to depict the climactic moment of Sing’s flight up to the heavens to be blessed by a Buddha figure as ‘The One.’ As he soaring down towards the earth, we witness Sing making a palm figure with his hands. This combined with an aerial view of the imprint of his palm on the Beast and the ground shows the audience the extent of Sing’s power. This is interesting as it is also a mirror image to Sing’s past when he made the same palm figure with his hands to defend the mute girl only this time it worked as opposed to when he was a kid. This is because his chi flow was blocked but when the Beast assaulted him in arrogance, he inadvertently “…unlocked his chi flow thus unleashing the boy’s true potential.” When the Beast was finally defeated, we saw a high angle subjective shot of Sing from the Beasts perspective. This, accompanied by backlighting on Sing created a silhouette around him. Because of this, the audience is able to recognize that there is a halo surrounding Sing in the form of the sun. This halo is very symbolic as it is representative of the virtuousness that resides within him now. Thus, the amalgamation of the subjective and high angle shot, backlighting and silhouette are indicative to the audience that this is a defining moment in Sings journey: his metamorphosis from antagonist to protagonist. From this, we start to realize that Sing is a completely different person now: he is not the incompetent, shallow excuse for an outlaw that he once was. Consequently, the audience starts to fathom the outcomes of hard work and recognize that this has a substantial link to the people in contemporary society. At first, Sing was a socially inept and pathetic being: he roamed around the streets engaging in petty theft crimes to survive. Throughout the progression of the film we see Sing evolve into a better person and the constant links to his past help us to understand his situation even more. Specifically, he once aspired to be a moral citizen but his resolve was swayed by a single incident. So by combining these techniques, Chow successfully lead the audience to realize the fact that disparaging someone or belittling them because they are ambitious can result in a manifestation of timidity for that person in accordance to pursuing their dreams and in turn can result them into losing sight of their dreams. This appealed to me because Chow’s ability to morph a comedic film into a literary work of art and integrate such complex layers of underlying themes helped us, the audience, learn so much about life.
Kung Fu Hustle is a comedy martial arts film that utilizes humour at all levels: including those of science fiction notwithstanding the astoundingly exaggerated use of CGI (computer-generated images). Films such as this: that integrate puerile humour are generally aimed to entertain children. Hence, by successfully teaching the children of our society these consequences, Chow can make the society of future generations a better place. This, again, correlates to his interests in the link between the past and the present; since he cannot change the past, at least he can try his best to shape a brighter future. Another more subjective conception that Chow is trying to disseminate is the power of the individual to redeem. As aforementioned, Sing was an ambitious child led astray by one unfavourable event. Nonetheless, through hard work and tenacity, he still managed to find his way back to his own dreams and redeem himself. This is a more personal lesson of morality and the strength of the individual because in life there will always be adversities that we will have to overcome for which there are always two options: one can either relinquish or endeavour to make their dream a reality. But Chow didn’t show us a perfect being; instead he showed us someone who gave up and strived to succeed after realizing the significance of their own dreams. This is because Chow realizes that people aren’t perfect so there is no use showing the audience what flawless people are like: that would neither teach nor appeal to the audience at a more intimate level. What’s incredibly enthralling about this film is the fact that Chow, who used the most absurdly surreal cinematography, effectively managed to ground the film in such biting realism and teach the audience lessons that would be so valuable in life. He manipulates the narrative structure with pure artistic irony – the less significant people in his film seem to be poised and disciplined yet his tale and the teller of his tales was so abstract. Perhaps, it was the balance between his story and the person telling the story that created the most wondrous of journeys; allowing us to truly engage and to understand.
Scott Hicks’ career revolved around making documentaries, hence his directorial style was influenced by this and was marked by intricately subtle manipulation of visual aspects such as lighting and camera techniques and verbal aspects such as music and sound. On the contrary, Stephen Chow’s career in the world of silver screens were most immensely involving satirical parodies influenced by his experiences of the hardships in his childhood due to transnational political factors that affected his country. This was actually an underlying theme in Kung Fu Hustle where the Axe Gang was a constituent of the British colonies – hence this was also an allusion to some of the transnational factors that would have affected him personally. Both Hicks and Chow present a similar idea of the strength of an individual and overcoming adversities and in both instances the adversity was in the form of another person. In Shine, the adversity was David’s father and in Kung Fu Hustle, the adversity was the Beast. In both instances, these adversities were actually the driving force for the metamorphosis in the protagonist this metamorphosis was effectuated after a physical encounter. Because of the different genres or the films and the distinct style of each directors, the conflicts were presented in completely different ways. In Shine, the fight was more intimate and real for the viewer because it was a naturally choreographed sequence but in Kung Fu Hustle, the fight was much more ethereal due to the exaggerated CGI. That being said, the outcomes were identical and presented through overt symbolism. To be specific, in Shine, the ashes from the fire that Peter used to burn all vestiges of David turned into white doves outside the Royal Academy of Music and in Kung Fu Hustle, the destructive metal flower weapon turned into a white flower. In both instances, the juxtaposing symbolism reflect on the transition from something malevolent and destructive to something serene and redemptive. Another noteworthy similarity would be the way that both directors used characters to portray the ideas. The characters of any film are the most important part of the film as they are the closest thing the audience can relate to and both the directors used this to their advantage. A good connection between the two films would be how the directors portray the key characters so differently to what they really are and manipulate the audience to change their opinion of them by taking the audience into a prolonged circular journey of the characters’ pasts and linking this with their present and future. Nonetheless, the character of David is relatively static whereas the character of Sing is very dynamic. David remains static throughout the progression of the film as the environment that he occupies changes whereas Chow takes Sing on extended journey through life and Sing is the one who undergoes the change. Again, this links to their directorial styles: David remains untouched by Hicks because Hicks wants to preserve and depict reality as thoroughly as possible since it is a biopic and David is the subject. Thinking with respect to documentaries, when people go out to film animals in their natural habitat they must adapt to the animal and their way of living to conserve and depict reality as carefully as they can. Hicks applied the same principle when filming this and preserved David’s character, nonetheless, this was not the case for Chow as he was used to rowdy action films and so to add more flavour to his film, he decided to make intense changes to the characterization of Sing. Both directors used a myriad of techniques when it came to showing the association between the past, present and future to represent the significance of this notion. For example, in both excerpts, the association between the past and the present is clear and both the directors want to show that the past shapes the present and the present shapes the future. We cannot change the past, so we must change the present to transform our future into the way we want it to be.

Commendably, both directors presented the aforementioned themes and more profound underlying issues within the text through their astute poetic overlays of sounds, images, words and symbols. Nevertheless, I believe that Hicks was more successful at portraying these numerous ideas in his ingenious masterwork Shine. Shine is more successful at portraying these ideas than Kung Fu Hustle because every single aspect of the film including: cinematography, soundtrack, action, characters, and ideas, were all completely grounded in realism. The fantastical nature of Kung Fu Hustle made it more difficult for me to relate to it. Not only that, but the character of David is more relatable to the audience than the character of Sing because in Shine there is a change in environment as opposed to a change in character. This seems more plausible as bringing about a change in oneself is a lot more difficult than how it is conveyed in Kung Fu Hustle. To illustrate, when I first started high school I came from a completely different region and because of this I did not know anyone. Consequently, I befriended people that weren’t the best influence which resulted in me getting into some trouble. To respond to that, I found a new group of friends and changed my environment as opposed to staying with the same group of friends but changing myself and not participating in their activities. This is an affirmation of the inherent nature of humans to make their environment acclimate to them rather than attuning themselves to the environment because that is a long and difficult process. Hence, I found David’s story to be more relatable and tangible than Sing’s story. Hicks is also more successful in showing how the past and present is intertwined because he fully explores the idea. Hicks actually uses a circular structure in Shine accompanied by flashbacks to fully develop the relationship between ones past, present and future. This narrative structure also develops the effects of a damaged past on the present whereas Chow only uses flashbacks to briefly show the manifestation of the past and its propagation onto the future. Lastly, I think that Shine was more effective at showing these ideas simply because Chow was too frivolous and not delicate enough when dealing with these ideas because Hicks explored more relatable ideas such as relationships and family dynamics which is more applicable to reality. Overcoming adversities, in my opinion, is a very serious and apparent issue in contemporary society. Hicks treated it with the urgency that it deserved because it is a problem and the kind of abuse that David endured is existent and the reality of it is just despicable. Thus, I think that Scott Hicks was more effective than Stephen Chow in exemplifying a series of complex ideas because his directorial style was grounded more in reality which made Shine more engaging and memorable.…...

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