All theatrical productions and films use different methods to give a scene a certain feel and allow characters to express certain feelings without out rightly stating what is going on.
They use many different things to acquire the desired emotions and senses through such things as the different photography angles, depths and length, lighting methods, use of color, and movement. Some of these aspects were more than revolutionised and illustrated in the French New Wave film, The 400 Blows.The film, The Four Hundred Blows written and directed by Francois Truffaut, was a film of realism in style. There was a simplicity and realness about the location, time, and experiences that took place in this story, as if it was a realistic representation of what life was like in that time and place for the characters involved.
This simplicity allowed the focus to be on what was going on in the film by not distracting viewers with the way it was photographed.Throughout the film the lighting was pretty subdued causing the atmosphere to seem very gray, bleak, and depressing. This accentuated the desolateness of the position in which the main character thirteen year-old Antoine Doinel was living. Throughout the entire film Antoine was neglected and criticized by his mother, “father,” who raised him even though he was not his biological son, and his schoolteacher.
His illegitimacy in itself caused much bitterness between his parents, which was in turn directed on him.There was quite an amusing bird’s-eye view scene photographed from directly overhead that depicts all the schoolboys running down the street in a line following their teacher. As they progressed down the street more and more of the boys ran out of line and off in a different direction. This view which made all of them appear so small caused each of the characters to seem insignificant in a world much larger than the one they lived in of unsympathetic school teachers and unloving family relations.Antoine, because he did not get the kind of love and care that he needed at home or school to feel content began seeking independence and a way of escape to something better. He longed for a place where true happiness and freedom could be found, which he envisioned to be the ocean. His wish for independence caused him curiosity towards experiencing things adults do, which require money.
In the process of trying to get money he got himself into trouble by steeling a typewriter. Antoine’s parents in turn took him to the police and said they could not handle him anymore. He then was put in a jail cell with other suspect characters.The bleak lighting of the jail scene and diagonal lines of the fence and their shadows running across his face displayed Antoine’s inward frustration and anger at his entrapment physically inside the cell and situationally with his position in a unloving, non-supportive family and society. The tightness of the frame in which his face is visible behind the bars, only showing from his forehead to his chin and then a little on the sides of his face with his hand holding onto the fence, also emphasized his entrapment. There was no where to move and no escape. The closeness of this shot also allowed for a deeper sense of what the character was feeling.Antoine ended up in an observation center for delinquent minors after being taken to jail.
His mother who came to visit him there tells Antoine that they, his parents, do not care about him anymore. This caused a feeling of complete abandonment which gave way to Antoine’s escape from that place when an opportunity arose for him to do so. After his escape from the observation center he is seen running down a road that seems to go on forever.
The camera however remained focused on Antoine and not what was ahead. This gave a sense of an indefinite final destination, and his urgent and desperate need to flee from the current situation. The lengthy uninterrupted take of him running gave an accelerated anticipation of the conclusion of his movement, and intensified the sense of Antoine’s exhaustion. All the space around him during his progression down the path suggested the extended duration of time it took him to reach his destination. It was almost as if the audience was able to experience every step with him.When Antoine finally reached his destination, the place that he had always longed for, a place where he thought life would be made complete, he was shown running out onto the beach. This loosely framed shot with all the vast wide open space suggested all the elements of freedom but then the vastness of the scenery slowly restricted until all that was seen was Antoine’s bewildered face.
The last shot of the film was a freeze frame of his expression, which emphasized the uncertainty of his fate and forced the audience to focus on the emotions of the character.The freedom and completeness that Antoine had thought he would find at the sea was not there. In all artistic expression mediums, such as film and theatre, content determines form. All the aspects of photography, placing of things on the screen (mise en scene), and motion in this film were used to express what the writer and director wanted the audience to sense and feel. These were just instruments by which the contents of the story were displayed and made real to the audience.