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FTV1050 Contemporary Film Studies

CITY of GOD

THE STUDY OF CONTEMPORARY FILM FORM


By Muhamed Azrul Azli
Faculty of Business and Commerce
Monash University Malaysia
Email:maazl1@monash.student.edu.my

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FTV1050 Contemporary Film Studies

C idade De Deus (City of God) is a Brazilian film that was nominated Academy

Award film in 2002. Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, they have

portrayed the violence of the life in favelas, one of the slums in Rio de Janeiro. It was

film based on one of the people who live there, Rocket cast by Alexandre Rodrigues.

The success of this film has brought numerous Award nominations and wins

audience attention due to its film form. Film form is how the technical aspect that was

applied by using specific style or methods that will deliver the preferred scene. It has four

broad perspectives that are mise-en-scene, mise-en-shots, aspect of editing and dimension

of sounds. Directors use these technical aspects to give more intense visual portrayed in

the film towards the audience.

Mise-en-scene is the “settings and sets refer to the location or the construction

where a scene is film” (Corrigan T, p49). As we are introduced to in the opening scene,

the director had a sneak peak of the condition of the favelas. The use of flash shot starting

from the chicken slaughter, boiled, stripping its feather, the people that is around in their

usual life routine. These scenes show the poor living condition of the slum in that area.

The richness of color and lighting are prominent in the retro clothing and shots of sunsets

and beaches, helps to give the film a '60s feel. The utilization of lighting and color seems

to have placed the scene particularly the shot in that time. When the film flash forward to

the 70’s changes were static. As the film goes to its climax, the changes of lighting and

color had to a much dim, gloomy and concentrates more dark night scene which signify

the theme of aggressive violence in this film. It made an inconsistent motion to the

audience by delivering an adrenaline rush to what is going to happen in scenes to come.

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FTV1050 Contemporary Film Studies

Mise-en-shots are the next aspect that involves many elements. This involves the

positioning of the camera, the camera movement, scale of the shot, length of a single shot

and pace of editing. The narration of City of God uses many close-up shots, extreme

close up’s shots and flash backs. Close up shots are “shows a character's face and

shoulders. It is close enough to show subtle facial expressions clearly” (Cheshire D,

2003). This allows a bond to be built between the audience and the character. If

something would happen to a character, audience will feel the pain of losing the

character. In flash back, at a point of the story where Rocket was talking on the history of

the apartment, at that point, the camera position locks at an angle where different

character changes as the apartment owner change and return to the present. The camera

movements in this film in most of the scene are unstable, like they are hand held video

cam known as the dolly shot. This dolly shot in the chasing chicken scene where the

camera chases after the chicken give a human eye perspective as the audience are chasing

the chicken. The director has also used brilliantly the 360 degree camera movement

around Rocket that fades from the present to the past. This movement delivers clear flow

between two distinctive time scenes. The length in this film mostly is short due to the

nature of chasing, killing, between characters.

The third perspective is the editing. Editing basically is “the work of selecting and

joining together shots to create a finished film” (Cinema Website). In film, “editing

deals with all aspects of filmic rhythm - from the transition of one image to another or the

detailed musical rhythm in a small sequence of edits, to the most general balancing of

pace and rhythm in the overall narrative structure” (Wiedemann V.). Thus this can

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FTV1050 Contemporary Film Studies

manipulate the scenario of the film in terms of time. For instance when the scene shifts

from day to night, that is film editing. In City of God, the first scene that shows the knife

chopping in a flash shot is a kind of editing which one shot is use more than one time in

one scene. A different example would be the apartment scene where Rocket narrating on

Blacky and also showing Li’l Ze come thru the door three times at different times. This

gives the audience three separate reasons and information why Li’l Ze is there and how

Blacky got the place and how he lost it. There are various editing technique can be

applied in making a film, in this scene, it use the continuity editing. This editing style

prevents “the editing to distract from the story, avoids cut and transitions between images

that would be too obvious” (Corrigan T., p64).

The sound is an important element in film form. In film “sound can be used and

edited with as much complexity and intelligence as image can” (Corrigan T., p70). If a

film without sound, audience will have less exposure on what is going on the scenes. For

example the scene is showing a police chase and we hear gun fires. Although we don’t

see the weapon fires but we would use our imagination or assume there is a gun. Thus

sound provides movies an extra effect to the viewers by triggering their senses. Sound in

film can be diegetic or non diegetic as this film applies both. Through out the movie

audience will be able to hear gun fires, 70’s music, distant people’s conversation, chaos

and continuous background speech of Rocket narrating the story. Music gives audience

the feel of the film, for instance in the club scene, funk music that are played are clearly a

music of the past particularly 1970’s.

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FTV1050 Contemporary Film Studies

In conclusion, film form is a technical aspect that is important on developing a

movie. Due to film form is invincible, meaning that audience won’t notice them

moreover giving a review whether a movie is good or bad. Film form will provide more

relevant critics. It includes the scenes, the shots, the editing, and the sound. In City of

God, the form of violence has been clearly portrayed.

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