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Rikhel Trivedi


How are the themes of fear and isolation represented in: The Women in Black
(2012 UK) and Mama (2013 USA)?

In this essay, I am going to analyse how the micro techniques have been used to
present the themes of fear and isolation in The Woman in Black (2012 UK) and
Mama (2013 USA).
The Woman in Black is a horror/thriller British film. The film is directed by James
Watkins. The film’s narrative is about a father and a young lawyer, Arthur Kipps
(Daniel Radcliffe) and is travelling to a village where he learns that there is a haunted
avenging ghost who is destroying and haunting the people within the village. I am
going to analyse at the scene where Arthur Kipps has spent in the haunted mansion.
I have chosen this scene as it portrays fear and isolation through various techniques.
A wide angled shot starring Arthur Kipps is shown and used as it lets the audience
aware of the character and his the setting allowing the audience to see how isolated
the location is. The camera zooms in slowly to Arthur Kipps, the camera pulls focus
showing the door behind him, open without him noticing implying that it is the
haunted ghost. The wide angled shot suggests that Kipps is isolated in the mansion
and is used to make the audience think they are very close to action in the scene.
This makes the scene seem isolated since it makes the audience fear for the
character as they can sense that Kipps is in danger and that if he were to get hurt
nobody would suspect anything. This creates tension and builds on fear, as Kipps is
alone in the haunted mansion and by displaying that Kipps is vulnerable and not at
his best, making the audience more in fear as it seems they are close to action.
The mise en scene helps convey fear and isolation, the low-key lighting used in the
room is to show Kipps’s facial expressions so that the viewers can identify fear
through Kipps’s expressions. Kipps is wearing a black waistcoat with a white shirt,
which represents the character as a hard ordinary worker, trying to make a living.
The costumes help symbolize how Kipps is isolated lifestyle. The colours of the
costumes, black and white represent to Kipps’s personality; therefore by having
black and white costumes it represents his boring and simple lifestyle. The colour
black implies the darkness and mystery. The colour white reflects to his personality
indicating how big hearted and pure the character is. This shows how colour is used
to build on fear by still implying Kipps’s personality is isolated and a mystery as they
don’t show his personal life how him brave and weak which foreshadows bad
Synchronous ambient sound helps to create suspense and builds on fear to the
scene as the audience connotes that the haunted ghost is going to attack from
behind as the non-diegetic sound volume increases. A point of view shot of the ghost
heading to the direction of Kipps carries to maintain fear as it builds on the viewer’s
predictions on what might happen. The non- diegetic orchestral sounds used works
together when zooming to build fear, for example when the camera zooms into

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Kipps short bow strokes are played on string with a high strong pitch sound, which
suggests that Kipps may get attacked. Using a high pitch sound immediately grabs
the viewer’s attention and uses it to build the fear within them. The use of ambient
sounds in horror films is that it gets an immediate response from the audience; even
though it is invisible it is still creates a meaning to a scene. This relates to the
question, as the audience constantly fear for the protagonist.
A mid- shot is used showing Arthur Kipps resting his eyes, which authorize the
audience to see more of the surroundings and reminding the audience how
dangerous and isolated the mansion is, bringing fear back to the scene. Props such
as lamps and candles on the vintage table are used to show isolated the mansion is.
This suggest that the props used are still kept from many years ago which shows how
isolated and dangerous the mansion is and to make the setting more of a horror film.
By using low-key lighting in the scene it makes the audience feel uncomfortable and
to think it is not safe for Kipps to fall asleep as the room is dark. This shows how
isolation in horror settings are dangerous as it contains fearful conventions such as
demons or curses which viewers fear for protagonist who enter horror settings.
Depth of field is used to maintain fear within the atmosphere, since the focus
sharpens to what is happening behind Kipps, building fear for Kipps as the scene
foreshadows that Kipps is in danger. Eerie sound is used which is also synchronous
builds on fear to the scene and within the audience as we see a haunted ghost. The
ghost costumes are in full black, which connotes that she is in charge of death, which
scares the audience as the colour black normally leads to death and in the scene it
easily foreshadows that something wrong is going to happen. The ghost in black
helps to build isolation as the entire mansion is dark and isolated illustrating that the
ghost is part of the mansion and darkness, sensing the ghost and mansion are
powerful and dangerous. The fast paced editing used, shows the ghost for a short
period which helps builds on fear for Kipps since the audience do not have any sort
of information about the ghost part from destroying villages and children.
Mama (2013) is an American supernatural horror film and has been directed by
Andres Muschietti. The film narrative is a couple who are challenged to raise two
young nieces who were alone for 5 years in the forest, and the couple then find out a
demon has been carried out with the two nieces. I am going to analyse the scene
where Victoria is watching Annabel sleeping and she wakes up and finds out the
haunted demon, Mama is underneath Annabel’s bed.
Fear and isolation have been shown through cinematography, a close up is used to
show clearly that Annabel is unable to sleep still and keeps moving her hands and
her head from side to side indicating that she is having a nightmare which suggests
that whatever is happening in her nightmare is going to come to reality as a horror
prediction which starts to build on fear for Annabel by making the audience predict
what’s going to happen to her. A medium shot is used to show both the characters
reactions when Annabel wakes up, and to allow the audience to sympathise
Annabel’s feelings. The characters positioning in the frame used helps to represent

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isolation as it allows the audience to see the emptiness and the distance between
the characters illustrating that the characters, especially Annabel are isolated. By
showing Victoria’s distance to Annabel and her surroundings it makes Annabel look
helpless and vulnerable which creates a sense of danger, which builds on fear for the
character. Fear is implied as it makes the audience think that the nieces are isolated
as we do not expect them to watch a person sleep watch a person have a nightmare.
This demonstrates that the audience can sense death in the scene as conventions in
horror films if the protagonist is having a nightmare it usually involves death.
The mise en scene used in the film help present fear and isolation. Black pyjamas
costumes are used in the scene. Black connotes fear and death, in relation this
creates fear since normally children wouldn’t be wearing full black clothing to sleep
in, it also represents many negative things to the audience. In this film black is used
to present fear through evil making the Victoria seem dangerous and evil, making
the viewer’s fear for the Annabel. Low- key lighting is used to reflect the characters
emotions and feelings making the audience feel comfortable of the character and be
in fear for Annabel. The low-key lighting used coming from the lamp in the hallway,
help present fear through the characters facial expressions. The audience can see
the white surrounding and the characters faces. White is used to show the
protagonist personality as white connotes Annabel as a peaceful kind-hearted
character making the audience fear more for her. By using low-key lighting it sets a
dark scene, which gives the audience an impression that the characters are all
This scene is linked to Levi Strauss’s theory of binary oppositions of strong vs. weak,
which links to representation since Annabel is presented to be weak and vulnerable
as she is the one who is lost and unknown in the scene, making Victoria seem strong
and dominant to the scene showing Annabel being helplessness. A shot reverse shot
is used between Annabel and Victoria to show how nervous Annabel is as well as
building fear to the scene as it implies that Annabel is isolated and weak which the
audience can see that she is helpless making the viewer’s fear for the protagonist. A
shot reverse shot helps to build fear as it makes the protagonist look helplessness.
The diegetic sounds used such as the characters dialogue in the mid-shot, help
maintain fear to the scene. Barthes theory on enigma codes is used to present fear
and isolation, for example Annabel asks Victoria “What’s wrong” the use of
hermeneutic and proairetic codes heightens the illusions in the scene, making the
audience question themselves on who is enemy making the audience want to find
out answers. The use of dialogue represents the protagonist’s voice as a mother
type, since she shows she cares for her nieces even though Victoria is isolated and
frightening. Annabel then hears the diegetic sound, the mattress strings inside the
mattress which illustrates the audience an image on whatever is underneath
Annabel’s bed has ripped or eaten through the mattress to get to the string which
builds tension. Characters actions change the atmosphere for example Annabel
breathes in and out strongly and making the atmosphere around the audience

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frightened and in fear. Fear is demonstrated in the film by using sound to
foreshadow that something bad is going to happen. Annabel questions Victoria
making the audience curious to find answers. This displays how enigma codes are
used through sound, helps to create a fearful atmosphere within the audience.
In the analysis of the two horror films I have understood how they have used the
micro techniques to present the themes fear and isolation. The two films have both
successfully used macro techniques to present fear and isolation. The Woman in
Black and Mama both use similar mise en techniques as the costumes that are used
in the scene, the directors have used the colour black to help make the antagonist
seem fearful. Although Mama had used Barthes theory to help the director to create
a suspense by making the audience question themselves on who is the enemy in the
scene? The films have both portrayed fear through elements such non-diegetic
sounds, having the sound synchronous, which creates tension and suspense to the
scene making the audience in fear within them and for the character.
The Woman in Black and Mama, both use similar techniques such as the
cinematography but even though the films have their differences on which way they
have presented the antagonist, the two directors have both used similar techniques
to foreshadow on what might happen later on which had held non-stop fear within
the audience. Therefore in my perspective I think both films have done well and
successfully used macro techniques to show fear and isolation in the films.

Word Count: 1949

Rikhel Trivedi


The Woman in Black (UK 2012) – Asleep at the desk scene

A wide angled shot
zooming into Kipps
to show Arthur Kipps
resting his eyes

A Point of view of
the ghost moving
closer towards
Arthur Kipps

A close up of Arthur
Kipps asleep and
unaware on what is
happening around him

A Point of view of the
ghost (antagonist) right
behind Arthur Kipps
who tends to be asleep
and resting his eyes


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Mama (USA 2013) – What’s under the bed scene

A Close up of Annabel
having a nightmare

Annabel waking up
slowly and immediately
sees Victoria watching
her sleep

A Close up of Victoria
showing her facial
expressions when Annabel
asks her “What’s wrong?”

The camera pans down to
show Mama underneath
eating away Annabel’s bed

A Close up of Annabel
screaming knowing that
Mama is underneath her