Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Character Design Class #2

Batman

On this lesson our job was to change the basic shapes of a given character. As Batman has very sharp and angular shapes, I decided to make the shapes more curved and soft. The change is not so big, so I could work on it a bit more. 


Vikings
At the last part of the lesson we got a character type and had to think of body types and shapes that would fit the description.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Character Design Class #1

For our first character design class, we all got a character and our job was to either make it more simple or more realistic.
Wreck-it-Ralph
Realistic approach (unfinished)

Simple approach

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Shining (1980)

Fig 1: Poster
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) is a psychological horror, horror, drama and thriller film, which was (slightly) based on Stephen King's 1977 novel The Shining. This movie tells the story of Jack Torrance a novelist, who takes a job as the winter caretaker of the huge and isolated hotel called Overlook Hotel. He moves there with his wife (Wendy) and young son (Danny) ignoring the previous warning of the manager, who tells him the story of the former caretaker Grady who went insane and chopped up his family with an axe and then shot himself. It seems that Danny has the power called 'The Shining' which enables him to see past and future events. Danny meets Hallorann, the hotel cook who also possesses the power of 'Shining' and warns him about the hotel and Room 237. As time passes Danny keeps having visions of people from the past who have died at the hotel meanwhile Jack starts to slowly drive himself to insanity. Jack numerously 'interacts' with dead people from the past, his aggression and insanity is fuelled by Grady, who tells him to kill his family. He goes on to do the same thing Grady did in the past with an axe and started his search in the huge hotel to find Wendy and Danny to kill them. The mother and son lock themselves into the bathroom, where Danny fits through the tiny window and makes his escape, while Wendy is stuck in there as Jack starts to axe down the wooden door. He is interrupted and leaves giving a chance to Wendy to make her escape. Jack kills Hallorann and rushes after Danny, who hides in the maze garden. As Danny finds his way out of the maze and leaves the hotel (and Jack) behind with Wendy, the tired and slightly injured Jack freezes to death inside the maze. The last shot shows an old picture from 1921 of "the best people", but Jack is on the image as well right at the front, as if he was always belonging there or as if the hotel collects the souls.
Fig 2: The frozen Jack
"It is a multi-layered exploration of the psyche, the spiritual realm, surrealism, ancient mythology and the satanic occult elite that rule the West, as the theme of pedophilic generational bloodlines parasitically manipulate the under class through the false promise of worldly prosperity. " (Dyer, 2015) The story is very symbolic and it has different meanings and symbols hidden in character's behaviour, the things they say and see and even the hotel itself.  In the movie it is mentioned that the building was built on an ancient Native American burial ground, which could symbolise the political issues of modern America and their relationship with history. When Jack start to communicate with the ghosts especially with Lloyd (the bartender) and Grady, it is seen by Jack that he could be one of 'the best people' but only if he follows the instructions of Grady who suggest that he 'corrects' his family members, in which Jack is required to get rid of them, killing them. That is the point where his aggression and unstable mental state starts to really show and he completely looses himself.
Fig 3: Grady and Jack's conversation in the red bathroom
"The maze is interesting for its dual usage as well: symbolizing both Jack’s psyche and his writing of the fiction into his reality..." (Dyer, 2015) There are some places and object during the movie that symbolise characters, especially Jack's psyche. The Hotel could be a symbol of Jacks mind, as the long corridors appear as a maze, easy to get lost in and they are never ending. There is also a suggestion that the specific carpet that is in focus when Danny is playing on it is another maze. Lastly there is a model of the maze garden that represents the real on outside the hotel. When Danny hides from Jack inside the maze, the young boy tricks Jack by stepping backwards on his own footprints than jumping away and leaving no trace for Jack to follow. As Jack does not finds his way out of it, by the morning he is frozen to death, which represents how he is stuck in a maze of his mental state and will never get out of it.
Fig 4: Jack standing over the maze model
"The scares are some of the most iconic ever put on screen and the film is tense and highly atmospheric – so tight that its able to make the audience jump at title cards – the whole experience is like walking up a staircase which gradually gets narrower." (s.n., 2013) The tension is slowly built during the movie and it keeps the audience at the edge of their seats. At the beginning the viewer might feel a little tension, which is created by Jack behaviour (his strange behaviour is already showing at the beginning of the film), or by the huge empty hotel with endless corridors and huge amount of rooms. But as the story goes on, the tension is escalated along with Jack's madness. In the novel written by Stephen King all the weird events are caused by supernatural beings, while in the film it appears to be more of a mental state. While supernatural can make people feel fear, the breakdown of someone loosing their mind creates another type of discomfort or tension. The build up of the events is so well done that even the sudden title card appearances is enough to make the viewer jump.
Fig 5: Jack's frightening look
"Stanley didn't travel, so he never went to Oregon where the exteriors were done. Whenever you see actors outside, they're in the backlot of Elstree Studios in London. The snow was made of formaldehyde and salt, while the fog was finely sprayed vegetable oil." (Harlan, s.d.) Whenever the hotel was shown from the outside, those were real videos of the hotel, however as soon as the camera shows an interior shot, those were built to replicate other hotel rooms. Overlook Hotel is shown as a huge hotel and the fact that the film is set in winter time, while no residences around, makes the hotel appear much emptier and helps to give it a look that it is dangerous and unsettling. As Danny rides his bicycle on the endlessly long, connected corridors or when he plays on the carpet with (cage like ) geometric patterns, the environment makes the characters appear tiny and vulnerable. Furthermore, the snow (which is artificial) and the fog around the hotel suggest that it is incredibly challenging or impossible to escape and it is much difficult to survive in winter than in any other seasons. "A world away from the dusty, peeling interiors usually seen in horror movies, the hotel interior envisioned by Kubrick is spacious and modern. The set generates tension not through claustrophobia and dark spaces, but with high ceilings and lonely expanses." (Lambie, 2016) These little hidden unsettling things are what makes the environment appear much more dangerous and scary. They did not need to build the hotel how the usual horror film hotels look, with dark and gloomy corners with ghosts and monsters lurking in the rooms and corridors, as even though there are ghosts in the story, they appear as real people or more like hallucinations they are not what frightens the audience. They achieved the high tension by putting three 'little' characters in a enormous and empty hotel for isolation slowly creep upon them and starts questioning reality and sanity. 
Fig 6: Exterior of the Overlook Hotel before winter
Fig 7: Danny tricycle through the hotel
While the tension is high, distracting the audience from other details that sets the mood, such as lighting and colour, it is clear that those factors heighten fear in the viewer. Kubrick is known for his excellent usage of composition, colours and lighting. For example, the bathroom where Jack and  Grady have a conversation about 'correcting' his family, the room is partly, bright and vibrant red. Red colour is already associated with violence and danger, which suggests Jack current psyche, emphasised by him being alone with Grady, discussing murder of their families in a red room.  "The room is utterly unlike any other in the hotel – it’s as though it’s a direct projection of Jack’s violent mind, which it almost certainly is. It’s but one example of how Kubrick uses colour and design to reflect the mood of his characters." (Lambie, 2016) There are other rooms and places in and around the hotel that shows how well he can show emotions and symbolising things with the setting, colours, shapes or lighting. The lighting could be claimed that it is poor, compared to usual horror environments, as it does not give sharp and strong shadows, rather all seem to be created by the original artificial lighting of the hotel's lights and chandeliers. This gives a sense of realism to the film, as it does not appear as theatrical. Also symmetry and centralising things or characters often can be seen throughout the movie, drawing focus to specific things or creating uneasiness with the 'perfect' and sinister symmetry.
Fig 8: Examples of Kubrick's sets
 "It’s also incredibly frightening – the music is a massive help here, made up of classical pieces and eerie, string-heavy motifs; a large part of the movie’s effectiveness comes from the strength of its soundtrack; its truly horrifying and wonderfully atmospheric, almost dizzying in intensity." (s.n., 2013) While, the plot of the movie is not big and quite expected, the music plays an important role in keeping the audience at the edge of their seats (just like the environment). then the music intensifies, it builds up tension, suggesting that something is going to happen, readying the audience of an upcoming event or perhaps a jump-scare. When the music seems to reach its high point and the viewer is ready for whatever is going to happen, sometimes they cut the music of right away and nothing happens for a little while, putting back the viewer to ease. However just when it seems like the potential danger or threat is gone, that is when a sudden event happens, which scares the audience much effectively than if it would have happened right after the build-up. This creates the high tension as the audience learns not to expect what is going to happen depending on the music, while it also sets a mood and keeps the viewers interested despite the simple plot.

"Kubrick has little interest in his characters as people, using them more as vehicles for thematic ideas or allegory." (s.n., 2013) Kubrick does not try to create connection between the characters and the audience, or even create strong relationship and bond between the characters. The lack of connection with the characters leaves them feeling a little cold towards the viewers, however all the 'main' characters have a significantly important and individual role in the film and represent different meanings in the story. "Past transgressions don't need to be spelled out to clarify that Jack is not a model parent." (Fox, 2012) Firstly, Jack who plays the 'main' character's role and the father is appears to have mental illnesses at some level even from the start. The way he uses his facial expressions, especially towards the end perfectly represent his state of mind; looking creepily up from under and lowering his bottom lip to show his teeth. Furthermore, when he holds Danny, there is not much caring or emotions behind his actions, but rather look sinister and scary. Also there is a suggestion that he is abusive not only towards Wendy, but Danny too and he seems to blame Danny for a few things in the past."We begin to suspect Danny has been abused as his alternate persona appears to be a spirit named “Tony,” who lives in Danny’s mouth and stomach." (Dyer, 2015) Perhaps, Danny's 'imagery friend' Tony helps him to cope with the treatment he gets from his father or Danny is schizophrenic and Tony is his alter-ego. It also has been suggested that Tony is a spirit or ghost that either possessed him or just simply lives within the young boy. Some studies seemed to believe that younger children are able to see and communicate with ghosts, which might be the reason why he sees the twins and can communicate with Tony, but that might be not the motive behind giving him the ability to connect with spirits, as other characters are able to do the same, despite them being grown adults. "Duvall is often criticised in this role but her performance is fantastic – she’s mousy and meek but that’s the character ... Kubrick basically tortured her with extended takes and the strain, stress and anguish actually add to her performance." (s.n., 2013) Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall) is a character that comes off as a very annoying and weak person and many people blame the actress for it, however the character was meant to be so quiet and/or over the top. The actress was under high pressure, which allowed her to preform such a expressive role. Wendy is an extremely timid character and she accepts Jack's aggression quietly; however her husband starts to show his murderous tendencies, she becomes very frightened and her reactions might seem over-the-top, especially if we take in consideration that that type of acting was used in the past, but does not really appear anymore, but the audience need to understand that this is possibly how most people would reacted in that kind of situation with knowing no help is on the way.
Fig 9: Jack holding Danny
Fig 10: Frightened Wendy
The Shining is praised to be one, if not the best horror films ever created, as it does not depend on monsters to frighten the audience, but cleverly uses mise-en-scene, such as environment set-ups, music, character portrayals, hidden meaning and symbols in order to create tension and fear. It's not only a perfect example for exploration of psychological matters, but it displays a different view on supernatural (while the supernatural does not overpower). Due to its  uniqueness, there are only a very few horror and even not horror genre movies that are this powerful (even with a simple plot) and sets high standards for future films; as well as creates some of the most iconic scenes, characters and props, such as the carpet, the twins and Jack's 'Here's Johnny!'
Fig 11: The twins
Fig 12: The famous carpet
Fig 13: 'Here's Johnny!' scene



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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Repulsion (1965)

Fig 1: Poster
Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) is a psychological horror film. The movie tells a story about Carol Ledoux who lives with her older sister Helen. She displays hardly any emotions and is very uncomfortable in men's company. She finds men disgusting and tries to stay out their way at any cost, however her behaviour does not stop Colin's interest in her and he keeps trying to get closer to her. Helen leaves for a holiday to Italy with her lover Michael and leaves Carol alone for a while in their apartment. After her older sister leaves Carol, she begins to become more distracted and distant, which leads to her being sent home from work and does not leave the apartment. She leaves out a skinned rabbit to rotten and as times go she began to hallucinate more and more disturbing things, such as the walls cracking or male hands reaching out from the walls and start grabbing and attacking her. She often dreams of a man attacking her and raping or molesting her. When she does not comes out of her apartment, Colin breaks in in order to make sure she is fine, which scares Carol and she refuses to see his love for her. When Colin confesses that he wants to be with Carol all the time, she beats him to death with a candlestick and leaves his body in the over-floating water of the bathtub and in panic nails the door shut. Later when the landlord breaks in as there is no answer at the door, he commands that she pays the late rent. After Carol gives him the required money, she sits on the sofa and he seemingly wanders around the room trying to comfort the distant woman while staring at her in her nightgown. He remarks on the devastated state of the apartment and later tries to sexually assault her, when she firstly gets away and the second time he tries to push himself upon her, she kills him with a razor. When Helen and Michael arrives back they shocked to find the place nearly destroyed and with the curious neighbours gathering in the apartment they find the dead bodies, but not Carol. Later she is found hiding under the bed in a catatonic state and is carried away by Michael who stares at her creepily. The last shot is a zoom into an old family picture, where Carols as a young girl stares at an adult male (possibly her father) with disgust and horror in her eyes.
Fig 2: Carol in the enlarged, destroyed room
"Roman Polanski's classic psychological film noir Repulsion is an absorbing, disturbing and beautifully crafted portrayal of mental disintegration." (Macintyre, 2015) From the beginning of the film the audience has a clear knowledge that Carol has a weird and distant personality and behaviour, as she acts unusual, too quiet and thee is a clear discomfort with men. As time passes, it only becomes clearer that she is slowly going insane all alone. She is seemingly scared and disgusted by men and tries to stay away from them. Whenever her disturbed mind creates a horrible hallucination, she comes face-to-face with a male who is molesting and sexually assaulting her, such as the male hand that break out from the walls and grabbing and touching her. She often have nightmares or fantasies about a man raping her at night, which she seems to accept at the end as she puts on lipstick, suggesting that she accepts her 'fate'. Furthermore, when she leaves the skinned rabbit out to rotten, it represents that as in the 1960' in London, women are only treated as pieces of meat. There is also a few stereotypical symbols in the film, such as the women in the salon, getting their make-up, hair and nails done to make themselves look desirable and men telling dirty jokes, drinking beer in the pub. This films reflect a negative image on men as they seem to come across as the enemy. Right next to the apartment she lives in there are nuns happily playing ball games outside, which suggest their calm and happy life without men.
Fig 3: Rotting rabbit
"Through a brilliant manipulation of space, time, and sound, Polanski vividly recreates a schizophrenic experience." (Hutchings, s.d.) The rotting rabbit is not only a symbol, but it is an important object, as it shows how time goes by and that Carol spends lots of time alone. The sounds and music helps to tell the story and makes it a bit clearer. When she is on the streets there is often music, but when she is alone in the apartment there is unsettling silence and only faint noises of everyday objects, such as clocks ticking or phone ringing can be heard. this puts the emphasis on the emptiness in the house and how alone she is. Furthermore, while she is loosing her mind,  the small rooms expand and the space becomes huge, creating the feeling that she is small, helpless and alone. As we see the house cracking and falling apart, it represent her mind crumbling down. At one point, some of the walls become soft, which instantly reminds the audience of flesh, like the house is alive.
Fig 4: Apartment cracking and falling apart
The film is black-and-white, so there is more focus on the shadows and lighting. While most of the story is shown during the day, the long corridors and large rooms appear to be slightly dark and sinister. When Carol is in a dark area of the house, the contrast between light and dark is very strong, like when she passes through the corridor with the hands, the lighting source is behind her, giving her a strong outline while the walls and corners are dark, which gives the impression as if she is lost and weak. "The camera acts as a conduit to her emotions: long slow shots that track her aimless progress down the street or follow her eyes as they alight on something horrible in the flat allow us to get right under her skin." (Macintyre, 2015) There are several camera angles and shots that pulls the audience right into the story as if we are with Carol. The zoom ins are often focus on her face, which shows nervousness and distraction, which shows the audience a kind of coldness of the character. Furthermore, when she kills Colin, the camera is in perspective as the viewer is the man himself and appears as Carol beats him to death while you watch it from Colin's eyes; like the audience is him at that moment. Or similarly, when she kills the landlord, the camera shows her from a lower angle. This makes the person watching feel more tension as it a clear invitation into the maddening story.
Fig 5: Corridor with hands
Fig 6: Low angle perspective
Carol is not a necessarily likeable character, as she lacks of emotional display and there is not much connection between the audience and the character. However this only gives power to the knowledge that she is indeed distant and very closed in. However seeing her suffer and face her own demons still makes he viewer feel sympathy towards her. "She is so physically flawless that she often seems half human: An anemic girl, she can barely lift up her arm, yet at the same time she is highly sensual, an ample, heavily breathing woman with more than a glint of carnality in her dreamily vacant eyes." (Morgan, 2011) She is a beautiful woman, which makes it that much harder to see her acting so unusual, sometimes even similar to a child, it is like she has not grown up completely. But her pretty features and dreamy eyes whats makes her very appealing to men, which makes her that much of an easier target. However the audience is never told why is she exactly like this, only leaves a few clues to set up a theory about what could have caused her to become like she is. There is a suggestion that she might have been abused and sexually assaulted in the past, most likely by a male relative, such as her father. When the family photo is shown of her as a child surrounded by other family members, she is starring at a male figure instead of the camera, with terrified and disgusted look on her face. As only her face and the adult man's face is lightened up while the rest of the photo is covered by the shadow, it leads to the conclusion that something have happened between the two characters that has scared her and left her mentally damaged.
Fig 7: Childhood photo of Carol (staring at the adult male figure)



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Black Narcissus (1947)

Fig 1: Poster
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger' s Black Narcissus (1947) is a melodrama and religious drama film. It tells a story about 5 nuns (Sister Clodagh, Sister Briony, Sister Blanche, Sister Philippa and Sister Ruth) who are sent to Mopu in the Himalayas in order to run a school and hospital for the locals. Shortly after their arrival at the place Sister Clodagh is visited by the General's agent, Mr. Dean who appears arrogant and cynical; he is disagreeing with the Order changing the place and predicts that the nuns will leave before the rain comes. As time goes the Sisters find their tasks harder and harder and starting to give up one-by-one, as they are isolated and they find the sensual atmosphere of the place unsettling and distracting. Sister Ruth finds interest in Mr. Dean and is confronted by Sister Clodagh. Later when Sister Clodagh is discussing her uneasiness about Mopu and her sad memories with Mr. Dean, who suggest that Sister Clodagh completely leaves nunnery which she refuses, but they are unaware that Sister Ruth is overhearing their conversation. Later at night Sister Clodagh finds Sister Ruth in a red dress instead on her nun uniform and is told that Sister Ruth is leaving behind being a nun. By the morning Sister Ruth escapes and rushes to Mr. Dean's hous where she confesses her love for him, but he rejects causing Sister Ruth to be heartbroken and turn against Sister Clodagh. When Sister Clodagh is about to ring the bell on top of the cliff she is attacked by Sister Ruth, who after a struggling fight falls to her death. This loss convinces the rest of the nuns to leave the place behind and return to where they came from. Mr. Dean and Sister Clodagh say their goodbyes and as the nuns leave the village rain starts to fall.
Fig 2: Sister Clodagh, Sister Ruth and Mr. Dean
"Made the same year that Britain gave India its independence, Black Narcissus partially demonstrates why British occupancy failed in the first place, but its approach is far from political." (Cole, 2010) As the nuns are sent to the Himalayas to not only educate children (including teaching them English) and set up a hospital, but they also practice and teach Christianity. Given the location of the village and observing not only the environment but the locals as well, it is clear that they have different beliefs and as the nuns are trying to change the place, it clearly indicates the relationship between Britain and India.

But this is not the main focus of the film. "Yet his presence, and especially Dean's, put the nuns on edge, and we soon see that many may have come to escape their own sexuality." (Cole, 2010) The film is filled with suggestions and sensuality, while it may be described as erotic, it is more heavy on the sensual side with visible tension and symbols. Firstly, where the nuns are staying was for the ruler's harem and there are paintings on the wall showing naked and half naked women, which frustrates the nuns and is asked to be taken off. Also, when spring arrives there are main focuses on blooming flowers, which said to represent not only female organs, but also reproduction. Furthermore, there is visible interest between the young village girls and the young General. Lastly, as mentioned the nuns came to escape their sexuality with taking their vows and becoming nuns. But Sister Ruth cannot take the strong sensuality of the place and gives up nunnery. She changes her white uniform for a red dress and applies red lipstick, which represent her throwing away 'purity and innocence' and becoming more of a seductive woman rather than a nun."From then on, she [Ruth] is more woman than nun. Her white habit, splashed with blood, indicates the sexing of the character. In the same image, menstrual blood and the symbolical loss of virginity are displayed, as they will be again later in the red dress that will replace the uniform and advertise her difference from the rest." (ThiƩry, s.d)
Fig 3: Sister Ruth covered in blood
Fig 4: Sister Ruth applying the red lipstick

"The palace of Mopu, the former harem turned convent where most of the action takes place, was designed by Alfred Junge and was built at Pinewood. The Himalayan backdrop was painted on sheets of glass and the mountain breeze supplied by a gigantic wind machine." (Petrie, s.d.) The set appears to be huge and like it was really filmed at the Himalayas, which they achieved by adding matte paintings. These paintings helped them create the illusion of a huge open space, such as the upper shot of the bell on the top of the cliff where the view shows the valley. There are numerous times when exotic flowers and plants are shown which were filmed at an exotic garden in Britain, but the angles and the equally exotic backgrounds may convince the audience that everything was really filmed somewhere else. The difference in buildings, colours and their style also empathise the Western and Eastern differences, such as the catholic church where the nuns have came from and the interior of the former king's palace.
Fig 5: Matte painting technique

There is also a huge difference between the colours that are shown at different locations and the clothing of the people. At the beginning of the movie the audience is presented the simple and white environment of the church and the completely white uniform of the nuns. But as they arrive to the Himalayas everything is covered with colours. This helps the story to move along, as the colours and lighting tell the story."But it is precisely his use of color that drives the story: extroverted as Byron's acting may be, the film draws its tension from the gradual shift in lighting and hue as more and more color seeps into the film even as it grows darker and darker." (Cole, 2010) There are scenes where the colours and lighting plays a very serious role in setting the mood/atmosphere, telling emotions and showing meanings. For example, when Sister Ruth returns from Mr. Deans house after the rejection, she appears very dark as she hides in the shadows and the lighting is poor, it suggest her emotional state.

Fig 6: Strong colours
Fig 7: Sister Ruth's transformation
Sister Ruth is a very important character in the movie, as her transformation from a nun to a suggestively mad 'monstrous' woman plays an important role in the story line. When she is rejected by Dean, she is shown with wet dark hair clinging to her forehead and there is a dark red shade under her eyes, which enhances the idea that she has gone mad and she is emotionally disturbed. It is a frightening look for her as during the whole movie she is seen as a pure and innocent nun, and at the end she appears scary with her dark hair, eyes and red/black dress , as well as her hard expression and sharp long features. But its worth to mention that while the nuns were always fully clothed and there is hardly any feminine features shown (as almost only their faces can be seen from under the uniform) they are not objectified and sexualised. However, on the other hand "Like the natives, Dean is also sexualized in terms of appearance with his brightly coloured shirts and bare arms and legs, contrasting with the ascetic off-white habits of the nuns. At one moment of crisis he arrives on the scene stripped to the waist, giving us a wonderfully potent image of raw male sexuality." (Petrie, s.d.) It is not that often that male characters are the ones that show more skin and the emphasis is on their sexual features.
Fig 8: Shirtless Mr. Dean
Fig 9: Sister Ruth's eyes



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