Oliver Twist

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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All the elements of a classical novel come together in David Lean's chilling rendition of Charles Dickens "Oliver Twist". This magnificent classic started out in a small town in England, sometime in the 19th Century, where a little orphan boy named Oliver Twist was sold to a family who built coffins. He was to work for them, but he got in a brawl with one of the kids and he then ran away to London on his own where he grows to become a wise young man. The film successfully uses camera angle, lighting, and sound in the characterization of Oliver.

The first point that helped characterize Oliver was the way David Lean used camera angle. High camera angle was frequently used on Oliver. An example of this was when Oliver was in London and the camera angle is high suggesting weakness, loneliness, and defenseless. Likewise, when Oliver was found and brought back to Fagin, who ran an orphanage of thieves, the camera was looking down on him (high camera angle) with all of the kids laughing and pointing at him.

This showed once again weakness, loneliness, and defenseless. An example of Oliver when he was in low camera angle, which was hardly ever, was when Oliver was at the orphanage and went back up to Mr. Bumble and asked for seconds on food, which was not heard of. Oliver was punished for this, but while he was walking up to ask for seconds all the other kids had stopped eating and a low angle shot was used. This showed that the kids were looking up to Oliver and in their eyes he looked powerful and dominant.

Another point that helped characterize Oliver was the lighting used. A time where Oliver had been in low-key lighting was when he was thought to be a robber and he was sprinting through the town from all the people; low-key lighting in this situation showed suspense and that Oliver was terrified. Furthermore, Another example of lighting that caught my eye was when Oliver was in court facing the judge for stealing and the director used front lighting, which made Oliver look tired and innocent; foreshadowing his innocence. High-key lighting was used scarcely throughout the movie, but there was one time when it was obvious. Oliver had met a rich man. He got to know the old man and eventually the man asked Oliver to come live with him, Oliver didn't hesitate to say yes. The rich man gave him a nice set of cloths and healthy edible food, which he had never had, and Oliver was happier than ever and throughout this whole situation he was in high-key lighting; creating a positive, cheerful, and upbeat mood.

The final point that helped characterize Oliver was Lean's use of sound. The use of thunder and lightning was consistently used throughout the movie. An example of this was at the very beginning when Oliver's mom was giving birth to Oliver; this showed pain, terror, and foreshadowed Oliver's painful and treacherous life. A different time that thunder and lightning was used was at the end of the movie when the town of London had found the murderer of the rich mans daughter. This showed the feelings of wrath, rage, and suspense. Otherwise, the use of sound whenever the character Fagin was present was a slow, deep, sharp tune. The repetition of this tune created suspense and showed that Fagin was a dreadful man and that Oliver was scared of him.

In conclusion David Lean used camera angle, lighting, and sound in the characterization of Oliver successfully. Oliver running away to London forced himself to grow quickly, and to become independent instead of dependant, turning Oliver into a wise young man. This Movie taught me to be grateful for what I have and to never take advantage of anyone else, as many people had done to Oliver.