The Signs and Syntax of the film Dead Again

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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Rhetoric of Vision and Sound Assignment #2 Chris Moore         For this assignment I will use the ending scene of Dead Again, by Kenneth Branagh. I believe this is the most dramatic part of the film. The end is so over the top that it sticks out in my mind more than any other. This film is very cleverly crafted, being a parallel story by use of editing. Two stories are taking place at two different times. The end of Dead Again brings these two stories together in both a suspenseful and theatrical way. Dead Again is an excellent example of a good parallel story. The signs throughout the movie are revealed in a way to remind you, help connect the two sets of stories, and to keep you guessing. This is especially predominate in the ending sequence with the use of the scissors, one of the films biggest symbols; the scissors were used to create foreshadowing throughout the film.

The syntax or arrangement of the film is quite good; it really helps to create a mood and meaning to the end of Dead Again. Of course, this is in a way a connotative meaning in that revenge is sort of achieved by Margaret Strauss on Frankie. The thing that Frankie was so obsessed with, in the end killed him. Frankie believed he would be killed by the reincarnation of Roman or Margret and wanted to finish them off first. He killed with scissors and died by falling on to scissors         In the ending scene Grace shoots Mike, the private investigator trying to help her, in fear for her life. This is where the drama starts and continues bringing the film to a climatic end. While Mike is down, Frakie comes in and is about to kill Grace (Roman). When Mike (Margaret) stops him. This is where the scene begins to change and become much more dramatic by successful syntax. The mise-en-scene being all the factors involved in the construction of the scene, some are pretty obvious here. The music, flashbacks (parallel editing), slow-motion shots and quick close-up shots take place here. This simultaneously depicts what happened ending both stories. You see the killing of Margaret, by Frankie, Roman play his opera, which was used for the music, and him finding Margaret dead, along with what transpires in the present between Mike, Frankie, and Grace. You see here the whole picture and a lot takes place quite quickly, but are not confused because of a well-organized sequence. This is also helped by the use of color. Throughout the film back and white versus color was used to create the sense of past and present.

        This scene is set up in a way similar to other films trying to be suspenseful and very dramatic. This is often a code, or standard in the film industry. The way this scene is constructed is very useful in creating an edge-of-your-seat effect, but was a little too over the top. This might have something to do with Branagh’s theatrical background. The music fits the scene quite well; it’s orchestrated in a way that creates a very climatic feel and adds a great deal to the suspense. The flashbacks, slow-mo, and close-up shots become increasingly shorter creating a cluster of shots, making this scene even stronger. This is important because with the use of these types of shots (slow-motion, slow-motion close-ups) show how much drama is happening in this short amount of time. It also allows the viewer to be more aware of what is happening and to take in the high amount of drama with the long over-aggregated looks of the characters faces, also, creating a higher level of suspense. It basically stretches out a short sequence of action to make the details more noticeable and the viewer less confused. Another interesting thing that I think added to the scene was the fact of a smaller aspect ratio and the focus. Through out the film, there was a lot of clear background shown. In the last scene, there was a much smaller aspect ratio, which kept you more focused on the characters. It also create the sense that the character were closer (in proportion) and in a more confined space. It brought you in to the fight more as a viewer and added to suspense. Also, the slowed close-up and more medium, or longer shot were not quite as focused as shots in previous scenes. This added to the feeling of horror and the idea of the fight; the fact that these guys are throwing each other around the room in a fierce battle, creating movement with in the room. This too added to the suspense. The scene was constructed beautifully and accomplished its goal, but was a little too over dramatic. The signs and syntax of Dead Again really helped convey the meaning and mood, or feeling of it. Even with all of its plot’s twists and turns, you still got the meaning and never got confused in the sequence, but it kept you guessing until almost the very end. This is what makes this such an entertaining film.