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Writing About Film: Fish Out of Water Genre: Film Techniques

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Fish Out of Water Films

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So, how do directors achieve this disorienting effect? Well, there are many ways that directors can influence the audience into feeling disoriented. They can do this through plot (placing a character and the audience in a strange place without any information), through sound design (using offstage space to startle, or dissonant soundtrack usage), or through set design (sets that don't make sense geometrically).

Of course there are also many other ways, these are just some of the most prominent. For the director to create these kind of effects intentionally, he must understand scene composition (in formal critique called the mise-en-scene). For us to critique or analyse it, we must also understand these concepts. Click the hyperlinks to read more about these topics.

To the right you will find examples of each of these different ways disorientation can be created in film, a central tenet of any fish-out-of-water film.

 

Examples

This scene in Demolition Man uses plot-related methods to disorient both the main character (Stallone) and the audience.

The Key Drop shot in After Hours disorients with the use of many quick camera cuts and dissonant sound.

In this scene in Hazard, the slow-moving camera juxtaposed with what's happening in the shot creates a dissonant effect.

This scene in Pleasantville also uses plot-based disorientation to develop a sense of dread and confusion in the audience, as well as a few quick camera cuts.

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