An analysis of narrative codes (in particular, symbols and motifs) in the music video ‘Special Cases’.
‘Art is a system which is pure, no unit ever goes wasted, however long, however loose, however tenuous may be the thread connecting it to one of the levels of the story.’
Barthes, 1977, pp. 89-90
Sequence: Special Cases, Massive Attack
Plot and style overview
In this video clip, narrative is constructed by using a beginning-middle-beginning structure, although the two different beginnings are from different perspectives. Techniques such as blurring of shots impact the way we perceive our positioning within the text. Power is given to medical professionals and buildings through the use of upward camera angles, and the childhood development of the main characters is portrayed in a more documentary-like approach that focuses on their gendering through socialisation. Shadows and reflections are used to give us more insight into characters and personalities or roles in the narrative. Colours are used to signify the nature of the two medical facilities whereas other colours are used to represent the personalities of the two main characters and the intriguing elements of their early lives. The passing of time is manipulated to make us notice certain shots, such as the meeting of the couple in the centre of the narrative (creating a romantic thread to distract us from resolving the enigma). Enigmatic and hermeneutic codes are invoked through the use of cinematography and symbolism which are supported by Barthes’ reasoning that all aspects of narrative are relevant and repeated.
A male foetus develops in the womb after being selectively conceived by scientists in a medical facility. We watch him grow up and become romantically involved with a female individual. We then watch her life unfold in reverse, and realise she is also a test tube baby just like him. We are left wondering if they are biologically connected.
Barthes argues that that a narrative is made up solely of functions: everything, in one way or another, is significant (Barthes & Duisit, 1975, p9). In short commercial music videos, the story must be relayed to the viewer in the most concise method possible; every prop, every character, every shot is purposefully selected to contribute to the construction of specific meanings decided by the author – or in this case, the director of the text.
every prop, every character, every shot is purposefully selected to contribute to the construction of specific meanings decided by the author – or in this case, the director of the text.
Often, music videos rely on the audience’s understanding of previous texts and their features in order to communicate a large argument or point in a shorter way. The symbols and motifs used in the video are considered to be indices; that is, they do not change the story, but signify things implicitly (1975, p14) as opposed to the nuclear (crucial) events (the couple meeting; doctors selecting specific eggs to fertilise). These indices are still as important, giving the audience information about how to understand the events that unfold.
As an enigmatic text, the video contains several references to pre-established codes for hermeneutic narratives. In the same manner that Barthes suggests that a kidnapping story refers to every kidnapping ever written (p20, extract from S/Z), we can infer that this enigma text refers to every other enigma story. Accordingly we can analyse this film by examining the symbols and motifs borrowed from another genre; in this case they are reminiscent of film noir. While the main characters of this text are not typical of film noir personalities, other aspects and stylistic elements are consistent with noir motifs such as the unfulfilled or denied romance thread; the use of reflections, shadows, and architecture or angular environments to highlight the characters’ powerlessness in their situation; and the lack of narrative resolution.
The technique of showing characters’ physical reflections in film often implies duality of character – that the character has two sides to their personality, or a hidden past. The reflection can also be used to symbolise a character’s inner conflict. This video repeatedly uses water and glass to create reflections, mostly of the scientist or doctor characters at the beginning and end of the film. In this way these medical professionals are presented as potentially having hidden motives. This approach, used throughout the film, offers no resolution and instead foreshadows an ambiguous ending. This further emphasises the uncanny feeling created by either the lack of closure and/or tragic ending often present in film noir texts.
[Reflections] used throughout the film offer no resolution and instead foreshadow an ambiguous ending.
We also see reflections when the two main characters meet, although the depiction of these scenes generates a different response than our introduction to the scientists. The boy and girl see reflections of each other in a gymnasium through a mirror, suggesting that they may not see each other as they really are, but instead in a particular way that only reveals specific parts of their true identities. The use of the shadow functions simultaneously with the use of reflections, and also suggests duality or secrets hidden by characters. Shadows are used in the middle of the text when the boy and girl meet in the park. This could suggest the progression of their relationship, or a change in their identities over time, or that there are facts about their true identities that they are unaware of. Other techniques in film noir include settings featuring commanding architecture, demonstrating the inability of the individual to escape their surroundings. The video depicts futuristic, curved spaces in the coffee scene, and strong linear aspects in the scene of the couple meeting in the park. Both of these scenes place the characters within a very powerful linear environment. Like noir, the overpowering nature of their environment seems to control the way that the characters evolve, and may also suggest that they are helpless to escape the consequences of their upbringing and the fact of their conception.
While film noir originally utilised black and white cinematography to create strong contrasts between characters, objects and environments, many of the scenes in this video incorporate colour schemes to elicit a particular response from the viewer, and create certain moods or connotations. The video replaces black and white with blue, green and white tonal ranges to invoke a sense of emotional distance, cleanliness, and lack of passion or human emotion. This approach effectively underscores the intimidating power of the medical facilities in this narrative and the people that work within them.
In film noir, a final clue that we ‘foolishly’ overlook throughout the progression of the film is usually revealed at the end of the narrative. Special Cases creates this similar technique of ‘revealing’ answers or clues to the meaning of the narrative by re-structuring the chronological order of events, changing the meaning of the information so we can piece together what we have just seen to create a resolution. Although several key scenes are constructed in chronological order, and appear to be replayed in reverse order at the “mid-point”, it becomes clear that the scenes are not merely played in reverse when we look at the way the shadows fall. Time is also passing as these shots unfold, signified by the different colours of trees, leaves, skies, and the direction of the shadows falling. The video’s producers have created temporal discrepancies to suggest that an experience can be perceived differently, depending on the character’s context and point of view.
…temporal discrepancies… suggest that an experience can be perceived differently, depending on the character’s context and point of view.
Special Cases belongs to the overarching genre of music video, but refuses to utilise traditional formats including the recording artist’s bodily performance to invite the viewer into the performer’s world or personal experience. The narrative unravels as a kind of enigmatic mystery text, in which we are uncertain of the meaning or conclusion of the narrative. As we watch, we try to understand what kind of story we are being told, but some of the clues are very hard to find without repeated viewing. These texts usually conform to a type of visual code or approach which attempts to ‘sell’ the artist, performer, or musical text. However, this music video belongs to a kind of sub-genre, in which the commercial approach is discarded in favour of focussing the construction of meaning through narrative only.
Individual shot overview
1. 00.00-00.08 / Fade in, zoom in slightly / VLS/LS – ‘Exposition’
The biomedical facility and its title: lower quarter of screen says ‘Saxxon’. Green, black and white buildings with glass. Blue sky, and a tree on the left vertical third of the screen in front of building.
2. 00.08-00.12 / Long shot/VLS
Doctor enters facility on pathway from right to left, with the door in middle of shot. Lower half of screen is water feature at the facility. Indicates cultural capital of facility and also transient nature of things/ manipulation of nature/ reflections of reality/duality/fake or clone. Blues, greens and white dominate.
3. 00.13-00.15 / LS/MS
Doctor’s back as he walks toward door. Focus of camera is on rails and not on doctor. He looks as though he is in a maze. He comes into focus.
4. 00.15-00.20 / LS/MS
Focus on doctor as he enters from right to left, in slow motion, greeting a secretary. Screen again divided in half and thirds by windows/frames of the building. Greys & whites dominate the shot; linoleum floor shows shadows & reflections.
5. 00.20-00.22 / ECU
Scientist’s badge, shot (like #3) is blurry & then comes into focus. “Saxxon IPH Reagents” and a number is all we can identify. Green and white badge on white coat – clinical and anonymous nature of facility.
6. 00.22-00.24 / MS, real-time appears to be faster.
Two scientists walk quickly towards us, action increasing; blurry at start then focuses in. Divided in thirds – left third is female doctor and black door, then male doctor, then white square rails on lower right third with a green potplant. Square shadows fall on their legs.
7. 00.24-00.27 / CU tilt up into long shot.
Two scientists walk away from us; as camera tilts up they are given more ‘power’ and we are left behind. In focus at all times, this shot shows us how they seem to walk through us and we turn to watch them walk away from us. The walls are white on upper half and green on lower half, establishing hospital-like nature. Their heads become closer as they discuss something and their shadows fall behind them as they walk.
8. 00.27-00.31 – Camera meanders through corridors, no characters.
9. 00.31-00.35 / MS – Staff at computer desks.
10. 00.35-00.36 / Upward angle – Scientist in scary outfit.
11. 00.36-00.37 / ECU – Coloured disc.
12. 00.37-00.39 / ECU – Colours form thin horizontal pattern in middle surrounded by black.
13. 00.39-00.40 / ECU – Colours form vertical pattern taking up whole screen.
14. 00.40-00.41 / ECU – Red scene/background; red button being clicked by scientist.
15. 00.41-00.42 / ECU – Red scene. Reverse shot of female scientist’s face, reflection in glasses.
16. 00.42-00.44 / MS/CU Pan around to right.
Red scene again, as we see the inside of room with two male scientists at computer.
17. 00.45-00.46 / CU – Double helix/DNA strand spins on black computer screen. 18. 00.47-00.48 / ECU
Male scientist’s face on the left of shot, using a dropper to put liquid into vials on right of shot. Back to blue, white and green tones. Use of glasses also highlights reflections.
19. 00.48-00.50 / ECU – Hand putting vial in holder with others; colours are still limited to mostly blue and white.
20. 00.50-00.54 / Pans around – Scientist’s hand/s moving vials.
21. 00.54-00.57 ECU + zoom in – Vials in circular structure; flames/light emanate as machinery spins vials around.
22. 00.57-00.58 CU/ECU – Scientist wearing white mask and only slits for eyes with glasses over top looking at vials, holding them up.
23. 00.58-00.58 / ECU – Magnifying glass is used to examine vials; hands flash in and out as vials are moved.
24. 00.58-1.00 / CU – Scientist’s torso pans up and to the side. He is in a similar outfit but we can see his whole face with glasses, holding two vials in hand.
25. 1.00-1.02 / CU – Machinery with vials inside.
26. 1.02-1.03 / ECU – Lighting and machinery.
27. 1.03-1.06 / CU – Vial pops up, is scanned, and goes back down. Another pops up to be scanned. Upper 2/3rds is a brownish wall, lower 1/3rd is clear glass and red contents.
28. 1.06-1.08 / ECU – Vial is initially blurry and then comes into focus. Same thing, different angle, slightly different timing.
29. 1.08-1.10 / ECU – Finger pushes one of three buttons, blue and white. White light underneath; feels and appears unnatural.
30. 1.10-1.12 / ECU – Machinery dips twice, depositing something hidden from us. The SAXXON logo is clearly visible.
31. 1.12-1.14 / ECU – Needles dip down, similar to previous shot.
32. 1.14-1.16 / MS/LS – The needles come up and slide along a table, then dip down twice again like previous 2 shots. Black, blue and green dominate.
33. 1.16-1.18 / MS
Shot dollies to left slightly and then spirals to the right slightly. Hand writes on glass with black texta, we view from underneath so it reversed. The light shows us the hand with blue background, but the edges and left 1/3rd of shot are black.
34. 1.18- 1.22 / CU
Face, screen, face. Angle is tilted 90 degrees to the left, so scientist appears higher. Red background has returned. Scientist on right points to screen with pen, as left-hand male looks at him. Screen displays a shot of a child’s head, spinning around as camera moves over to left-hand male.
35. 1.22-1.24 / ECU
Computer screen, blue and black visuals of a child’s head; spins around faster. Right hand ¼ of computer shows separate shots of heads with numbers. Each one is highlighted quickly as head spins.
36. 1.24-1.25 / ECU
Scientist’s hand. Left 1/3rd to ½ of screen obscured by black. Hand fills out a grid/chart. Appears to be from his POV but further back, creating distance between him and his work/creation.
37. 1.25-1.27 ECU (same as shot 35) – Visual of a brain, not a head this time. Same sequence occurs.
38. 1.27-1.30 ECU, dolly in
Blue computer-generated scene: We appear to travel over a computer-generated model of human tissue of some kind. We go closer and zoom in to a blue cell.
39. 1.30-1.33 / ECU
Blue shot with slight reddy brown organic matter on far right. Appears as though we are looking at a slide. Looking down at an egg being prodded by a needle (IVF procedure). The needle spins the egg without piercing it.
40. 1.33-1.34 CU
Computer screen. Same shot but from the perspective of a computer screen, slight angle as though we are on its left and looking at a diagonal angle. Edges of screen are red, establishing it as the same location as in earlier red scenes. Needle pierces egg.
41. 1.34-1.35 / ECU – Scientist’s face on side from left; the shot is completely red.
42. 1.35-1.36 / ECU – Like 39, Looking down at blue image of needle depositing 3-5 small spheres (the sperm inside the egg).
43. 1.36-1.39 / CU – Similar to 39 & 40, one of the circles begins to divide and reproduce.
44. 1.39-1.42 / ECU
Same shot of two separate eggs, not blue this time, they are larger and appear to be growing/changing. A clear thicker layer encapsulates them. Fast paced/sped-up growth of cells.
45. 1.42-1.43 / ECU
Edge of egg, cells seem to be vibrating and the colours are changing to muted greys. Seems to indicate a change from the facility environment and focussing more on the gestational period, and human biology.
46. 1.43-1.45 / MS – Egg travels through the uterus, grey walls of human tissue and black ‘path’ that it travels through.
47. 1.45-1.47 / LS – The egg as it reaches a suitable place to embed itself, and disappears, the pink walls of the uterus, appears red/pink/white and contrasts with previous clip content.
48. 1.47-1.48 / Similar shot from different angle. – Depicts biological transformations occurring during impregnation, cell transformation etc.
49. 1.48-1.50 / ECU – Foetus moving/pulsating with heartbeats; pink and black background.
50. 1.50-1.52 / ECU – Veins or internal body structure? Fluid passes back and forth, signifying life force increasing.
51. 1.52-1.53 / ECU: ‘Spy-camera’ shot.
Foetus inside womb, edges of black creating spherical camera view, the foetus moves with heartbeats. We see what appears to be the hand, the stomach on front of us, and the head on our right looking towards its feet. Pink, red, black and white dominate.
52. 1.53-1.55 / CU
Back to red facility, we watch a computer screen from behind the shoulder of a scientist, and we are again on an angle tilting down to the left.
53. 1.55-1.57 / ECU – Same as 51 except this shot is of the foot.
54. 1.57-1.58 / ECU – Same as 53 only of a different angle again, possibly the legs and cord.
55. 1.58-1.59 / ECU – Same as 54, now of the umbilical cord, head, and hand moving.
56. 1.59-2.02 / CU, tilts upwards.
Hand pointing to data coming out of a printer. Top 1/3rd of shot includes a screen that shows an icon signifying a foetus. We assume the data correlates to the growth and health of the foetus. The tilt upwards shows the full screen with the baby icon, numbers, and a heart symbol, and buttons on the sides.The scene background is red again.
57. 2.02 ECU
We now see the baby’s face and hands again but this time it is full-screen, not “spy-shot”. It appears to have grown as the hands are no longer as webbed, and the face has more human attributes.
58. ECU – Face? / 59. ECU – Lips. / 60. ECU – Hands. / 61. Lips?
62. – 2.13. Feet? – In all 4 of these shots, white and pink with black background/shadow dominate.
63. 2.13-2.14 / CU – Doctor’s hands pulling on plastic gloves, wearing blue gowns and indicating hospital birth occurring.
64. 2.14-2.18 / ECU – Baby’s left eye, moves to right eye and down to hand.
65. 2.18-2.20 / MS – Travelling quickly down the birth canal, a black circle at the centre of red human tissue.
66. 2.20-2.22 / MS/CU
Doctor reaches above us as we look up, and he pushes a light with lots of lightglobes down towards us, so that there is an eventual fade out to complete whiteness, symbolising birth.
67. 2.22-2.24 / CU – Baby’s head held by gloved hand rises up from bottom of screen so that we can see the baby occupy the entire screen.
68. 2.24-2.26 / CU – Hands tying a tag onto the baby’s foot. White cloth underneath him. White cloth and natural flesh tones.
69. 2.26-2.28 / MS/CU
Upward angle tilts down and zooms in toward the bassinet where there are 4 hand-holes. The two on the other side to us are being used by a nurse in blue outfit.
70. 2.28-2.30 / CU of a doctor and a heart monitor.
We are behind a doctor, points toward a heart monitor on his right, directly in front of us. This doctor wears a blue shirt and white coat. We can see the baby’s heart rate on the screen and also wires from the monitor. He wears glasses and speaks to someone on our left.
71. 2.30-2.31 / MS/LS
The naked toddler is walking on the beach towards the water. ¾ of the screen is sand, and ¼ is blue water and blue sky. We are positioned as his caretaker, watching him and his footprints that have come from the left and then walked towards the water.
72. 2.31-2.34 / CU underwater. – The toddler, older now with more hair, swims as we watch from underneath.
73. 2.34-2.35 / The young boy, around 5, MS.
He sits on grass, occupying nearly 1/3 of shot, blowing bubbles into the air. The three behind him takes 2/3rds of the upper horizontal space. Green, brown and yellows indicate change of seasons, growth in life, and happiness.
74. 2.35-2.36 / CU of hands writing
Zooming in suggests we are spying on him . He is at school, writing the alphabet on a white notepad. The shot is cut in almost neatly in half diagonally by hands and white paper. We don’t see his face.
75. 2.36-2.37 / MS/LS
Boy sitting on chair, centre of screen, occupies perhaps 1/5th of screen. Lower horizontal ¼ of screen is a pool. The water echoes the style of introductory shots of Saxxon, where water is below the character in the scene. He hold a blue kickboard, the floor is blue, and the wall is a greenish hue. Light shines from the upper right-hand side.
76. 2.37-2.39 / CU out to MS
Boy, lower body in black shorts running through beach water. He runs away from us towards the beach, where we can see the white sky as the camera angle tilts so that the water is diagonal and essentially comprises the left lower half of the diagonal frame.
77. 2.39-2.40 / MS
Same angle, where the floor of a school building (signified by windows, exit signs, students holding books) comprises the left lower side of a diagonal shot, depicting students walking down a hallway. Colours have changed again to muted light browns, creams and whites.
78. 2.40-2.42 / MS pan right
Inner classroom, students at desks. There is a ‘Saxxon‘ poster between two windows at the back of the room in the right-hand upper 2/3rds of the shot. Because there are also girls in the room we assume that Saxxon creates both male and female children. The boy who entered the room in the previous shot is seated in the centre of the room. He raises his hand as a female teacher in demure clothing with plain dark hair approaches him. We assume him to be our male protagonist.
79. 2.42-2.45 / CU of students pan/tilt up to MS/MLS of lecturer below us.
Downward angle shot of a lecture theatre, we are positioned as sitting in the theatre itself, learning with the male character. Five rows of chairs in front of us and various students with notebooks or laptops. Chairs are replaced by the foreground of the lecturer’s space. Black and brown tones as he points towards the students for emphasis.
80. 2.45-2.46 / ECU/CU – Male is now older, and is having a circular heart monitoring device placed on his chest. Still using flesh coloured and light tonal ranges.
81. 2.46-2.47 / ECU, zoom out, track down.
Instructor is crouched and leaning down, we see him from his right-hand side. The shot zooms out to incorporate more details about the swimming pool, and two males in it. Combination of blues and whites with flesh.
82. 2.47-2.49 / LS tilts up – Boys approach us. Screen is divided in half by swimming lanes. Boys at upper third, lower third is the swimming pool floor. Blues of underwater.
83. 2.49-2.51 / ECU
Watching people in gym on treadmills/running machines. Tilt slightly up and to the right from the machines to the grown man’s face in front of blinds/lines behind him. Three consecutive faces on machines from right to left, occupying 2/3rds of shot. We are on his right.
84. 2.51-2.53 / Tilted MCU
Repeating the diagonal angle from shot 76 & 77 where the lower left is the tilted lower half. It is similar to 83, depicting him still at the same machine. It also blurs and then comes into focus, using other techniques from earlier. Now we see him from behind with one other person running, equally spaced in the shot. Orange, white and pink shades are used.
85. 2.53-2.55 / Level CU
Now we think we see his face from the front, but it is actually his reflection and we are still behind him to his right. Each of the two consecutive previous shots have reduced other content in the shot and he is now our main focus. He looks down as he jogs, with his mouth slightly open as he breathes fast. The blinds still feature behind him. This sequence may allude to him remaining in physical exercise while others may not endure as much, perhaps signifying an aspect of ‘survival of the fittest’ which also links with the scientific aspect of his creation. His concentration is broken as he realises he is being watched, we see his reflection look to his left (we see him but it is his reflection in the mirror in front of him, so this is actually to his right) and sees a girl looking at him.
86. 2.55-2.58 / MCU/CU
His observer is another exerciser, and we may have been positioned from her point of view in these shots watching him on the treadmill. Her face is avoiding his gaze as she is discovered (looking at him to her right – this is her mirror version- she then looks down and then back up but away). She occupies half of the shot, and another female body (torso) takes the other half. The blinds behind her appear thicker, and she is seated instead of standing.
87. 2.58-2.59 / CU
Use of mirror similar to the use of water – suggesting one version is real but what looks similar is only another version, and not the original. Returns to male, and we see him again from our first position in the gym – on his right. This time we are aware that we are positioned between their gaze – he turns his head around to look behind back to his right (where we still are) where he has seen the girl watching him. We link all of these eye movements together and understand that they have been noticing each other, even though the position of perception has changed from the mirror to reality. The first exchange of contact was him on the right looking right and her on the left looking left, (contacting through the mirror) but we still recognised the matching of eye contact between them. When their second contact occurs, it is his face on the right looking to his right, and her face on the left looking to her right, so we know that they connect with each other within the frame even though there are two different shots.
88. 2.59-3.01 / ECU – The girl’s eyes look to her left at him.
89. 3.01-3.02 / ECU – His eyes look to his right at her, concluding the exchange of contact. This time he looks down and away, back to the mirror.
90. 3.03-3.05 / MS
Man seated at table, hands folded, looking down. Diagonal again, with floor on lower left angle. The floor is orange-brown, giving some colour to the scene. Table and background is white, décor is curved and slightly futuristic. Coffee plunger, sugar and milk are at the table. He wears a black skivvy in a black chair. He suddenly looks up, parts hands, sits higher, opens knees/legs, and opens mouth in greeting. We barely see her in the corner.
91. 3.05-3.09 / MCU
We see from the other side of the table, he is still in frame on our left as she seats herself, wearing similar colour and style clothing. The lighting appears warmer now. She takes off her jacket and smiles.
92. 3.09-3.13 / CU
We now see him from her side of the table while she is still in shot. We are getting closer to them as they both smile and engage in shy behaviour, tucking hair behind ears and being tentative in making eye contact. The wall behind him is now yellow, heightening the emotional element (happiness, warmth, affection or positive emotion) of the scene by appearing warmer. He looks up at her finally, while talking.
93. 3.13-3.16 / CU
On the table in front of them, he reaches over and takes her hand, covering it with his. The coffee cup and each hand take up about 1/3rd each of the screen.
94. 3.16-3.20 / VLS/LS
She runs towards us in slow motion from the very centre of the shot. The path runs down the centre of the shot and in the middle of the frame it veers up to the right where she came from. There are brown trees on either side of her where the path veers to the right, and on either side there is green grass. She wears a scarf, and the scarf and brown trees indicate another change of season/time.
95. 3.20-3.26 / VLS downward angle
The paths now form an X shape in front of us surrounded by green grass on all sides as they approach each other – her from the lower right, him from the upper left path. Shadows fall to the lower left of the shot.
96. 3.26-3.29 / MS
We see their silhouettes in front of the yellow/orange and grey sky behind them. He is on the right, her on the left. Trees also form silhouettes behind them, and he is taller than her, looking down to her. We interpret this as a romantic situation as he reaches towards her face to kiss her. She wears a light-coloured beanie and similar-coloured jacket.
97. 3.29-3.36 / CU
Same shot, zoomed in, with tree silhouettes more dominant behind her now. We begin to see some of their facial features as they kiss.
98. 3.36 CU
The exact same shot but flipped over, so she is on the right and he is on the left now. Seems as though it is identical to shot 97 but played in reverse and flipped over. Same clothing as 97.
99. 3.43-3.47 / MS
Again, following in the steps of shot 98 where the narrative seems to have reached it’s ‘centre’ or midpoint and is now being playing in reverse from her perspective, this shot is identical to shot 96 but played in reverse and flipped over, so that it appears as though his hands fall away from her as he stops kissing her.
100. 3.47-3.52 / VLS
Again, like 95, we are playing in reverse, although now he is on the lower left and she is on the upper right. The shadows still fall down to the left – this is interesting because logically they should fall down to the right.
101. 3.52-3.56 / LS
Same as 94 only a closer shot. In this frame the path seems to split to both left and right at the top 1/3rd of the frame, not veering to the right in the middle like shot 94. Trees line up behind her, regularly spaced at 4-5 intervals instead of having one on each side of her –again, this occurs in the top 1/3rd instead of at the halfway point. Her shadow falls heavily in front of her, whereas in 94 it falls lightly on her right. In this shot she walks slowly, not running at all. Different clothing to 94.
102. 3.56-3.59 / CU
Hands on table, same shot as 93 but reversed/matched (we watch from her side as he reaches for her hand). We can also see his other hand on his legs out of focus near the edge of the table as he wraps his hand around hers.
103. 3.59-4.00 / CU
Her face, same as 92, but the meaning is altered because it seems like we are watching her response to having her hand held – when really, this shot is of her before he holds her hand. She looks down and then up, so in real-time she is looking at him and then down to her hands when he touches her hand.
104. 4.00-4.02 / MCU
Same as 91, she approaches the table while he is seated and then she takes off her coat in the same shot. (a condensation of the reversal for shot 90 & 91)
105. 4.02-4.03 / ECU
Same as 88, identical (not flipped) of her eyes looking at him in the gym.
106. 4.03-4.05 / ECU
Same as 89 (identical, not flipped) of his eyes meeting her gaze in the gym. Interestingly this pair of shots is not swapped over but replays the same way (chronologically) so the same meaning is inferred – she looks to him, then he looks away.
107. 4.05-4.10 / CU/MCU
The legs of the runners on the treadmills (including our male protagonist) which pans quickly over and up to the left where she is seated at another machine. Now, the shot is tilted the other 90 degree angle so that the floor is on the right lower corner of the shot. Reinforces opposite perspective established in previous half of narrative by use of lower left corner as floor.
108. 4.10-4.11 / MS zoom in
Tilted again in the same fashion, we watch her leaning against a tree playing with flowers. She looks around 15, wearing a backpack, white shirt and pink skirt. The green grass, trees and flowers seem to be again used as a motif for time passing.
109. 4.11-4.13 / MCU/CU
We see a white ballerina tu-tu, and as she spins doing a ballet move the camera tracks on her and moves up so that we can see her back (in a black leotard) and then her smiling face. Blinds feature in the background, and a seated elderly man watches her as well. Her hair is tightly pulled back into a bun with a pink scrunchie, perhaps introducing concepts of social and gender identity, and also the colours used to differentiate her narrative from the boy’s one.
110. 4.13-4.14 / CU
Doctor’s face from his left; we are back in a medical facility and he wears a head mask and a mouth mask. He looks into a magnifying machine.
111. 4.14-4.14 / ECU
Girl’s face; a blue light is being shone into her right eye. She looks at us and then at the direction of the light (lower right, out of shot).
112. 4.14-4.16 / CU/MCU
Shot divided in half; right side consists of green blackboard and left side is a teacher standing behind her, guiding her hand to write on the board with chalk. She is younger, now perhaps 6-8. They both wear demure white-toned clothing. We pull back… but because this is in reverse, what does this really mean?
113. 4.16-4.18 / MCU
Her head occupies the lower left ¼ of shot. A smiling parent on the right half of screen measures her height as she faces our right and stands against a wall and a white background. She looks down, wearing pink and purple clothing. She appears to be 4-6 years of age. The shot tracks down and left as we see more of her and the wall (a brown toned cupboard, perhaps in a kitchen).
114. 4.18-4.19 / MS
She is younger now, around 3 years of age, in a white ballet tutu, skivvy, tights and shoes. Her fine hair is pulled into a ponytail on the top of her head in a ribbon, and she spins with her arms above her head in a ballet pose. A pool of light falls on the floor near her, presumable sunlight from a window.
115. 4.19-4.20 / CU
We see her head as she sits at a green and red chair with a birthday cake on the table in front of her. The cake has a 1 candle on it and says ‘happy birthday’ in yellow.
116. 4.20-4.21 / ECU
A child’s face blurred, comes into focus, and looks ahead as we are on her right. The background is blue – potential connection with the medical facility.
117. 4.21-4.22 / ECU
Through the hand-holes in the baby incubator at the facility, we see a newborn in white clothing with wrist tags crying with her eyes shut. The hand-holes create a circle on the edge of the shot. She lies horizontally to us with her head to our right.
118. 4.22-4.23 / CU
The same baby, immediately after birth with a tie around her umbilical cord, is now positioned vertically in front of us with her head at the top of the screen being cradled by a gloved hand. Green blankets lie underneath her.
119. 4.23-4.26 / ECU
We now see the baby while still in the womb, indicated by the softer tones of the baby’s skin surrounded by amniotic fluid and the different tones of light within the shot. Shadows are softer and the flesh-coloured tones dominate the shot. The hands and nose of the baby seem closer, larger and slightly less developed. The shot moves around, mimicking the shot of the boy when the heartbeat inside the womb influences the movement of the camera, moving in and out/up and down with the pulse.
120. 4.26-4.27 / ECU
The baby’s hand, now more webbed and underdeveloped, also seems to incorporate a translucent tone, making her seem less human and more eerie.
121. 4.27-4.28 / CU – zoom in to ECU
The foetus, less developed now and less distinguishable as a human foetus, is translucent and still, surrounded by veins and arteries and tubes within the womb. Colours are lighter and pinker.
122. 4.28-4.30 / MCU, zoom in
The same foetus, with even less recognizable features, and from slightly further away. Veins and tubes seem larger in comparison. She is effectively being un-conceived, becoming smaller. Again, the foetus and mother’s heartbeats are evident in the way the camera pulses.
123. 4.30-4.31 / MCU/CU, track right
Behind a doctor in a jacket/protective outfit, we move right as we look up at multiple computer screens that occupy just under half of the upper section of the shot. Again, the tilt is used so that the floor is aligned with the lower right hand side of the shot. The red background and blue computer screens are easily recognisable through earlier uses of red and blue and their indication of the hospital environment. The screens show images and numbers/statistics of the foetus in the womb.
124. 4.31-4.34 / CU – Back to the petri dish where we see two cells divide into four. The shot is blue, mimicking the shot 43 where the cells divide in the blue scene.
125. 4.34-4.35 / ECU – One cell divides into two, mimicking scene 43 and 124.
126. 4.35-4.37 / CU, tilted angle – Machinery/equipment, a scientist’s hand puts a stick of some kind under a microscope.
127. 4.37-4.39 / CU/ECU track right & tilt up
We watch a scientist moving from the lower left chest area to the upper right of his head encased in what looks like a full spacesuit as he leans forward facing us to look into a microscope. Reflections shine from his mask and lights seem to emerge from the microscope into his eyes as he leans forward.
128. 4.39-4.41 / CU/ECU tilted shot
We are behind the shoulder of a scientist in the same outfit, the ground is again located at the lower right corner of the shot. The colours of the shot have returned to blue and green tones as he handles some type of vial-holder containing around 8-10 vials, removing one.
129. 4.41-4.43 / CU
We see a needle and we tilt down and then track over to the left slightly as the needle dips down into yellow vial #32.
130. 4.43-4.44 / CU – A mechanical arm seems to be either dipping out of a tube.
131. 4.44-4.47 / CU – ECU
Blue tones dominate as a strange-looking machine with about 6 holes in it spins around and around. It bears the brand of ‘De Bourg’ with another word underneath, indistinguishable, and it contains two vials with blue lids. We zoom in as it spins faster and faster.
132. 4.47-4.48 / CU – Scientist’s hand pushing vial/tube into machine. Smoke/steam emanates, and grey/blue tones dominate.
133. 4.48-4.49 / MCU
Scientist on left edge of screen. We can see his white lab coat and blue gloves as he pushed the lid down on what we assume to be the same piece of equipment from shot 132 and 131. As the lid is pushed down smoke/cold air/steam comes out and we can see a powerpoint and electrical cord on the upper right corner of the shot. The lid and gloves are almost the same shade of dark blue.
134. 4.49-4.51 / CU/MCU
Scientist wearing glasses, mouth mask and hair mask slowly looks up and over towards us. We are on the same angle as previously used in this half of the narrative, where the floor is located in the right hand lower corner of the shot. Lights flash behind him, he is surrounded by white equipment & machinery.
135. 4.51-4.53 / CU/ECU
Identical to shot #5, where a scientist is affixing his/her badge to their coat, only this time the details are of ‘De Bourg DNA Technologies’ and the symbol is not the XX of ‘Saxxon‘ . Instead, there is a combination of two 3’s combined, looking like nnn put together and flipped onto its side. In addition, the colours are blue and white, not green and white. A blue, black and another blue pen sit in the scientist’s breast pocket.
136. 4.53-4.55 / MS/MLS, zooms out
We follow two men as they walk up a set of stairs, from our left to our right. We see them through glass windows and their backs are to us, although we can see aspects of their facial features enough to recognise the man in the left who has white hair and is wearing a dark suit is also wearing glasses. The man on the right wears a lab coat and appears to be younger. We perceive the man on the left as being more authoritative because of his age and clothing. Shadows fall to the left and the blue tones of the shot seem eerie. A black bar also crosses the lower third of the shot and another one emerges from the right hand side as we move with them up the stairs. This may signify how they are above or higher than others, how they transgress boundaries of morals or ethics because of their power and scientific knowledge. They seem to be powerful decision-makers. Is this simply a construct of the placement of shots?
137. 4.55-5.02 / MS/CU Dolly forward/track in
Six parallel waist-height ‘gates’ to walk through, signifying “pairing”? As we zoom in and watch two new scientists (a man in a white coat on the left and a woman in a black jacket and skirt on the right) walk in from our left, we also notice the symmetry of two blue television screens that are placed either side of the central door. DNA strands alternate on the screen with the ‘De Bourg’ symbol (the extended 3 shape mentioned earlier). The colours are all shades of blue with black and white caused by shadows and light sources. The shot cuts off just as they are about to walk across the frame of the door in the centre of the shot. The man moves his hands as he talks, explaining something to the woman. The six gateways have now turned into two.
138. 5.02-5.11 / VLS
External shot of the De Bourg facility on an angle. The top diagonal left hand third of shot is sky, and the blues of the sky and windows match. The rest of the building is white. As the shot tracks around to the right, we see the tiny main doors at the bottom centre of the shot. A sign displaying the name and other details of the facility eventually occupies the left vertical third of the shot, as it fades out.
Total sequence duration: 5.11