Satisfy the Senses

I selected the last scene from the Gangs of New York for my look, listen and analyze assignment. This is a movie that I remember watching when it first came out….although I couldn’t believe that it had been filmed 12 years ago! How time flies! In watching the scene, I noticed different things when I isolated my senses.

The movie is set in 1863, Amsterdam Vallon returns to the Five Points area of New York City seeking revenge against Bill the Butcher, his father’s killer. The section of the film that I analyzes was the closing sequence.

Visual: The scene opens with dead bodies lining the street with candles glowing on their chests. It starts closer up and then gradually pans backward and you see the glowing light as far as the eye can see. It is then you understand the magnitude and death toll the gang fights took. Besides the dead gang members, somber solders are predominately seen in the first few screens and help to give the imagery of a grave situation. Without sound, you aren’t sure exactly what is going on. The clip then moves to see hands holding a trinket and then burying. The shot pans up to show what one assumes to be a Potter’s Field cemetary in Brooklyn. The 1863 New York City skyline is in the background with large clouds of dark smoke indicating several large fires/bombs must have recently happened. Vallon limps over to a female figure and the two turn and start walking towards the down left part of the screen. Their images fade from the screen and show new images of the NYC skyline free from smoke and with new buildings. The cemetary becomes in more and more disrepair. Even without sound, you can visually see that history is forgotten by the present.  Overall, the film has a brown-tint to give it the look and feel of an old movie.

Audio: When just listening to the audio, you realize that it is only Amsterdam Vallon speaking. His voice is slow, tired and with an Irish accent. He starts by recalling the gang fights. He then ties the recent trials and tribulations to something his father had told him. “My father told me we was all born of blood and tribulation, and so then too was our great city.” Vallon, knowing that this is a pivotal point in the history of the city, then takes on a reflective tone in says, ” But for those of us what lived and died in them furious days, it was like everything we knew was mightily swept away. And no matter what they did to build this city up again… for the rest of time… it would be like no one ever knew we was even here.” He makes these comments as haunting/powerful music plays in the background.

Tying it Together: When you tie the visual with the audio, it becomes a powerful ending to an epic movie. As Vallon says the final spoken word of the film, “For the rest of time will be like no one would even know we were ever here…” his image fades from the screen to give way to progress and the new cityscape.

My biggest take away from the film is that a good scene combines great imagery with audio for a captivating moment of the film.

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One thought on “Satisfy the Senses

  1. Great scene! and I’m glad you also caught the brown-red town of the film. It’s interesting what that does for the mood of the film. Another film that uses earthy tones is “Amelie” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPJvAzfaqlk&list=PL317D0A4B8FB45780&feature=share&index=9).

    One of my major takeaways from the Reading Movies assignment was the the user of angles and direction. For example, the bodies are lined up in an angle. Would you say they are arranged in an upward-rightward direction, or downward-leftward direction? If Ebert’s approach holds true here, then it might be the latter. Also, when they are in the graveyard, before they fade away, they start walking to the left.

    I never thought about direction before this class. It definitely has an impact, albeit unconscious to the untrained, non-DS106 eyes 😉

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