After watching the documentary, I began to gain a deeper understanding of why a good beginning is so vital in a film. Thomas Sutcliffe states 'Films need to seduce their audience into long term commitment. While there are many types of seduction, the temptation to go for instant arousal is almost irresisitble' By saying this, I believe he means you have to get the viewers' full attention, especially with the beginning as the rest of the film depends on it. However, at the same time, too much cannot be revealed as the audience need a little knowledge about what will be happening.
Director Jean Jacques Beineix argues that the viewers should not be exposed to the information so quickly, as the film has just begun and it may not maintain their level of interest later on. He states 'A good beginning must make the audience feel that it doesn't know nearly enough yet, and at the same time make sure it doesn't know too little.' He believes that the audience are still establishing the characters and the storyline itself, so because they're adjusting to it, they should be 'teased' with something that will keep them engaged.
Critic Stanley Kauffmann describes a classic opening as a film that goes from a large scale to a small scale. It should normally begin with an estabilishing shot, then zoom into a close-up of a building, and then zoom into the actual building throw a window. A perfect example of this is 'Panic Room', and it works because it's so simple - it doesn't give too much away or too little.
Kyle Cooper's title sequence to the film 'Seven' is very effective because it doesn't reveal anything about the actual storyline but it gives away what sub-genre it's going to be. The music also contributes to this and because it foreshadows later events/sub-genres, the audience may feel as if they know a little about the film. It's as if the small information you know is a taster of the film, and as curiosity is created, this draws the viewers in so they can find out more about the film. Adding to that, the titles are small and the use of the black and white, make it really stand out (binary opposition). The flashing lights and darkness remind me of an x-ray and this could also be linked to the sub-genre of the film.
Orson Welles wanted his film 'A Touch Of Evil' to jump straight into the film without the opening credits, however Universal Studios failed to agree with this so they added them on anyway. Some may say they 'damaged' Orson's
film, but they believe that they were doing what was best as it was too risky to not stick to the original plan.
Several directors create good openings by using the 'favourite trick of Film Noir'. The trick is that the beginning of the film is also the ending of the film. I believe that the trick allows the audience to know the ending of the story before the film starts, and then allows them to understand the full story of what had just happened. One film that does this is 'Casino'. The film opens with Robert De Niro walking to his car, and once he's in the car, it blows up. This leaves the audience asking questions as they are going to want to know why his car blew up, if it was planned, etc and as the film progresses, they will probably realise what the reason was.
Another film with a great opening is 'The Shining'. It automatically creates suspense as little things start to go wrong. The car is being followed by the camera movements almost as if it's a predator, and this sends signals to the audience about the car's whereabouts - the viewers want to know if the car is headed in the wrong direction. Use of mis en scene and camera shots really contribute to creating suspense.
The Shining opening credits
Se7en opening credits
A Touch of Evil opening credits