Found Scene Deconstruction – The Scene in Cinema

Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971, USA)

Scene: ‘He Seems Very Nice’

1. Camera pans around room, following the Butler as he leads Candy towards Mrs. Chasen. Long Shot. Candy is positioned at the centre of screen (focal point).
2. Butler moves to the side as Mrs. Chasen comes into frame and shakes Candy’s hand.
3. Butler walks out of frame to the left. Camera pauses for a moment as Candy and Mrs. Chasen introduce each other.
4. Camera pans to the right again, following Candy and Mrs. Chasen as they walk over to sit down. Characters are positioned centre screen. They walk closer to the camera so that it becomes a mid shot.
5. Mrs. Chasen waves to Harold who is outside. Characters are positioned either side of window frame.
6. Cuts to mid-closeup of Harold waving back at them from outside. He is framed within one of the window panes on right side of screen. He points to Candy.
7. Cuts to reverse mid shot of Candy pointing to herself as she looks out at Harold. She waves to him.
8. Cuts back to mid-closeup of Harold framed in window pane as he waves back to her again.
9. Cuts back to two shot of Candy and Mrs. Chasen, with long shot of Harold standing outside, framed by the left window pane.
10. Camera tilts down, following Candy and Mrs. Chasen as they they take a seat. The camera is positioned over Candy’s shoulder, facing Mrs. Chasen. Harold walks away to the left, now offscreen.
11. Cuts to a reverse mid shot of Candy. Camera is now positioned over Mrs. Chasen’s shoulder.
12. Cuts back to over the shoulder shot of Mrs. Chasen. Harold is seen walking into screen in the far background, framed by window pane again. Candy points to Harold when talking about him (as well as the framing, this action helps to draw the audience’s focus to what is happening outside).
13. Cuts back to reverse, over the shoulder shot of Candy.
14. Cuts back to over the shoulder shot of Mrs. Chasen. We can see Harold covering himself with a flammable liquid in background.
15. Cuts back to reverse, over the shoulder shot of Candy. However, this time the camera is positioned lower so that you can see Candy’s entire body. This shot shows the great physical distance between Candy and Mrs. Chasen.
16. Cuts to mid shot of Mrs. Chasen’s reaction. In the background Harold is framed slightly closer than he was before, so that audience can see that he is continuing to pour flammable liquid over himself.
17. Cuts to mid shot of Candy laughing. She is positioned on the right side of the frame.
18. Cuts back to mid shot of Mrs. Chasen. Right side of frame is filled by Harold in background.
19. Cuts back to mid shot of Candy.
20. Cuts back to mid shot of Mrs. Chasen’s reaction.
21. Cuts back to mid shot of Candy telling her story.
22. Cuts back to mid shot of Mrs. Chasen responding to story. She continues to smile as Harold (or what looks to be Harold), blows up in flames outside.
24. Cuts to mid shot of Candy screaming as she looks outside.
25. Camera tilts up to follow Candy as she stands yelling out for Harold.
26. Cuts back to two shot of Mrs. Chasen sitting down, Candy standing up (mid-long shot) and the flames burning outside framed by the window pane.
27. Camera pans up to follow Mrs. Chasen as she stands to welcome Harold who walks in front of camera from right side of frame.
28. Camera pans to follow Harold as he walks to left side of frame to stand next to his mother.
29. Camera pans to left and slightly tracks forward to follow Candy as she runs out of the room.
Camera pauses as Candy realises she’s run out the wrong door and then pans to follow her as she runs through the correct door on the left.
30. Two shot, mid-closeup of Harold and Mrs. Chasen watching Candy run out of room. Harold is in clearer focus and is positioned higher in the frame than his mother, thus becoming the focal point of the shot.

Overall, Ashby has utilised a traditional, over the shoulder ‘shot, reverse shot’ coverage of a conversation between Mrs. Chasen and Candy. The scene essentially conforms to classical Hollywood continuity editing style as eyelines have been kept constant throughout the scene and the camera does not ‘cross the line’.  Ashby makes dramatic use of different planes in the mise-en-scene and draws attention to the background by consistently framing Harold through the window panes of the house. He also highlights certain characters by employing camera movement. For example, every time the focus is on Candy, the camera will follow her so that she is positioned in the centre third of the frame. The distance that metaphorically grows between Mrs. Chasen and Candy throughout the scene is emphasised by the physical space that seems to expand between them. The shots begin as mid-shots of both the women, over the other one’s shoulder. The framing then transfers to over the shoulder long shots, so that the floor between them is clearly displayed. The shots then shift to individual mid-shots so that the two characters do not seem to be connected at all by the end of the conversation. These closer shots toward the end of the sequence also help to intensify the scene, bringing it to a climax as ‘Harold’ lights himself on fire.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *