I am exploring the traditional conventions of
a mob gangster film as I want to create a
film opening based upon them.
One typical convention for mob gangster films is that
gangsters flaunt their wealth. For example the use of
certain props such as guns, expensive cars etc. This
makes the gangster obviously the antagonist as they
show clear superiority over other people who appear to
be less wealthy.
A further convention is that the antagonist succeeds
through the crime they has committed throughout
the film, and then falling back down to where he
started or being punished for his crimes; this
normally happens due to a fatal mistake made by
either the main mobster (gangster) or further down
the hierarchy. This normally happens in order for the
audience to understand that the crimes the
characters commit are wrong, and that it isn’t a
normal way of living.
3. Mise en Scene
Mise en Scene is a french term meaning ‘put in scene’. It is a group of
elements which the director decides to put into the film, including costume,
setting, lighting, props etc. All these are chosen by the director to create a
stronger genre and to add more realism to the film.
Formal outfits are a typical convention for mob gangster
films. These formal outfits such as suits show wealth
and superiority over other people. Also, in gangster
movies the men in suits are often the leader or very high
up in the hierarchy of gangsters, therefore where suits to
show people their power and dominance. Suits have
connotations of formality and professional occupations,
therefore wearing suits is significant in showing the
audience that the gangsters feel what they do is a
profession, and is normal.
4. Mise en scene
Big cities such as New York City and Chicago are used often in mob gangster films.
Chicago has many connotations of gangsters due to Al Capone; a real life gangster
from the 1920’s. Locations like these big cities are very popular within the gangster
genre because they contain many backstreets and alleys, which are perfect for this
genre of films as it creates an atmosphere of danger and hints at the audience what
is going to happen e.g. murder, illegal sales, ambush etc. Gangster’s typical
intentions are to be as powerful as possible, and therefore these big cities are a
perfect choice as they almost influence the gangsters amount of power they have or
plan to have.
Low-level lighting is also a typical aspect of mise en scene which is in
gangster films. For example in the opening of The Godfather, low lighting is
used to create a silhouette of the main character, who we later learn to be
Marlon Brando. The use of low-level lighting creates a more grim feel to
many scenes, and is often used throughout the films to reflect the dark
personalities of the antagonists (gangsters)
5. Analyse film openings: The Godfather
First we see a title of the production company. This
lasts for 6 seconds. Paramount is a very well
known company and are famous for creating very
good films; this informs the audience that the film is
going to be of good quality.
Here we see the title for the film, which lasts
for 7 seconds. The black and white format is
the same and we see a hand controlling the
word ‘father’ like a puppet. This already
suggests to the audience the main
character will be dominating.
After the title has faded a black screen is shown for
a few seconds, with a non-diegetic synchronous
song in the background. This creates high
suspense for the audience. The tile is followed by
this close up shot, which has low level lighting. This
creates a strong grim and mysterious feel to the
The previous shot zooms out to show the
surroundings the character is in, however the
lighting is still very low-level. This zoom out
however doesn’t brighten up the surroundings so
we are still unaware of the location.
The zooming out continues until it transfers to an
over the shoulder shot, showing that the
character who was first introduced is inferior to
the character whom we are looking over their
shoulder. The lighting is still very low, reflecting
the dark personalities of the gangsters.
Here we see the first and a third character
speaking in private in a close up/two shot.
However we cannot make out their facial
expressions, keeping the superior characters
identity hidden. This makes the audience wonder
about their identity and keeps them on edge.
The director then cuts to a close up of the
second character, of whom we finally get to
meet. His facial expression is portrayed as
angry however the scene is very calm and
settled. This contrast is unsettling for the
audience and therefore makes them think what
is wrong or what is coming next.
Finally, after we hear the Godfather’s reply, the
director cuts to an establishing shot, which we
would normally see at the beginning of the film
to set the seen. Now the audience can see the
location of the scene which looks to be an
office, this informs the audience that the
Godfather is a professional man and possibly
6. Analyse film openings: Pulp Fiction
The opening scene is a two shot. There is no non-diegetic
sounds, only dialogue which forces the
audience to only focus on what the characters are
saying. They appear comfortable around each other
and we therefore get an insight into their relationship.
This shot goes against the traditional conventions of
a mob gangster film as it has high level lighting and
the atmosphere is very settled, so therefore doesn’t
make the audience feel ‘on edge’
Here is a close up of the 3rd character we
meet, a waitress. The scene still has hjgh
level lighting and the mood has not
changed. There is ambient noise in the
Here there is diegetic synchronous
sounds of the coffee being poured for
the lady sitting down. This is a mid
shot however we also see the
waitresses arm across the middle.
Here the director cuts back to the two
shot. However the woman’s body
language has changed, coming across
as either in distress, or tired.
Here we see another mid shot of the female
character, with the males dialogue in the
background. The woman is not talking very
much, suggesting that the male is dominant.
This is a traditional representation of men.
Here is an over the shoulder shot of the
male. The lighting still hasn’t changed, still
going against traditional conventions of mob
This is another shot of the woman however this is
a close up. This is used to see her reactions to the
man talking about murder. These reactions go
against the conventions of a mob gangster film
also as we would expect the other characters to
take part. However this is a traditional
representation of women as they are seen as
innocent and motherly, therefore wouldn’t murder.
Finally we see the directors use of the
two shot again, this allows us to see the
two characters as a team, discussing the
topic of killing someone.
7. Analyse film openings: Reservoir Dogs
The first title is of the production company. It uses
dark colours which is common in other gangster
Next we learn of the producer. In the
background we hear dialogue which appears
to be a conversation between more than one
After another title, we see an over the shoulder
two shot which is using the rule of thirds. This
introduces us to 3 characters, and informs us that
the previous dialogue was not a informal
conversation, but possibly a formal meeting. We
also see popular gangster props, e.g cigarettes.
The previous shot arcs around a table,
informing us that this may be a meeting. The
men are wearing suits, a traditional
convention of the gangster genre. The suits
also suggest that this is an important
meeting for important people.
Next the director cuts the tracking shot to
another tracking shot, however this shot is a
close up. This enables us to see in more detail
the other characters reactions to what they
Here is another two shot of more characters
which are involved in the
Next is a close up of another character, this
shot also uses the rule of thirds. The location
and props show us that the characters are
having breakfast in a cafe. This is not a typical
location for gangster film openings, therefore
goes against the traditional conventions of a
Another character is introduced, using a close
up and rule of thirds. The opening scene uses
limited shot types and camera movements.
Usually sticking to close ups and mid shots,
and tracking shots.
8. Analyse film openings: Goodfellas
The first title informs us that the film is based on
true events, this automatically puts the audience
on edge at what is to come.
This is a mid shot of the back of a car. The
lighting is very low level, this creates a
mysterious atmosphere for the scene.
The previous shot tracks sideways, becoming
a point of view shot where we are another
driver overtaking the car.
This title shows us the location and date of the film.
New York is a very common location for gangster
films as the city is very big, therefore attracting
gangsters as they want as much power as they can
get. The date shows us that the film may be a story,
or someone looking back on their past - it is not the
The title then cuts to a mid shot of the
characters in the car. There is only one
awake, as it is nighttime and he is the driver.
They are all wearing suits and therefore the
audience wonder where the characters have
come from e.g. a meeting or a robbery.
A diegetic thump is heard from the boot of
the car. The driver seems to be unaware of
what has caused the sound and wakes up
the other people in the car. The intensity has
risen slightly as the audience wonder what is
in the boot.
The director cuts to an establishing shot. The
driver has pulled over and they are now
standing in a red spotlight which is from the
car. This sets an intense atmosphere for the
audience as red has connotations of blood
This next shot includes diegetic sounds of the person
in the car hitting the boot. The shot zooms in which
intensifies the drama and dangerous atmosphere.
The shots in the opening are also dark, suggesting
the characters are doing something they shouldn’t
and making the scene more grim.