Film Form – City of God

In the opening sequence of City of God (Lund, Meirelles, 2002) , the five key principles of film form are utilised effectively to establish story world, identify the protagonists and reveal subtext within the story. It is the practice of editing, cinematography, lighting and colour and mis-en-scene within this scene, that are key principles, but only editing, sound and cinematography will be discussed in this blog post to highlight the importance and effect of these three film form concepts in this scene.


All elements of film form within this sequence come together to achieve the fast paced, chaotic and confronting scene that it is. The scene plays out as a chicken escapes from a local marketplace set within a South American country, desperate and outraged, the locals chase the chicken around the streets, stopping at nothing to catch it. This clearly established the story world within the film and also revealed the disorderly nature and lifestyle of the characters. The protagonist is introduced as the scene climax’s and both the chicken and the locals as the well as the protagonist come face to face. Audiences can make a metaphoric link between the happenings of the scene and the life of the protagonist, this meaning is obvious through the elements of film form within this sequence.


The style of editing is very fast paced, establishing the mood and atmosphere of the scene. The editor has utilised the technique of parallel cutting to both, introduce the story world and the protagonist. The cuts create chaos within the sequence and are rhythmically in time with the sound of the scene. There is a massive contrast between sound in the scene, the high-pitched and jarring sound of a knife being sharpened vs the upbeat music being played by the street band. It is through this juxtaposition, that the disorderly nature and fast paced atmosphere of the marketplace setting is reiterated. It is also the style of cinematography contributes to achieve the same affect. Lots of extreme close ups are used within the scene as well as shaky handheld movements, this combination is confronting and makes the audience feel uncomfortable. The cinematography, sound and editing of this sequence establishes setting, introduces characters and also hints at the subtext. Film form allows audiences to decipher meaning from the visual aesthetics of the film, which is what audiences are able to do when viewing this scene from the City of God.


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