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Film Studies Essay – Gladiator

An analysis of the opening frames of “Gladiator” exploring:

  • What is established?
  • What questions are raised?
  • The film techniques used and the effect of these.

In the opening sequence to “Gladiator,” the director uses clever techniques to stir emotions from the audience. In the background to the scenes that appear on screen, eerie music is used to give the film an uneasy atmosphere. The director has cleverly used the colours of smoke and fire in the opening title to merge all the images subtly. Here the classic Dream works emblem has been adapted to blend into the frame. It is tinged with sepia colours to help the images fade from the logo into a misty, foggy atmosphere. The director has felt it necessary to know the background to the story, so blocks of text appear on the screen, giving a brief historical outline. All the while, there is a sound bridge to let us know that these images are linked. The music playing is non-diegetic as it does not correspond with what we see on screen. However, it is a parallel sound as it creates the right mood and helps to increase the tension.

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After these images, there is a straight cut to a man walking through a field of barley. We merely see the man’s head and his arm. His arm is dressed with a cuff and a ring, which suggests that he is a Roman soldier of some sort. The use of colour is essential here as lots of rich, sunny yellows are used, although there is still a tinge of sepia colour. Sepia colour is used cleverly as. Generally, it tends to suggest things that have happened in the past (as old photographs used to be taken in sepia), so this leaves us with the question of whether the images are a dream or a memory. Also, the richer more yellow colours give the feeling of warmth and happiness. In the background, you can hear the voices of children giggling. This is used to emphasize the relaxed atmosphere.

A straight cut then jumps to a new scene. This frame has been set in winter. Many cold colours are used, which makes the viewer realize that the mood has changed. The fact that the scene is now winter means that the director has used pathetic fallacy to express the character’s mood (the soldier). This adds contrast to the first image we were shown, as the scene seems more real. Could a change in time have happened? Or has the character waked from a dream? To show that these two images are linked there are visual bridges from the first scene to the next; in the first clip the barley is gently swaying and in the second the fur on the soldier’s coat is moving in the same way. There is also a link between the contexts of the two scenes; they are both two very natural images with the field of barely and the freeze-frame of the robin perched on the tree branch. The robin perched on the branch of a tree in the wintertime will be recognized by the audience as a very familiar scene linked to a happy, family-orientated part of the year, Christmas.

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This could be used to emphasize the contrast, which is shown later on in the scene of the soldiers and the destruction of nature, how the soldiers have inflicted their own troubles onto a previously unspoilt land that has now been left in ruins. Non-diegetic music plays throughout to keep all the images linked; however, the sounds are still parallel to the scenes that take place. The first scene shows nature at its prime, unspoilt land. The second set of images stir up lots of emotion. They make us feel the pain and the destruction that war can cause. The land represents people, how war can change people, how it destroys lives and general morale. It shows the harsh realities that war can bring, showing us the present instead of the past (which the first scene seems to indicate). It also shows us what life was like before the violence and corruption brought about by the fighting.

In the second scene, “mis en sc�ne” plays an important part in helping the story develop. In the background of the scene, a skeleton of the natural world is left. The rest of the land has been upset and ruined by the destruction the soldiers have caused. They have inflicted their own contours on the land; the colours used here are very bland and detached from emotion. The soldiers are in rigid lines, and the boundaries that they have created are sharp and uneven. This provides much contrast with the first scene of the easy-flowing barley. The contrast between the two images causes us to question the meaning of the first scene. Was it a memory? Was it a dream? Clever editing has been used in the second scene where the camera shot does a close-up of the soldier’s face, then jump cuts to the robin and then jump cuts back to the soldier.

In the first shot, the soldier looks still and lifeless, but after he has seen the robin, he smiles at himself. This shows that even the simplest of things in a time of war can touch your heart. It also shows that if the robin has survived in the ruined land around him, there is hope for them all. In conclusion, I feel that the opening sequence was designed to stir up emotion and really make us think about the content of the film. The questions that the opening sequence poses to the audience cannot immediately be answered. They become more apparent as the film progresses. The audience is not sure of the relevance of the images that they are first shown as they appear as a sort of memory. From the historical content that we are given, I believe these images to be happy memories of the soldier’s life.

Achieving Closure – The repeated images in the final frames of “Gladiator” Helen Gammons 11D. I LIKE TWISTED ENDINGS when I watch a film, like those you get in many horror films. I also like endings that explain the story. For example, when you watch horror films, you may know who the killer is, but you still don’t understand how they pulled off the murder until you reach the film’s end. I find those kinds of films exciting because suddenly, all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Films that leave you still asking questions generally lead to sequels where many questions are answered, and the story is explained more. A good example of this is The Matrix Series. Each new film introduces more storyline and new twists and turns. This leaves the viewer in suspense and makes them want to see the next film in the series to resolve troubling issues. Although these endings add suspense if there is no sequel, these types of endings are generally unsatisfying.

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A good ending should make u feel that all the issues in the film have been resolved and that the story has finished. Still, they have to be believable and well thought through because if a character did something that you wouldn’t normally think they would do, the ending could become unbelievable. A film that I have recently watched is “Intolerable cruelty” this movie, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney, is very cunning. Throughout the film, it follows the conquests made by Catherine Zeta-Jones and the money she has swindled from various husbands. She plays a devious and cunning character and tricking George Clooney into stealing his money. Unfortunately, the audience doesn’t realize what she has done until the concluding minutes, where all the pieces of the puzzles fit; instead of putting herself in financial jeopardy as George Clooney thinks, she is, in fact, trying to swindle money from him.

At the end of the film the clever tricky that she has used is discovered and the pieces of the film finally fit, I definitely feel like that film had closure, and in some ways is a lot similar to the film “Gladiator” that we watched. In the opening sequence of “Gladiator,” we are shown various images. At the time, they don’t make sense. These images are just left in the back of our minds. The director cleverly weaves these images into the rest of the movie so that when we see them in the final frames, the images are familiar to us. In the beginning frame, we are shown an arm gently flowing through a field of barley. This clip then returns about half an hour of film time later when the soldier is collapsed on a horse headed for his hometown. While riding, he sees the barley field and hears the children’s voices (like in the opening sequence).

Then he gets a premonition that his family is in danger, so he races back. There is a close-up of his face in this sequence, then a sudden flash of a wall shown in icy grey colour; the scene cuts to the first clip we saw of him when he had his hand flowing through the barley. We also hear the children laughing, just like in the opening sequence. There is then a visual bridge that carries us into the next frame. The hand that had been drifting through the barely is now dragging on the ground, and we see a picture of the soldier’s head floating across the desert. These sequences of images at the time seem rather random, and they raise a lot of questions in the viewer’s mind. For the movie to feel complete, these questions must be answered, and these images must be explained.

In the final scene of “Gladiator,” we get the whole story explained to us. There is a battle scene where the soldier defeats the emperor but is also injured and dies. Several images from the opening sequence and the rest of the film reoccur at the end. The first image that we see is a field of barley. It is in every way the same as the first and the second time we saw it throughout the movie, although instead of the sepia colours that were first used, now icy grey and blue colours are used. This effect has been used so that we recognize the image. This image has been shown to us before as a kind of memory or premonition, but now the image appears with blue tones. The blue tones suggest the afterlife that finally the soldier has been reunited with his family and is now where he belongs. Next comes the image of the gate that first appears when the soldier was being carried across the desert floor.

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This image is also painted in blue tones. Whilst this series of images is being played, the theme tune from the beginning starts to play. This helps to give the audience a link back to the beginning of the film, using a sound bridge, so that the images that were once unfamiliar and unexplained are finally linked in a series that explains their meaning. This is very effective as it brings the whole movie together at a single point. Next, a very curious image is shown to us. There is a close-up of the soldier’s head apparently floating over the stadium floor. This is curious as we know the body is still lying on the floor, so the image can’t be “real.” It is strange still when this image is painted in “real-time” colours. This leads us to ask more questions. What could the floating head represent? Why has the director chosen to paint the picture in “real-time” colours? In my mind, I think that the floating body could represent his spirit.

He has finally been set free and can now join his wife and child. However, this is not the first time we have seen pictures like this; previously, when the soldier was making a journey into slavery, he was carried across the desert floor. The camera angle on these two shots was the same, but instead of the soldier making his journey into slavery, he is now making a journey into the afterlife. I think that the director has been very clever in his use of repeated images. He uses familiar images at key points in the film so that the soldier’s death is more acceptable in our minds.

We find it easier to accept his death as throughout the fi, lm, he has had dreams of being reunited with family in the fields of barley, so that’s where the audience feels he belongs. The repeated use of images leads us to believe that the soldier’s death is inevitable. I feel that the movie gives us a sense of closure and makes it easier to accept the overall outcome of the battle. The ending of gladiator is satisfying to an audience as all their previous unexplained questions have now been answered. Therefore I believe that the film “Gladiator” does achieve closure to give the audience a satisfying ending.

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Film Studies Essay - Gladiator. (2021, Sep 05). Retrieved May 20, 2022, from