FILM SHOT ANALYSIS Lost Season 1 Episode 1

Matching video LOST: Jack wakes up after the plane crash (1×01 Pilot)

Wow! What a ride.

Camera Shots and Impact

This episode starts with an extreme close-up camera shot of an eye. The eye opens. It’s green and it is instantly alert. Our “frame” is limited by the close-up frame, but we see enough to know something is not right.

We now see through the man’s eyes or point-of-view. We’re looking up at tall bamboo stalks. The distortion of the stalks rising so high, and swaying against the blue sky creates a sense of instability for the viewer, helping us connect to the confusion of the man. It also creates a sense of helplessness, making it seem as if the person seeing those overly tall plants is small and insignificant. This is foreshadowing for the upcoming conflict of man VS nature.

The camera cuts back to observer of the action. The man’s face. The camera zooms out in a pull-back shot to reveal more of this character lying on his back. He’s dressed in a black suit. He’s panting, in distress. His fingers are moving in a strange manner as if he doesn’t quite have control of his hand.

As the camera continues to zoom out, it is rising, creating a bird’s eye view of the character. The music is rising in pitch with it creating a sense of suspense. This type of shot (looking down on a smaller object or actor) communicates the power or status of a character or a character in a situation. The man is in a lower status, a vulnerable status.

Over the pitch of the music, we hear an asynchronous sound of a branch snapping. We do not see what causes the sound (which makes it asynchronous), but we see the character react through a close-up shot of his face at ground level. It is as if we are lying beside the character, reading the fear in his expression, knowing whatever made that sound is behind us. The camera then takes on the point-of-view of the character and we, the viewer, are looking along the ground at the same level of the man who is still lying down.

This is called eyeline-matching and our brains match the shots in a logical manner, accepting the idea that the character was looking and now we are also looking at the same thing. The shot creates a psychological affect in us, placing us in the action and instilling the emotions we might feel in that situation. We are more able to empathize with the character if we see through his point-of-view, and because we can empathize, we now care about what happens to him. We are hooked into the story.

Our fear of what snapped the branch disappears as a dog appears, whines. We see the character react with a confused expression. The dog runs past him.

Symbolism and Themes

By this point I’m reading symbolism in the scene. The man in the suit is civilization. The “wild” is the bamboo around him, and out of the wild comes the symbol of wild tamed, the domesticated dog.

When the character stands and looks in his jacket, discovering his wound, we are viewing him through the bamboo stalks. The stalks act like bars, giving us the impression that the character is trapped.

Establishing Shot

This scene begins in medias res, which means the writers haven’t wasted any time giving the viewer a backstory. The scene starts right at the spot where the character is caught in action.

This start is effective on a few levels. First, in media res is always an excellent hook. It works well for adventure, is a genre staple for mystery or police investigation shows because it draws the viewer or reader right into the events. In media res allows the viewer to experience the traumatic confusion that occurs after an accident, and this male character has been involved in an extreme one.

What’s interesting about this establishing shot is the narrow framing of the shots. Generally, an establishing shot is wide, showing the view of the setting. In the western genre, the establishing shot shows big scenery and in there somewhere is a tiny man on a tiny horse, or perhaps a sod-buster’s cabin nestled beneath the mountains. This is a the classic “man VS nature” or “civilization VS wild” theme shot.

In this episode of Lost, the director’s use of narrow framing leaves me feeling a little claustrophobic, which may be intentional in terms of the clustered growth of a jungle.

Characterization

The lone man is only alone for two minutes of the film’s running time. He has his moment of despair, and then he makes a decision. He runs. The bamboo blurs by as the character runs through the stand, and the camera follows him with a tracking shot.

He emerges onto a bright beach, freed from the encompassing foliage, free from the claustrophobic, caging jungle, free to face the reality of what has happened.

Matching video LOST: Jack wakes up after the plane crash (1×01 Pilot)

“Lost was created by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, who share story-writing credits for the pilot episode, which Abrams directed.” (Lost (TV series) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

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