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Goodfellas: Cinematography Analysis

Introduction There are a number of works created by a famous American film director Martin Scorsese which deserve recognition. Almost each movie is a unique attempt to describe human life as it is with its own pros and cons. It is not enough for Scorsese to make a movie; it is necessary to create a masterpiece where each angel, camera movement, and frame has its own purpose and place.

One of such movies is his Goodfellas directed in 1990. And though this movie did not get the Oscar as the best picture (Dances with Wolves won it that time), Goodfellas starring by Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci is still considered to be an important work that makes Scorsese return to the world of gangster cinematography and take another important shift in career. In this paper, several cinematographic aspects like movie shots, optics, moves, compositions, and long takes in Goodfellas will be evaluated.

Body Movie shots

Goodfellas, as well as all other movies, consists of a number of shots those relationships aim at creating a complete and informative scene (Corrigan 66). The peculiar feature of frames and angles in Goodfellas is Scorsese’s desire to overwhelm the viewer with information, this is why each frame contains a number of details to be observed.

Certain attention should be paid to the frames used by the director to express “the freshness and energy of a real world” (Lopate 241). The point is that even the opening frames of the movie may easily destabilize audience (Nochimson 135).

For example, the frame when the three main characters, Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy are in the car (ELS): the director wants to say that they are connected by friendship, business, and trust, and even though audience is not aware of their relations, it is necessary to underline this connection at the very beginning (Goodfellas).

Another shot when Karen holds the gun and looks at it from above (MS): the director wants to introduce the idea of human choice when a young girl realizes what is waiting for her and that she has a choice and needs to decide. Her decision was based on emotions and feelings.

The two shots when Karen directs the gun to Henry to kill him because of betrayal (CU). The gun is not only a weapon; it is the symbol that should not be recognized still performs the leading role. The scene when the black man was shot by Tommy within several seconds (ELS). The chosen shot define the fugacity of life and human inabilities to control the event. And finally, the shot with the two dead bodies in the pink car (LS): it was a kind of message in the form of a murder, a cruel still expected murder.

Get your 100% original paper on any topic done in as little as 3 hours Learn More Importance of angles in the movie should be also discussed. Camera angles are regarded as the main part of visual language of the movie. Even if a person fails to grasp the message or the tone of the character, director’s hints will help to define the essence.

For example, an eye-level angle when Henry cooks at home that makes the character ordinary with the demands inherent to people who have to live, work, communicate, and analyze their actions; a low angle when Henry stands close to the car with the dead Billy Batz is used by the director to underline that this character has something to tell to audience and his story will be certainly interesting to listen to; the high angle when Karen cries discovering that her husband is arrested and has to spend a couple of years in jail, such angle is used to describe hopelessness of the character.


The brightest example of mixed camera move and actor move is observed when Henry comes to Copacabana: everything has its place still continues moving, people have to hurry up in order to achieve their purposes, events are hard to control, this is why the director wanted to use as many moving subjects as possible to use running as the symbol of current changes and society’s needs.

Optics and camera’s focus

There are three optics techniques used in the movie: shallow focus that allows underlining the importance of one image, deep focus when all images are in focus, and perspective focus that provides a kind of equivalent to the required view camera movements (Mamer 23).

For example, deep focus is observed in the restaurant it is easy to recognize the main characters as well as those people on the background because the main characters are not enough powerful to be separated from the crowd. The director wants to show that though these three people perform the leading roles, there are still a number of people who perform the same roles in society.

The shallow focus is used when Karen directs the gun to Henry, and the image of the gun is not clear as the director makes a decision not to mention a true essence of the gun still underline its importance in the story. Perspective focuses are frequent in the movie as the director introduces the story and describes it from all aspects.

Composition of the movie

Film composition is all about the way of how the components are arranged so that audience is free to watch the movie. To succeed in composing a movie, the director should demonstrate his abilities to unite each piece of the work with the meaning, and Scorsese shows how a perfect composition should look like.

We will write a custom Essay on Goodfellas: Cinematography Analysis specifically for you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More This story is not about gangsters only but the collection of such themes like friendship, partnership, business, love, sex, drugs, etc. Scorsese shows the shots, and even if not all shots are perfect and meaningful, the role of each detail is crucial indeed.

Necessity of long takes in Goodfellas

The main purpose of any long take is to develop the necessary dramatic or narrative effect, and in Goodfellas one of such remarkable shots is the walk of Karen and Henry through the Copacabana. By means of such long take, the director shows what Karen should be ready for because it is her boyfriend’s world: she is tempted with a desire to observe the gangster life, and Henry is fascinated with an idea that he is able to open this world to her girlfriend.

Film stock and the tonality of colors

Goodfellas is the movie where the colors were usually variable in their true saturation. For example, the darker scenes (when the characters are in the car after the murder of Billy Batz) seem to be more saturated in order to underline the dramatic aspect of the movie, however, under more appropriate lighting conditions the chosen color will be spot on.

Success of lighting in the movie

In the already discussed scene when Henry and Karen are walking through the nightclub, it is also possible to observe how successfully the director uses lighting by the extent of ultimate advantage. As a result of such choice, it seems like the interplay that takes place between light and shadow expresses the idea of duplicity that is inherent to human life. Henry is as quick as a butterfly who cannot define the danger of the darkness.

Of course, it is not the only example of how different keys of lighting are used in the movie. With the help of a properly chosen lighting, Scorsese shares what is in his characters’ minds. Talking about lighting in the movie, it is necessary to remember one of the first scenes. Overall redness in the shot is the sign of hope, mystery, and human destiny at the same time. The director admits that this story has its grounds, and the movies aims at disclosing a number of ideas which are connected to human life, emotions, and life purposes.

Conclusion In general, the techniques used by Scorsese in his Goodfellas as well as the play of each actor in the movie are perfectly chosen so that the reader can grasp the main message of the story and enjoy the work itself.

The evaluation of perspectives, compositions, lighting, frames, angels, etc. helps to underline the main aspects of the movie and define a true purpose set by the director. Each scene is a unique combination of an idea and a technique that discloses the idea, this is why it is not a surprise that many people find this movie interesting and educative.

Works Cited Corrigan, Timothy. A short guide to writing about film. London: Pearson, 2007.

Not sure if you can write a paper on Goodfellas: Cinematography Analysis by yourself? We can help you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More Goodfellas. Dir. Scorsese, Martin, Perf. Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci. Warner Brothers, 1990. Film.

Lopate, Phillip. American movie critics: An anthology from the silents until now. New York: The Library of America, 2006.

Mamer, Bruce. Film production technique: Creating the accomplished image. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2008.

Nochimson, Martha. Dying to belong: Gangster movies in Hollywood and Hong Kong. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.

Making the Best Shot of Your Life: Behind the Curtains of Movie-Making Essay

Nursing Assignment Help Table of Contents The Vision of a Movie

Hitting the Bull’s Eye: Each Shot as It Is

Diving Deep into Movie-Making

Works Cited

In spite of the fact that film industry is rather young compared to the theater or any other spheres of art, it has its own well-established and time-tested theory. With help of numerous tricks movie can look in the most effective and convincing manner. Because of the fact that, shifting camera positions, one can obtain the most efficient perspective, the five-shot technique suggested by Mackendrick has turned out a winning method of filming.

Indeed, getting the most objective picture, the audience starts believing in the movie plot from the very start, which a film-maker aims at. However, it would be quite peculiar to trace the mechanism of the shooting. Learning what makes the shots such efficient technique, one can understand the very essence of the movie-making art.

The Vision of a Movie Because of its objectiveness, the five-shot technique reminds of a situation when several points of view clash into a cultural conflict. With help of this peculiar technique, the film-maker can achieve the objectiveness which will absorb the audience attention and take them on a journey into make-believe.

No matter what plot stands behind the very film, the correct visualization of the scene will allow the film-maker to attract the people with the peculiar view that opens in front of them. Once a piece designed to entertain people, a movie this becomes a true life situation to consider with all the seriousness. As a matter of fact, this is the five-shot sequence which makes people consider a movie as a part of the reality – subconsciously, yet rather strongly.

Thus, it cannot be argued that the famous five-shot system proves astonishingly efficient. Now the time has come to see the technique of the famous trick. As it turns out, there are very few secrets – and a lot of logics.

Hitting the Bull’s Eye: Each Shot as It Is Because of the specifics of cinema art, it is necessary that the audience could have an overview of the whole situation in the movie. Unless the spectators have such opportunity, they will not be interested tin what is going o in the screen. Thus, the five-shot sequence invented by Mackendrick is supposed to draw people’s eyes to the action in the screen.

Creating the overall impression of the scene and giving people the background idea, the master shot allows the audience to make it “full of visual information” (Mackendrick 245) and help people embrace the overall situation in the movie.

Get your 100% original paper on any topic done in as little as 3 hours Learn More Over-the-shoulder shot, “a reverse shot that is from an angle that includes a portion of the other person’s shoulder or head” (Hurbis-Cherrier 65) allows to consider the situation with the eyes of the movie character.

Just think of what could happen if Mackendrick had not discovered his brilliant detail shot! With help of this approach, the secret meaning of the scene can be exposed to the audience without saying a word. With help of this shot, all the peculiarities of the relations between the characters come into the open, and the spectator can see what lurks behind the characters’ faces.

A close-up shot, the shot which snatches a detail from the scene and zooms it into a complete grotesque, is another element suggested by Mackendrick. With help of this method, the idea of the movie can be exposed to the audience in the most exquisite way. Suggesting certain brainwork and containing an element of drama, this way of drawing the audience’s attention to certain details of the movie can be rather crude, but when used only as a hint, it can work wonders.

The last, but not the least, is the complementary shot. To summarize the overall idea of the scene once again and to create a definite impression, the overall shot is used, as a rule, in the final part of the scene.

Diving Deep into Movie-Making Planning a movie of my own, I would use the theory of the five-shot sequence focusing on the close-up shot. In my interpretation, the close-up scenes capturing the very essence of the scene could be a dramatic pinpoint of the entire movie.

For example, shooting a drama, I would include the scene of thorough and useless search of something extremely important for the leading character, and as the vain attempts would cease, I would take a close-up of the needed object. Thus, making the movie as dramatic and tense as possible, I could create the vision of something strikingly real.

Judging by the time test which the five-shot theory has passed, it proves extremely efficient for the contemporary cinema. Revealing the most incredible pieces of the plot to the audience and making them build their assumptions, it serves as the way to create a little world of make-believe where the audience could feel comfortable, a small model of real life for everybody. Lifting the curtain over the secrets of the movie plot, such technique will remain one of the greatest discoveries in the world of film-making.

We will write a custom Essay on Making the Best Shot of Your Life: Behind the Curtains of Movie-Making specifically for you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More Works Cited Hurbis-Cherrier, Mike. Voice