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American Government and Politics
Brian Harris
Class Notes
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Alex Probst on Wednesday August 24, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Poli Sci 220 at Northwestern University taught by Brian Harris in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 6 views. For similar materials see American Government and Politics in Political Science at Northwestern University.


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Date Created: 08/24/16
Alex Probst Prof. Davis Corrine Collins Introduction to Film and Its Literatures 19 January 2016 Crash Through the Ash Denis Villeneuve’s 2008 short film “Next Floor” is a work that portrays the downfall of  the greedy in a quite literal way. The film, set around a banquet of wealthy, barbarian­like guests  who gorge themselves with exotic foods, warns its audience of the dangers of excess.  Throughout the film, the camera embodies the point of view of a waiter at this banquet, casting a  feeling of judgement and disgust in which the audience is to partake while watching the savage  eating of meat. As the guests become increasingly ravenous, the weight of their glutton causes  them to break through the floorboard into the next room below them, where they continue to  feast. This lasts until they finally cannot be supported and must endlessly fall through the floors  of their host’s home. As the scenes progress between the floors, the brightly lit chandelier travels down the floors with the guests, including the complete free­fall of the banquet and its light  source. As each scene changes, the tension and hectic nature of the film increases. The guests’  stuffing of their faces and frantic chewing becomes increasingly more ferocious as an increased  amount of the color white presents itself in each scene. This color, along with others of similarly  low saturation, allow for lighting techniques and color to change the mood and pace of the film  for its audience to subconsciously recognize. Color palate and contrast play large roles throughout the entirety of this film. While the  mise­en­scene consists of a relatively narrow palate― black, unsaturated reds, and overall muted colors― the film plays a lot with the different contrasts of white against these understated  background colors. The chandelier is the primary light source in the events of the film, with its  extremely stark and clean whiteness. This plays off of the more subtle whites within each frame,  such as the clothing of the wait staff. The wait staff primarily wears white, however their tuxes  have more earthy or yellow tint, making their white outfits less start and blinding. They are never seen as being stark against the background because their clothing is always muted by the  shadows, instead of being intensified by the light above. Consequently, the blinding white of the  chandelier itself is clearly a symbol of the greed that blinds the upper class members of the  banquet. This is why the chandelier is consistently with the guests as they plummet through the  floors; the blinding white must remain with those who succumb to its overexposed light. The  same is true for the ash that coats the guests as they crash through each floor. The ash, also being of the color white, continues the motif of blindness that the upper class cannot escape. The ash  clouds each guest making them act more barbaric than before the immediately preceding fall.  The color white, in its stark contrast with the surrounding colors of the film, impacts the  events of the plot. Throughout the film, there are two characters who seem to split points of  view: the head of the wait staff, and one female diner at the bottom corner of the table. These  two characters have the majority of the close­up shots indicating the differences between their  experiences at the banquet compared to the rest of the participants in the event. They also have  the most contrasting clothing from the rest of the characters. The head waiter, while he is  wearing a white shirt and bowtie, is the only waiter who is not dressed entirely in the one clean  color. The female guest, similarly, is the only diner who is not wearing anything visibly white. In the shot of feet, indicating the weakness of the floor under the table, the female guest is wearing  white shoes, but the displacement of the white from her visible person while seated suggests a  separation from the greed, for it is beneath her. It is not until the table has crashed through a  number of floors that she is engulfed in the ferocious eating and glut that her table­mates have  been displaying throughout the entire film. But again, she only begins this once she is completely coated in the white ash for everyone to witness.  The light colors in the film are used greatly to indicate ignorance. The diners, being  coated in the white ash, become blinder to the floor giving way beneath them. After the first fall,  the guests take a moment of pause to express their fear and concern over the startling event, but  once the blinding chandelier is lowered for their use, the feast begins again. Similarly, the wait  staff in white is shocked with each fall, not knowing what is to come for these unfortunate  guests. They also take cues of when to step backwards in order to avoid partaking in the fall from the head waiter. The head waiter wears a black jacket indicating his aversion to ignorance. He is  clearly the only enlightened person in the film, for he has a judgmental, but knowing stare. His  face, when breaking the fourth wall with the audience, is always half­shaded, for no light is  bright enough to blind him from the truth he knows: excess pleasantries are the root of  corruption. The other wait staff members are slowly enlightened to this fact as the diners fall  endlessly through the building. Once the chandelier falls freely with the party, the waiters peer  over the abyss with more hardened expressions in conjunction with the scenery becoming  increasingly darker, indicating their awareness of the corruption that greed creates. Finally, the lessening of color as the film progresses dampens any luxurious aspect that  being in the upper class may possess. The banquet scene already sets the dark tone with the  muted colors stated before: black, neutrals, and a low­saturated red. Any true colors are almost  only present in the foods that are both on the table and being wheeled in by the waiters. Although the colors give a dark and perceivably “gross” look to the foods, they also signify the lavish  nature of the banquet. They reflect the lighting, giving them a glossy sheen such as jewels would. The “shininess” of these colors is akin to the stereotypical attractiveness that accompanies  people’s perceptions of being wealthy. However, in this film they are presented in such a way  that causes them come across muddied and unattractive, furthering the argument that the life of  the wealthy is not attractive when looked at with a stern eye. The food’s colors are the only ones  present due to the overarching contrast between the blacks and whites. Even so, they slowly  dissipate from the film as the white ash takes over the scenes. The only hint of luxury, which was presented in color, is taken away from the audience so not to distract from the underlying greed  that harbors beneath the “beauty” of wealth. Once that color is gone, there is only barbaric  behavior and selfish over­indulgence, as is presented by the narrow palate in which the film is  concluded. Lighting and color play huge roles in the tone of a film. This is clearly shown in “Next  Floor” where the chosen color palate signifies specific plot points and themes that the audience is to notice. This film, specifically, goes against the expectations of what would be a typical  portrayal of wealth by way of lighting, shading, and color. An expected portrayal would include,  rich, lavish colors that embody the grandeur that comes with excess money. However, this film  uses an understated palate of color to change one’s view of what wealth truly has to offer. The  coloring and lighting brilliantly alters the perception of luxury in order to disgust the audience  and uncover the beast hiding beneath the façade that is money. The light versus dark motif is  effective in this way, as the cinematography specifically colors each frame to evoke a message of warning to all those who watch. Bibliography Next Floor. Dir. Denis Villeneuve. Phi, 2008.


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