Analysis of the Film Wild Things
The motion picture, Wild Things, presents a vivid combination of crime, violence, betrayal and sexual intensity. Under the direction of John McNaughton, the motion picture spurned a myriad of different opinions based on its considerable predisposition towards eroticism. Irrespective of the disparate perspectives and views it influenced in relation to its main themes, the motion picture has gained infamy as one of the most complex films ever made in Hollywood due to its mix of erotic allure and convoluted plots that the audience can fully understand by watching the full movie. Nonetheless, certain aspects are responsible for guaranteeing the film’s success in spite of its mature rating. These facets represent some of the techniques utilized in motion pictures. Hence, the elements subject to analysis in Wild Things comprise editing, sound, cinematography, mise-en-scene and the element of narrative.
A variety of editing techniques are evident in the respective motion picture. One of these techniques constitutes an establishing shot (Branston 47). Normally, most movies utilize this element in order to illustrate the relationship between main characters (Branston 48). In addition to this, the establishing shot usually begins at the start of the film and thus, acts as an imperative introductory part of the scene. In the motion picture, this particular aspect is evident in the opening panorama. In this scene, the teacher, Sam Lombardo, starts by writing the words, “sex crimes”, in capitalized letters during an assembly at the school (Wild Things). From this point onwards, the shot assists the audience by gaining an insight into the direction of the film. Moreover, the establishing shot in Wild Things provides a long capture of the room, in this case, the assembly hall(Wild Things). Based on this, the audience is capable of viewing all the characters of the film from this specific scene.
Moreover, the establishing shot also assists in the reinstatement of the film’s theme. In Wild Things, the viewer notices Kelly Van Ryan glancing at Lombardo in a seductive manner as he, along with two police officers; introduce the topic of the discussion (Wild Things). In this case, the establishing shot clearly exemplifies the theme of sexual appeal as an important element of the respective film. In relation to this premise, the spectator becomes considerably aware of the events and situations to expect based on that long single shot situated at Kelly Van Ryan. Furthermore, the establishing shot also captures landmarks in the film. From the opening scene, the viewer can see a mural. The mural paints a background to the story by illustrating acts of savagery among wild animals such as lions and dinosaurs (Wild Things). Thus, this mechanism further establishes the sexual nature of the film based on the mural’s depictions of animal savagery.
There is also evidence of a cutaway shot in the motion picture. Accordingly, cutaway shots are present where interruptions take place through the insertion of a different scene (Shiel and Fitzmaurice 34). For instance, towards the end of the scene, Detective Gloria Perez asserts that she would not have assumed Suzie Toller as a sailor. At this point, the scene cuts away immediately by showing Suzie’s father attach his daughter’s decrepit boat to a gleaming new vehicle. Even though cutaway shots tend to be unrelated, the shot used in this part of the film relates Perez’s quote to the rest of the film by identifying Suzie as the main antagonist of the movie especially with respect to the murder of Lombardo and Ray Duquette. Further editing in the film is present where the spectator views a sex scene between Kelly and Suzie from the voyeur’s point of view (Wild Things). The use of the point of view shot allows the audience to perceive the scene from a personal point and intentionally, from the perspective of one of the antagonists, Sergeant Duquette.
The film also uses different forms of sounds in relation to the characters. Diegetic sounds are considerably common in Wild Things. Usually, such reverberations take place as the characters continue performing their particular roles (Branston 43). For instance, the audience is capable of hearing the voices of other students within the opening scene as Lombardo scribbles “sex crimes” on the board. Another instance of diegetic sound is present in the cutaway scene where both Kelly and her mother, Sandra Van Ryan, both flirt with Lombardo. After the cut takes place, the audience perceives gushing sounds of water as an alligator swims across the Everglades waters (Wild Things). The audience easily hears more diegetic sounds where Suzie’s dad hooks her daughter’s boat to the car after cutting away from Perez’s satirical remark concerning the film’s antagonist.
The viewer is also capable of hearing non-diegetic sounds within the motion picture. Normally, the sources of such sounds are invisible but institute an important role in the presentation of the filmed action (Branston 45). For instance, the film exploits sound effects significantly in different scenes. The opening scene utilizes horror echoes. These effects induce an eerie sense of the movie. In addition to this, these echoes function together with visual elements such as blood in order to appeal to the audience emotionally. Adding on to sound effects, the film also utilizes mood music as a significant element in certain scenes. For example, the sex scene in which Lombardo, Van Ryan and Toller are present exudes explicit use of background sound. In this panorama, the music playing in the background emphasizes on the sexual activities that the three characters engage in. The combination of a saxophone sounds and a bass guitar develops a sensual mood that appeals erotically to the audience as the scene takes place (Wild Things).
The main cinematographic element used in Wild Things involves voyeurism. In relation to film studies, voyeurism, as part of cinematography, allows the audience to have a sensual interaction or relationship with the film’s characters (Shiel and Fitzmaurice 56). In this motion picture, the spectator acts as the voyeur based on the sexual nature of the film. Moreover, the characters used in the movie embody large quantities of physical attractiveness, which influence the spectators sensually. Emphasizing on this element, McNaughton combines various elements in order to guarantee intimate and secretive interaction between the actors and the spectators. For example, a scene in which Ryan steps out of a swimming pool influences the aspect of voyeurism among the audience. In this respect, McNaughton highlights the scene by adding provocative elements, which arouse the spectator’s physical senses.
For example, a continuous shot depicts the Ryan, clad in a wet and tight bikini as she comes out of the pool. In addition to this, the shot fixates on this particular character, especially on the bust area, which the audience can see based on the transparent nature of the attire she wears. Moreover, McNaughton utilizes a slow-motion effect, which captures every appealing part of the character’s body and consistently emphasizes on the sexual appeal. Based on the techniques used in this scene, the audience acts as the voyeur due to the way they are capable of seeing Ryan in a sexual way without her being unaware of her presence. The musical score in the scene also facilitates voyeurism. In this particular part, the viewer hears a slow song that draws the audience towards Ryan. Moreover, the score centers her as the main sexual object within the scene as well as the whole movie. Other sex scenes such as the intimacy between Lombardo and Barbara Baxter, and his sexual encounter with both Ryan and Toller utilize similar facets, which help in placing emphasis on voyeurism as an important cinematographic element (Wild Things).
Mise-en-scene includes the most identifiable characteristics of a given motion picture. It normally comprises the actors, the setting, costumes, props, and all synthetic and natural details that typify the filmed spaces (Shiel and Fitzmaurice 75). Wild Things provides a variety of disparate elements, which constitute part of the film’s mise-en-scene. The pool is a great example of a recognizable aspect used in the movie. This element functions as a prop and a setting with regards to the manner it enables continuity in the movie’s complex plot. Accordingly, such a setting is important since it develops both belonging and mood. The sex scene between Kelly Van Ryan and Julie Toller uses this element considerably. The pool, as part of this mise-en-scene, reflects the mood that both characters have in relation to their respective sexual relations (Wild Things). Additionally, the pool acts a symbol of the conflicting emotions between both characters. Acting as the site of physical confrontation between both actors, the turbulence of the water reflects both actors’ confusion as they wrestle each other.
Costumes and make-up play an essential part of the film’s mise-en-scene. Foremost, these materials portray the characters’ personality especially in the way they dress. In this respect, the attire that Toller dons depicts her as a social outcast. Her emphasis on black clothes and other dull accessories deem as a rebel and part of an American sub-culture that is socially deviant (Wild Things). Moreover, the make-up she puts on her face further reflects her dissociation with other members of the society including her schoolmates. The costumes in the scene also emphasize on certain themes of the film. For instance, the portrayal of the femme-fatale is an important topic in the movie. Accordingly, Ryan acts as the femme fatale based on the costumes she wears in order to attract her target, Sam Lombardo, through sexual appeal. Furthermore, attires such as her transparent bikini and the wet cross top she wears during the first parts of the film serve as objects of voyeurism especially for the viewer.
Element of Narrative
Most American films possess a classic narrative element based on the generic structure they utilize (Branston 53). Irrespective of this commonality, this element is important since it allows audiences to classify themselves under different film genres. Wild Things combines different narrative elements based on its framework. At first, the eerie musical score coupled with audio-visual facets of the splattering of blood and gunshots portray the movie as purely action-based. However, as the movie progresses, the film shifts towards teen drama based on its depiction of adolescents and teachers within a usual education system. Nonetheless, instances of genre contamination become evident where the film moves towards romantic ideals by illustrating the different relationships between men and women that exist throughout the plot. Furthermore, Wild Things integrate criminal aspects by showing instances of murder, financial swindles and violence. Even though they seem overly utilized, these narrative elements develop the film’s plot by establishing different surprises and mysteries in order to solve them at the end.
Undeniably, the discussed motion picture provides an effective platform for addressing various aspects used in the creation and development of films. In this case, elements such as editing, sound, cinematography, mise-en-scene and the narrative aspect play a major role in setting the film in motion. However, due to over-dependence on sexual antics, the elements only work in favor of sexuality rather than other important themes exemplified within the movie such as greed. Regardless of its shortcomings, Wild Things is rather interesting and relevant to certain audiences based on the mature content it exhibits.
Branston, Gill. “Understanding Genre.” Analysing Media Texts (Volume 4). Eds. Marie Gillespie and Jason Toynbee. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006, 43-78. Print.
Shiel, Mark, and Tony Fitzmaurice. Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.
Wild Things. Dir. John McNaughton. Perf. Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Nerve Campbell, Denise Richards. Columbia Pictures, 1998. DVD.