Thursday, 4 November 2010

Tuesday 2nd November 2010 – ITAP – Development of ideas & structure in moving image.

The Hero’s Journey

In many movies, stories and the like, according to Joseph Campbell (the author of ‘The Hero with 1000 faces’), a hero’s journey can be split into three distinct phases: The Departure, The Initiation and The Return. I’ve chosen, simply due to its location in my DVD collection, to look at Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. The main character, played by Johnny Depp, is Ichabod Crane; not exactly of the same stock as the stereotypical hero.

The departure occurs when he is forced to leave the familiar streets of New York City to the small hamlet of Sleepy Hollow. This is an integral part to the forming of the hero, taking the character out of the safety and normality of their ordinary routine and subjecting them to some quite foreign experiences. Within the departure, the hero is really exposed to an example of their future ordeals, and for Crane this is really his ‘welcome’ into Sleepy Hollow, and the horrors of his first hands on experience of the brutal slayings that had him sent there in the first place. A mentor is also introduced, Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), who acts as the buffer between the scientific Crane and the quite superstitious townsfolk. 

The second phase, the initiation, is quite blurred in Sleepy Hollow, as it’s a horror film and so includes facets of terror and gore whereas other stories may well instead focus on character development. Crane does come into contact with the antagonist; The Headless Horseman, which is an important emotional turning point in the movie, as Crane is introduced to the secondary world of smoke and mirrors, and quite how serious a force it is in Sleepy Hollow, easily matching his self styled edifice of science and criminology. To accentuate the supernatural side of Sleepy Hollow, Crane’s also introduced to a forest dwelling hermit, who is represented as a clairvoyant of sorts, and helps to evolve the, now quite sinister, plot. 

Finally, the last phase; The Return, is quite swift, with Crane being wholly submerged into the realm of magic, and finally triumphing, returning back to New York City with his love interest and his young ward, as a master of both worlds with the freedom to live as he sees fit.

Character Design

There are four main aspects to character design, which I will again look at with reference to Ichabod Crane. I’ll focus on the first; The Protagonist. This position is fulfilled by Crane, he is who we experience the story through, and who is subject to the conflict in the story. 

The Protagonist’s aspect can be further broken down into three more areas: Appearance, action and interaction. Crane’s appearance is that of a quite middle class city dweller; high collars, pressed black overcoats and, personally, I think a very slick outfit. This is a direct clash to the outfits of the residents of Sleepy Hollow, whose attire consists mostly of neutral earthy colours, and quite rough and ready clothing; due to their farming background. 

In terms of action, Crane’s function is that of a catalyst in solving the murders occurring in Sleepy Hollow, he’s set the task of catching the perpetrator, and through this opens up a world of sinister plots, betrayals and backhanded dealings. 

Finally, interaction: he interacts rather clumsily with the local community, thus ensuring the necessity of Katrina, as she is local and can converse on a similar level. Crane’s communication I think is necessarily stunted and difficult, as this enforces the idea of isolation and despair, as he’s alone in an unforgiving environment, adding to the forming of his heroic character. 

Comparison of Crane and 3 local residents of Sleepy Hollow.

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