Dunkirk Essay Number 3


The film “Dunkirk” directed by Christopher Nolan uses a variety of techniques to create emotion. For example, Nolan uses Shepard tone meaning a noise that gradually gets higher but never reaches its highest point, throughout a majority of the scenes, he uses the sound of a ticking watch with the use of non-diegetic sound and lighting. Each of these was used at the same time in many scenes leaving the audience anxious but also leaving a lot of suspension throughout the whole film, not just some points.

Dunkirk is a Film about Germans moving to Dunkirk (France) leaving multiple British and French soldiers stuck on the beachfront. Dunkirk was a film set in the 1940s. Dunkirk is based on a true story from the 1940s, 300,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated at this time.

Christopher Nolan uses the Shephard tone throughout the film. Shepard tone is a high pitch noise that keeps rising and getting higher but never reaches its “high point”. Shepard tone creates an intense feeling like the audience is expecting the high pitch to end but a Shephard tone is never-ending leaving the audience in suspense and wonder when the tension drops. In the film, Dunkirk Shepard tone is used when Nolan wanted the audience to feel in the moment when the British and French soldiers who were stuck on the beach were putting up a fight. For example, the audience can hear the use of Shepard tone in the bombing scene for the soldiers stuck on the beachfront. The soldiers are feeling freaked, worried and frightened for what is coming. As the audience hears the Shepard tone get louder and louder continuing on throughout the bombing you can feel the fear the soldiers stuck on the beach are experiencing.

To bring in non-diegetic sound, Nolan uses the sound of a ticking time watch. The ticking time watch is a symbol of time running out. The ticking time watch belonged to Farrier who was the British and French air support pilot. In Dunkirk, the ticking time watch was used to resemble time. Time was extremely important to Nolan throughout the film. Time was limited to everyone who was involved in the war and showed that things were changing fast. An example from the film is Farrier, who the British air support was running low on fuel, not being able to land to get more fuel he had to make a decision. The farrier’s Fuel gauge was broken so he had no idea where he was sitting. When the audience was shown he was low; the ticking creates an anxious feeling as to whether he would make it back to the beach. When Nolan used the ticking the audience could tell by the sound of his watch that he didn’t have any time left and the time he had left in the air was running out leaving viewers anxious.

Dunkirk has a lot of low key lighting in the movie. Nolan uses dark and dry colours to symbolise the mood that was set within the soldiers and the actions around them as the soldiers are being surrounded. Dunkirk is a movie full of tension. Using dark colours allows us as viewers to understand the setting Dunkirk is filmed in. Dark colours in Dunkirk showed the dark times throughout the majority of the film. As an example when the soldiers who are stuck on the beach are having to put up a fight the colours are dark colours to show how the fighters are feeling and to let us as an audience know there are no positives about the war’s surroundings. The dark colours help with understanding the down and output mood that was set for this film. They create feelings of sadness, loss and fear.

In conclusion, The film “Dunkirk” directed by Christopher Nolan uses a Shepard tone which is a high pitch noise that never reaches its peak, The sound of a ticking time watch symbolise that time is running out and dark and dry colour to symbolise the mood of the soldiers. These are put together to build extreme tension and fear throughout the film.

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