'Dunkirk' Essay Practice. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated :)

Describe at least one important event in the text.
Explain how this event had a positive OR negative effect.

Heroes don’t always wear capes. Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film ‘Dunkirk’, showcases a range of perspectives from three different timelines, of which the third, ‘The Air’, highlights Royal Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Farrier. Played by Tom Hardy, Farrier is a traditional heroic character who had chosen to sacrifice his life during the critical event, ‘Farrier’s decision’, and positively impacted the visual text. Nolan uses this event to display the key theme of ‘Self-Sacrifice’.

‘Dunkirk’ is based on a real-life event during WWII known as ‘The Evacuation of Dunkirk’, also referred to as ‘Operation Dynamo’. Between late May and early June 1940, a hastily made rescue consisting of 860 boats saved 338,000 Allied soldiers who were stranded on Dunkirk beach whilst being subjected to Nazi Germany’s terrifying offence.

Firstly, Farrier is faced with a dilemma. In the critical event, ‘Farrier’s decision’, the audience sees Farrier undergoing emotional turmoil as we see him face a dilemma—to choose between going back to England or sacrificing himself to save many others—but has to determine his decision quickly. This is shown through close-ups of Farrier’s face, the broken fuel gauge, and the fuel calculations which show that he had only enough fuel to go back to England. Through this, the audience unconsciously immerses themselves in this scene as we could imagine what was going on inside Farrier’s mind, even though he hasn’t said anything. Nolan uses this technique to build tension in the audience and make us feel anxious as we await Farrier’s final decision. The minute details such as his eyes directly conveying his uneasiness add to our apprehension. This ties back to Farrier being a traditional hero as he hesitates between personal want and duty which links back to the theme of ‘Self-Sacrifice’.

Secondly, Farrier’s physiological changes demonstrate his thought process. This is shown throughout the critical event, ‘Farrier’s decision’. When Farrier saw a Heinkel (German plane bomber) aiming for a British Minesweeper (Naval ship) as he flew towards England, Farrier began breathing audibly. At first, it was quite heavy as he looked back and forth at his fuel gauge and at the Heinkel. But slowly, his audible breathing faded away once he made his decision. From this, the audience could recognise the ups and downs of Farrier’s emotions, from anxiety, fear, and unwillingness to calm, determined, and resolute. Nolan highlighted this diegetic sound as it did not only reveal Farrier’s emotions but also gave the audience a realistic view of what it meant to truly sacrifice yourself for the sake of others. No one just instantly decides to be courageous—your will to live and need for duty would naturally be in conflict—it all depends on the person if they are willing to risk everything for others. As such, this ties back to Farrier being a traditional hero as he let go of everything for he was the only one who could have a choice. Thus this links back to the theme of ‘Self-Sacrifice’.

Thirdly, Farrier’s behaviour also demonstrates his thought process. This is shown mostly at the start of the critical event, ‘Farrier’s decision’. Along with the inner conflict of making a decision, Farrier’s movements align with his thinking. At the start, he is constantly looking back and forth at the fuel gauge and at the mirror showing the Heinkel. Farrier’s constant movement at the start shows his anxiety. As he slowly comes to a decision, Farrier’s body starts to still and he focuses entirely on the Heinkel before turning the plane around. The audience sees this through close-up and point-of-view shots. Nolan uses these film techniques to enhance the tension by making it seem as if that tension was transferred to the audience. Dealing with this, we start to feel the stress that Farrier feels and are caught off guard by the sudden weight being put down on our shoulders. The audience feels a hero’s burden. This ties back to Farrier being a traditional hero as he carried this burden he believed was his duty, linking back to the theme of ‘Self-Sacrifice’.

And lastly, the use of the non-diegetic sounds Shepard tone and the ticking of the Watch heightens the critical event, ‘Farrier’s decision’. Hans Zimmer, the composer of 'Dunkirk’s score, uses Shepard tone (an auditory illusion seeming to continuously rise but actually doesn’t) to build tension in the audience. Combined with the low, but steady sound of a ticking Watch, this makes the audience feel restless. In the case of the scene where ‘Farrier’s decision’ takes place, the music overshadows most of the sounds in the background and continues to rise up until the peak of the tension where Farrier turns the plane. Along with it, the audience could also hear the ticking of the Watch that started off quietly before rising up in volume. Nolan uses this sound technique to add to that never-ending tension and highlight Farrier’s inner conflict. With this, the audience is able to grasp just how nerve-wracking it is to be in his position and ties it back to him being a traditional hero who had chosen to fulfil his duty despite the pressure. This links back to the theme of ‘Self-Sacrifice’.

Throughout the visual text, Farrier, the film’s traditional hero, has proven to be a courageous soldier who sacrificed his life for the sake of others and his duty. His decision during the critical event, ‘Farrier’s decision’, positively impacted the visual text as it saved others who didn’t have a choice. Farrier and his ‘Self-Sacrifice’ is the epitome of ‘Heroes don’t always wear capes’.

Kia ora Bargamento and welcome to Study It!

Your intro is strong with a clear focus on the question. In your body paragraphs, you want to ensure that you are linking more back to the question. When you’re analysing camera shots, make sure that you describe what is in them. For example, when you see the close up on Farrier’s face, what expression does he have? How does this create anxiety for the viewer as we wait for his decision.

You’ve got good discussion of the impact on the viewer, discussion of theme, and a range of film techniques. The biggest thing you need to work on is more consistently linking back to both parts of the question. You’ve unpacked the event well but haven’t focussed on the positive impact except for in the introduction and conclusion. This needs to be in every paragraph for a balanced response to the question.