The Language of Film:

Setting

 

Setting—not merely peripheral but integral to a film. Location establishes the film’s tone, historical and cultural context, and can serve as a backdrop to a character’s psychological state of mind. In The 25th Hour, setting is intricately connected to individual characters, but it also establishes the American cultural “state of mind,” post-9/11.

 

    1. Setting can be literal and symbolic (it may reveal, for example, “where” a character is psychologically or suggest something about a character’s fate).

 

    1. NYC is a recurring setting in many of Lee’s films: consider the importance of location in The 25th Hour: Lee’s film is the first feature to acknowledge the attacks on the World Trade Center, and in the aftermath of 9/11, Lee chose not only to focus on one area of NYC but on how the city as a whole serves as a global city through his juxtapositioning of the financial district to the parks, bridges, and neighborhoods of Lee’s multiethnic characters.

 

    1. Consider the significance and impact of such iconical imagery as long shots taken of the Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty in the opening scene. What effect does this have on viewers?

 

    1. The setting is part of the symbolic structure of the film: consider, for example, two contrasting images: in the opening sequence, the camera shows a pan-down shot of the Tower Light display, recreating, from “bottom-up,” a towering blue-lit image of the Twin Towers. In a scene forthcoming, where Jake and Frank talk in Frank’s highrise apartment about Monty’s fate, Lee, using a pan-up shot, draws in on Frank and Jake’s conversation as their bodies frame the window overlooking ground zero, this time revealing the absence of the Twin Towers from a top-down perspective. What effect, metaphorically speaking, do these contrasting settings—combined with the contrast of camera angles—have in relaying some of the film’s central themes and conflicts?