A Scene Deconstructed – Good Will Hunting

In the park scene I chose from Good Will Hunting, there is not really any difficult camera tricks yet it is shot successful and really beautifully done. This is an intimate scene with a dialogue from Robin Williams’ character to Matt Damon’s character. Initially, when I watched this scene, I wondered why all of the focus is on Williams and not showing both characters like you typically see in film. As you watch and listen Damon does slowly come into the frame and both characters are present. I wondered why there there was not much of Damon in the scene or a shot of him listening throughout until I started to deconstruct it. Now rewatching the scene I think that having cuts back and forth between the characters would have distracted from the words being said.

In the scene, the framing is consistent and the focus being on one character allows for less distraction. One way that Gus Van Sant, the director, added more to the shot was by doing a really slow track of the camera from one side of Williams to the other eventually bringing Damon into the frame sitting next to him on the bench. (see images below) You can see the elements in the background move ever so slowly from the left of frame to the right and eventually over 2.5min ending in a shot that includes both Williams and Damon.

This is a subtle movement but adds emphasis and interest in what Williams is saying. Had they made the choice to cut back and forth between the talking and listening like you see in a lot of scenes with dialogue some of the meaning would have been lost. Having the frame as a close up enhances the intimacy between the characters and what they are saying but also keeps sense of place in the background. Having a short depth of field allows for some movement in the background without being distracting as the scene was established in a busy park. Again this element adds to the intimacy of the shot and what is being said.

Another smart choice that was made in this scene was the soundtrack. In the establishing shot of the park you can hear faint people chattering, kids playing, and birds chirping. Shortly after the shot cuts into a close up of their conversation the ambient sounds are taken out. All but Williams and Damon’s voices along with an occasional bird chirping, there are no other sounds in the scene during the dialogue. This decision pulls all the focus into the words leaving no doubt that it is an important aspect to the scene. Once the shot switches back to Damon listening and Williams finishes what he is saying, a faint music soundtrack is added to the scene. This builds finishing in a similar shot to how the scene starts in a wide view of the park, although this time with music too.

At first I thought this scene was going to be to simple and easy to use but after analyzing why I think the decisions were made it became a lot more interesting. I would have probably approached this scene in a different way initially, but now after deconstructing it I will keep this in mind for future projects that I may make when there is important dialogue between a couple characters.


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