City of Lost Children, 1995, is a science fiction, fantasy feature film set in a surrealist society where the viewer is transported into a sense of unease. It documents a scientist’s quest to abduct children in order to steal their dreams in the hope that they will slow his ageing process.
The sequence that I have chosen to analyse occurs at the very beginning of the film from 02:40 to 03:00 minutes. The scene is immediately established as shocking, confronting, and peculiar. We see Krank in his laboratory yelling continuously in a horrific tone. This is replicated and repeated by the other members in the room, creating a purposeful tension. Directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro have set the tone here which establishes intrigue for the rest of the film. The uncanny human characteristics are made evident in this scene through the mid close-up, close-up and extreme close-up shots of the character’s faces. They look disturbed and stressed, yet something still doesn’t seem quite right. The character’s frame and direct eye contact makes it seem even more strange.
Contrast is evident in the scenes leading up to Krank screaming in his chair, where the setting is warped and distorted. This may be hinting at what it is like to be in a nightmare and another extreme world. The camera shots have framed the individuals faces in a specific way and sometimes on angles, to ultimately convey a sense of malice. The continuous pan from right to left is effective in revealing the clones reoccurring body, yet slightly different reactions of unrest.
The only sounds that are heard in the twenty second period are the continual diegetic sounds and layers of shouting. The limited sound places the entire focus on that one action. It is a significant stage in the film where main characters are introduced and seem in their ‘element’. The purpose of this scene is intended to make the viewer curious. The colour palette in the laboratory has a green shade, alluding to his ambition and greed throughout the movie as well as giving it a cold and sickening atmosphere.
The City of Lost Children, 1995, feature film, SBS on Demand