Look, Listen, Analyze – Gladiator: “My name is Maximus”

In this assignment we are to analyze a movie scene in three ways; Without volume, without picture, then as normal. I chose the movie, Gladiator, not only because I LOVE this movie, but also since I remember it having some awesome cinematography and this would be my chance to break one of the scenes down.

The scene I chose is when the main character, Maximus, reveals his name to the emperor..

I first watched the video without sound and observed the following:

Not until you really pay attention to the camera movements (like in this exercise) do you realize how many “cuts” the camera makes. When the volume is off, those cuts become more obvious and sometimes even distracting! Here are some particular areas in the scene that captured my attention based off of the techniques of “how to read a movie” by Roger Ebert.

Foreground is more dominant: This occurs at :04 and :06 very blatantly, but also in a less obvious fashion at 2:03.

Right is more positive: I didn’t notice this technique of Ebert’s much at all in this scene except for the boy running at :27. In fact the the opposite happened several times at 2:59 and 3:05 when the emperors soldiers exited the screen to the left.

Rule of Thirds: You can notice this at :13 and 1:27 specifically as the people in the frame are off-centered.

Brighter areas are dominant: I noticed this at 2:26 with the emperor’s gold headband and again at 3:25 with the women in the crowd wearing white.

I thought one of the coolest angles was at 1:07 which adds substance to the animosity Maximus has towards the emperor.

I then watched the scene with just sound. I noted several things including the usage of an orchestra playing the background almost the entire scene – it set the mood and rose in pitch when to signify compelling points of dialogue. The violins also made the scene very dramatic as this scene is a huge climax in the movie and turning point in the story (the emperor finds out who the “Spaniard” is). I also noted the usage of foley sounds with the crowd and footsteps of those on the coliseum floor. The sound level of the crowd played an intricate part.

When I watched the scene as normal, with sound and picture, it’s almost as though both the sound and picture were enhanced! By that I mean I became more keen and observant, essentially getting more out of it and appreciating the scene more than if watching it for the first time. It was more obvious to me this time how the audio is synced to the picture and how subtle some audio effects are (like the footsteps or light crowd noise in the background) that make the scene come alive.



4 thoughts on “Look, Listen, Analyze – Gladiator: “My name is Maximus”

  1. Such a classic and powerful scene to analyze. The whole method of jump cuts as you saw is hard to learn when you start editing and have all those transitions available,
    Keep in mind when you do yours!

  2. Also it is impressive how much in the last 45 seconds are communicated without dialogue, only camera cuts, music, and the background of cheering. I also noticed there is a light downward camera toward the Emperor indiating he has less power, despite his stature, then the Gladiator.

  3. I agree with your point that one of the coolest angles is at 1:07 or so. I noticed this too when watching it a second or third time; it’s interesting how you see most of the emperor’s body including his face, but very little of the gladiator’s body, but still the latter is dominant. Probably b/c the emperor looks so small in that scene. The gladiator is also on the right in that scene, the emperor on the left. As I watched the clip yet again, I noticed that that was a fairly common arrangement; the emperor was either in the centre or on the left, and the gladiator either in the centre or on the right. Without thinking about Ebert’s principles, I would never have noticed such a thing.

    I agree that thinking through such principles and applying them to video scenes helps one get much more out of them, as does watching without sound, and hearing sound without video, then putting it all together. I agree that by doing that you catch a lot more of what’s going on with the sound (that’s my experience too). Otherwise, the sound seems to be more “background” in the visuals; the visuals take over. But if the sound didn’t work as well as it does, you’d notice!

  4. CogDog thats a good point about the last 45 seconds where there is no dialogue. The sound effects alone keep the viewer attached. One of the best movies to watch with a surround sound system that’s for sure!

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