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Part 6 - Washington D.C.
PURE CINEMA - a look at moments of cinematic technique that epitomise the unique, artistic and poetic quality of film-making.
In this series freelance film-lecturer Derek Wilson writes about magic moments from cinema old, and new.
Among the many delights of the Coen Brothers' dark comedy Burn After Reading (2008) is a structure established by the opening and closing shots which seem to 'book-end' the narrative. The film opens with a shot from space, a satellite view of Planet Earth which zooms quickly through the clouds to a building, CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
We then follow the bizarre shenanigans of the plot to their conclusion in the same CIA building where the events had begun some 94 minutes previously.
As if in reverse the camera then zooms out from Virginia, up through the clouds to the satellite (?) view of Earth in the very first shot. Nothing here has changed but we are left to reflect on that strange and changing world of human beings, their vanities, weaknesses and foibles we have just been allowed to witness. As the plot is to some extent about spying, the shot from space is entirely apt.
The meaning is of course open to interpretation. We may think human beings and their troubles seem insignificant/ irrational from space. We might contrast the beauty of the picture with the insight to the insanity of the planet. Whatever we think, it is the book-ending structure - beginning and ending on the same shot - that encourages us to reflect on our experience of the film.
Burn After Reading Official Site
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