Use of sounds
Short Film Clown Train showcased its original maker’s good mastery of sounds, especially how to use basic sound elements to generate tension without using sound track.
Following sounds can be heard in this short film: shaking train carriage, train wheels friction, train brake, air conditioner/ exhaust fan operating, running train, electric spark, knocking sound, high and sharp zing sound.
The film starts with black screen and sounds of train wheel’s friction against railway, it creates a feeling of unpleasant, and disorder. Then the sounds stopped with the opening scene: a young man woke up in a train.
Then audiences can hear the sound of an operating exhaust fan while shots were given to the young man. In my personal opinion, though the sound of exhaust fan is not easy to identify in the presence, it plays an important role in creating a “tension within silence” atmosphere. It is a type of hidden anxiety.
A sound of electric spark comes into audiences’ ears when the young man notices there is also a joker inside the train. Its sudden appearance emphasizes the young man suddenly noticing of the joker.
With the young man starts talking with the joker, sound of electric sparks appears more and more frequent as their conversation gradually becoming awkward, and when the young man realizes this, a wave of knocking sound appears, which indicates that he also discovers how strange the situation is.
Then the high and sharp zing sound occurs, when the young man finds himself is lost on the train, and the joker is some kind of mysterious threat to him.
Most of these sounds are environmental sounds. Some of them are used between different shots, and they links different shots to each other naturally. Other sounds, like two characters talking and moving, function naturally.
I found similar scene in Matrix (1999), when Neo first meets Morpheus and takes the pill. When Neo enters Morpheus’ room, all background music stops as a sound of thunder strikes, at the same time, Morpheus is given a close up shot. In my personal opinion, the sound of thunder helps to emphasize Morpheus’s significance in the film: he is the thunder who tells the truth to Neo, a thunder who wakes Neo up from Matrix’s illusions. During Neo and Morpheus’ conversation audiences can only hear small sounds of thunder, and no other sounds plays as room tune. When Neo is about to take the pill, the sound of thunder becomes louder again. All these use of sound emphasizes the tension and Neo’s anxiety.
Deconstruction visual aspects
Lighting and color:
Generally the light inside the train is sufficient but cold. I suppose the director did this intentionally in order to create a mysterious atmosphere. Lighting outside of the train is dark enough. When the young man steps out of the carriage, audiences can only identify his figures yet not details of his appearance. In my personal opinion, such contrast helps to create a feeling of isolation, or dungeon/ secret chamber style environment, which makes people want to excape.
While about the shots, obviously lots of reverse shots are used. The inner reverse shots are used to catch two characters’ individual emotion and actions, and outer reverse shots are used when they are having conversation in order to record their reactions on each other’s words.
Two characters have fixed position in frames. The young man is in the left, lower side of the frame, talking and looking to the clown that is in the right, higher side of the frame. This helps audiences to avoid confusion when camera angles are changed.
Also, the clown always looks bigger than the young man in the frames, even when shots are made from the back of young man, who is closer to the lens. In my personal opinion, this is due to director wants to express that clown is the more powerful character in this film, and the clown is always the more positive one in the conversation.