Mr. Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” filmed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania uses comic books as a staring point and he aims to investigate the aspects of heroism. The opening sequence of “Unbreakable” prepares us for the ending of the film, which is mainly done by aligning us with Elijah’s character. The film starts off in silence unlike most other films. This grabs the audience’s attention and gets us in the mood preparing us for the upcoming events. During this few seconds of silence, Aston appears on the screen in reverse block (this makes it stand out). This mentions about Comic books and gives us data and statistics.
To a person who was expecting to see the film stars immediately, this will be confusing. The director, Shyamalan has done this by purpose to create defamiliarisation and enigma. This will further gather the attention of the audience who are waiting to clear the ambiguity. Thereafter the frame (with Astons) on dissolves onto the next frame, where people are first shown. Imperceptibly the audience at this point will be conscious about the colour scheme, which consists of sepia colours. The application of these colours gives the audience the impression that it is set in the past.
Under the weight of this impression, Aston appears again – “Philadelphia Department Store / 1961” – this further confirms the above statement. These sepia colours being warm, sets out an emotional atmosphere in the “department store”. The temptations presented up to this moment gives no clues to the viewer as to what will follow on since he is still placed staring far end of uncertainty. The first sound we hear after all is diagetic (a baby crying; Elijah). This sound cultivates distress in the viewer and contributes to defamiliarisation, which makes us feel uncomfortable. What is special about the first frame we see?
It seems to be a framed view (the curtains makes the frame), which relates itself to comic books. However, the most confusing aspect of this scene is the use of mirrors, which totally leaves the viewer with unaided discomfiture. This is one of the major areas where defamiliarisation is created. Thereafter, when we see people rushing and disappearing from unexpected places, we feel very helpless. And, next we see the baby whose voice we have heard. However, the next uncommon thing we see is the baby’s mother; she being black will not be something that the audience would expect.
Up to this point, all of the things, which have had being happening, have made the audience’s mind into a jigsaw puzzle; this will definitely revive their utmost concentration to clarify what has had happened. The fact that we see Elijah’s birth aligns us with him; the atmosphere created when he is crying reflects this aspect. It creates an unexpected disturbance. The use of warm colours, confused characters and in-between silence further confirms this. The wrinkles in Elijah’s mother shows her love towards the baby and it makes us feel sympathy towards both of them.
Her eyes, which are filled with tears, pour off with love and caring. We first see the doctor in mid-shot but… with only a slight movement of the camera downwards, we get a close-up-shot of Elijah’s mother; which make us seem apprehensive. These mirrors have resulted in shot to shot views without much camera movement. The doctor is shown at a low camera angle, makes him seem big and important from the mother’s point of view. The use of mirrors gets the audience thinking. At this point the mirrors gives rise to an immediate link to the rest of the film.
Mirror being symbolic of – deceiving our vision – shows the viewer that what we see is actually not the reality. When at last the audience reveals the evil in Elijah, the importance of the use of mirrors is understood. The fact that Elijah being referred to as “Mr. Glass” (because he has broken his bones) by his friends links the idea of mirrors to its symbolism. However, up to the last minute, the viewer aligns himself with Elijah. The fact that he is disabled, black and the sight of his birth restrain the viewer from making the correct judgment about him.
As a result, there seems to be a twist at the end; when things that were not expected happen. With the continuous crying of this baby the frame dissolves again and Aston dominates on the screen (mainly saying about the production). Gradually we hear a score soundtrack (non-diagetic) featuring crescendo and it eventually it seems to sound like a train. Towards the end of this music, the protagonist appears for the first time where he is leaning his head onto a glass in a train (reference to glass made again). This music in this incident connects the scene about the baby to the scene in the train.
Meanwhile we hear a diagetic sound of an announcement relating to trains. However, when the protagonist first appears he seems to be frustrated and thinking unlike most other films where they are shown full of energy. This prepares us to the end in some sort, because the movie ends when David Dunn is in a bad mood. The fact that we see only part of him reflects our partial understanding about the characters throughout the film towards the end. This means, it links the opening scene to the twist in the end because we were given a clue implying that we are not fully aware of his abilities.
The view we get of him is through the point of view of a child who is having her face upside down. This is a second clue implying our blinded view towards specific characters. Furthermore, the idea of distorted views run throughout the film: when David’s son is watching the television and when Elijah as a kids is referring to the comic book which he received as a present. In both of these situations there is a sort of misery adopted within each of them. If we consider David’s son watching the television, he is watching a real television show, which even we are familiar with.
Shyamalan has done this by purpose to make us consider whether reality applies to heroes as well. However, breaking news show off on the screen cutting the cartoons down. And, what we see through the news is the train crash. The fact that David’s son was watching it upside down reflects how the people see this accident. This links it to the end where we actually find out who has done it: Elijah. Secondly, when Elijah as a kid unwraps the present he got, the camera rotates creating defamiliarisation and confusing the viewer to the utmost extent. This also has some kind of link to the ending, where the scene ceases in a comic exhibition.
The view we get of the protagonist inside the train is through a panning hand held camera, which makes it seem real and like a home made video. Contrasting to the first scene where we saw the application of warm colours dominating, these sets of frame use cold colours to show the protagonist. Where the speed of the camera is concerned; it is very much lower, which makes it look very real. In many places, there seems to be a splash of colours following the convictions of comic books. This relates to the end as well, since comics are one of the main themes as well and because of the fact that this ends in a comic exhibition.
The first use of the splash of colours is seen in the girl’s cloth who has been scrutinizing David for a moment. Even in this scene the protagonist is seen encapsulated within a frame, which as said above, creates a link with the comic books. Another example where it shoes off hugely is when the lady who comes to sit next to David is shown. When David begins the conversation with this lady, the camera glides between two of them, focusing on each person in between the seats for a wide screen emphasis of their ambiguity. This build up stress of some sort as it does as the end.
The slow rotating camera techniques add more to this impression. When the scene is the train is about to over (and when the train is crashing) David is emphasized in a contrasting way to the way done before. He appears to show off in a white background and there seems to be a spiritual power in it. This being the main reason for his powerfulness is very much connected to the twist at the end. It is only in the end, he actually understands his powers. Next we are taken to a hospital where we find him seated on a bed with full of life.
At the same time we see a dying dead body in front contrasting to how David was. This is an early indication to his powers, which shows his survival (since he is the sole survivor of this accident). Even this being an emotional situation, there is a splash of colours in David’s t-shirt and again he appears enclosed inside a frame, which relates itself to comics. If we think about the ending, where Elijah’s mother explains to David about how a hero in comic books look like, David’s appearance in the hospital corresponds to her description.
In the end of the film, warm colours are used when the protagonist is shown. This shows how we have become close to him after all this has had happened. At this situation we have finally aligned ourselves with David and Elijah is in the opposition, which means what we thought of was completely twisted around as was represented by the use of mirrors. So, most of the things we see in the opening sequence are an early indication to what comes up and it prepares the audience. However this will not be understood by most of them unless they are sophisticated media analysers.