Tone and style are two important aspects of film making. Tone in a film the intended feeling that the viewer will experience or be left with after or during the movie. This may range from, excited, anxious, scared, sad, depressing, smart and foolish and so on. Tone is mainly determined by the lighting, exposure of items or light and art direction. Film styles on the other hand are the notable techniques used by the filmmaker to give their films precise adjustments and worth. Style that may be used in a film includes realism, classicism and formalism. Realism style is used for documentary films, classicism or classical style is used in fiction films while formalism style is used in experimental films whereby experience of reality is expressed.
Malcolm X 1992
Malcolm X is a film which was based on the biography of Malcolm Little who was famously known as Malcolm X who was a civil right activist and an American minister who led revolution against racial discrimination of the black community in the United States of America. This happened during the civil rights movement in America. Malcolm spoke largely against slavery in America. In the film Malcolm X, the tone used has varied greatly. At the beginning, a sad tone is portrayed as Malcolm X’s father is killed after their family house is burned down by a certain clan. This leaves his mother totally unable to take care of them. The sad tone is continued to be displayed when he is taken to a foster home since their mother could not manage to cater for their needs. She also developed mental problems due to the stress. He was a bright student faced challenges from racist teachers who greatly discouraged him and in attempt to kill his dreams. His teenage was shaped by social, personal and family forces turning him into an independent thinker. Here, a depressing and sad tone is displayed. He turned to crime and became a small-time gangster. During his crime days, he acquired the name Detroit red and his gang included even white women whom he participated with in the crimes. This leaves the audience excited as it is fascinating to have those who discriminate you still working with you to commit crimes. He was arrested, convicted and jailed. While in prison, he was converted to Muslim and turned away his old ways. This displays hope and anxiousness as to what he would do after prison. He finished his jail term a reformed and converted man. This leaves the audience in a calm and excited tone. He then started preaching in the streets; mainly challenging black people to rise and fend become self-independent. He rose and became a public figure hence portrayed as smart had massive following.
His perceptive changed after his pilgrimage in Mecca where he met Muslims from all over the world and agreed that good people from all races in the world existed. This part makes the audience to be curious about what would happen when he gets back to America. He was later assassinated and this brings a sad mood as he had changed his ideas for the better but did not live to impact them on others. This film has employed the style of formalism which is mainly used in films to display the reality of experience. Political, economic and social factors are highly displayed. Philosophical and religious issues are also widely touched on. The colors used, mainly black and white displays the setting and the actual discrimination against the black people.
4 Little Girls
This film is basically about 4 girls who met their premature death through bombing in church. The audiences in this scenario are left sad and depressed and at the same time angry. In this film, the style of formalism is also used. Just like in Malcolm X, political, social, economic and religious aspects are highly depicted. Massive protests are witnessed as people dress to symbolize the four little girls during the protests. The use of young protestors in the film leaves the audience with empathy and sympathy especially when they are crudely dispersed by the police. This is due to the fact that young innocent girls met their death by bombing and in a church of all places. The deaths of these angels caused a huge outrage which prompted the government to introduce civil rights. The magnitude of the demonstrations displays a tone of bitterness and anger. The film also majored on local racial discrimination in social amenities in the United States such as stores and shops. The discrimination is witnessed when black women are not allowed to go shopping in shopping stores such as Woolworths. The demonstrations were met with aggressive police retaliations on young people who comprised the greater part of the demonstrators. Police dogs, and pressured water on hosepipes were used to disperse crowds and several arrests were made. This creates anger towards the police brutality but sadness and empathy towards the young people. The sleeping nation is awakened to push the fight for equity, equality and justice.
At the funeral of the four girls, Martin Luther King junior assisted in the preparations and also gave a speech encouraging the people. Martin Luther King was one of the greatest activists in America. He had as massive following and his presence is used to gives a ray of hope that the fight for justice was unstoppable. Hope is also portrayed such that although jails were filled and still filling with demonstrators, the outcry did not stop. These crowds were very determined in search for justice and reforms. The film comes to an end when the main man considered to be behind the bombing is arrested and convicted. Here, a happy tone can be noted as finally justice is delivered. However, there is still suspicion that the convict was just one a whole clan that organized the bombing. However, a major challenge could still be witnessed as churches belonging to the blacks were occasionally being set on fire. This showed that progress in the reforms in the reforms was being made but not at a hundred percent.
Throughout this film, the lighting, exposure and art direction clearly depicts the formalism style. Mostly black and white, the sadness of the situation is displayed. A major characteristic of formalism style used in the film is portrayed by the often interruptions by lyrical interludes such as musical numbers or dreamscapes. This style also portrays the personality of the film director. This is a tragic film which may leave some of its audience shocked while others scared. A good number may be motivated by the continuous struggle for reforms as shown in the film.
The two films; Malcolm X and the 4 Little Girls have vividly portrayed the various tone and styles used in film making. Although the two films have used the same style, it has been highly displayed. Both films have display tones and style that highly promote the fight against racial discrimination and social injustice. The tone and styles also define the producer, Spike Lee’s character as a champion against these social injustices.