The Matrix: How to Begin a Movie (video essay)
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The Matrix: How to Begin a Movie (video essay)

August 28, 2019


As a filmmaker a question, I think about a lot is how [do] you begin a movie? There’s the popular quote from Martin scorsese that you’ve probably heard before Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame, and what’s out? basically a filmmaker makes choices in every moment of what to show the [audience] and what not to So what do you show them first with an infinite number of possibilities what first impression? Do you want to make I’m somewhat partial to what I’m going [to] call the mission statement opening? You know the one that’s like a short sequence usually about five minutes long that Grabs the audience’s attention and announces exactly what the movie is going to be so think of trainspotting Jaws Goodfellas or scream each of these opening scenes work as miniature versions of the film’s that follow One of my favorite examples of this type of opening is from the Matrix Written and directed by Lana and Lily [Wachowski] Almost like a James bond movie it begins with a cold open action sequence before the real story starts But unlike a bond movie where the opening is usually just some fun action unrelated to the main story the Matrix is more ambitious it’s common practice for Sci-Fi films that require a lot of world-building [to] begin with some sort of opening monologue or texts to bring us up to speed You’ve seen this in Star Wars blade Runner Dune dark City the road warrior Serenity Oblivion Pacific rim to her and plenty more the Matrix takes the opposite approach Instead of explaining its mythology and history to us up front it treats them as a mystery that slowly revealed in the film’s first half The opening scene unfolds like a puzzle revealing new elements and clues and preparing us for what’s to come for most of us It’s hard to imagine a [time] [when] we weren’t intimately familiar with Every aspect of the Matrix but try to forget what you [know] and look at this sequence with fresh eyes I want to take a close look at what makes this such an effective opening the first voices we hear are two unnamed people speaking cryptically like watching mentioning someone who might be the one that they’re watching him and are going to kill him then as the camera moves through a bunch of computer code into a Tangible world the first thing we actually see is this guy a police officer and the first real character We meet is the lieutenant who makes the goofy [juris] my diction joke you give me that juris my diction crap He’s an archetypal older police officer experienced kind of casually sexist I think we’re Gonna Handle one little girl But compared to the weird super serious agents who wear sunglasses in the middle of the night? We like him by 1999 Decades of movies and TV had taught us that cops were generally the good guys so even if we don’t know what’s happening [we] assume we’re on their side the cops are all here to arrest this weirdly dressed Pale woman who we can infer was probably one of the people on [that] phone call And the way the first few minutes are coded all signs point to her being a bad guy Especially when we hear this line, [oh] lieutenant your men are already dead So wait this woman is about to murder a bunch of cops just doing their jobs Yep and Yet right away. We start rooting for her not because of anything she does But because of a really simple thing we see her face While the cops are shown mostly in darkness and in quick shots trinity gets a big well-lit [close-up] and because of how were wired Looking at her face and into her eyes Pretty eyes we can’t help but empathize with her also. [it] has to be said [that] even if she’s murdering cops This is cool as hell But the most interesting thing about this opening is the way it employs different styles and genres the whole scene exists in the visual landscape of classic noir Subconsciously setting us up for the murky morality of the scene instead of the cops being the protagonists It’s trinity the one who murders them all in cold blood while many of the movies major Inspirations are present here like the hong kong action films of [John] woo with Superhero comics and anime most of the visual References Lean in a very specific direction there’s the general visual style of late 1940s noir films particularly those with a heavy influence of German expressionism [with] the chiaroscuro lighting Straight vertical Lines and Exaggerated shadows this split diopter shot is straight out of a brian de palma film and of course this part is a direct riff on Hitchcock’s Vertigo Even with it’s crazy visual effects and [Trinity’s] shiny leather rave club outfit this whole scene is taking place within the world of a dark Psychological thriller we don’t realize it because we’re caught up in the action, but the movie is priming us for the mystery That’s going to drive the first act of the story the look of the agents does this as well [they’re] clearly modeled on the classic men and black archetype We associate these types of guys with Shadowy government agency is covering up Alien arrivals So their presence adds overtones of conspiracies and Paranoia as well as hinting at the Sci-Fi elements that will arrive later like Star Wars 20 years earlier we see styles and tropes we recognize but reconfigured and combined in a way to create something brand new on a Narrative level of this scene tells a self-contained story. We meet trinity. She’s chaste She escapes But as we watch a growing list of questions forms in our mind were these people watching and planning to kill who is trinity? Why are they trying to arrest her how does she have superpowers who is morpheus who are these agents? How do they have superpowers how did she escape in the phone booth? [oh], and uh what is the Matrix anyway? So by the end of the scene at [six] minutes and [thirty] seconds into the movie we have pretty much no idea What’s actually going on but we’re hooked and we’ve got a whole [bunch] of questions [we] want answers to immediately after the seen the movie introduces us to neo our point of view character And now we’re more invested in his story because he’s actively trying to find answers to the exact same questions that we have The great trick of this scene is that without telling the audience anything concrete about the story it announces Exactly what the movie is going to be like it gives a taste of the style and tone and the insane action Raises questions that will all be answered and shows us something that at that point We’d never seen before if the point of an opening scene is to get the audience’s attention Then I think this is [a] success at the end of the scene the agents Have a few lines that set up what’s going to happen next and then we dive into this cool trends That I already made a video about so I’m just going to end this here Hey guys, thank you for watching as you can see due to huge demand [I] made the second Matrix video Si [I] could honestly talk about this movie forever Usually there’s just one video SI per month But for this month or so due to some scheduling stuff and me being out of town a bunch to leave a bit more nonfiction Content than usual, and then this summer expect way more action-Packed narrative shorts including Finally the winning entry for the 50,000 subscriber contest which seems like an eternity ago, because [we’re] at 80,000 now so anyway If you’re digging these videos and you want to support us so we can keep on [making] them bigger and cooler than ever is check Out the patreon if you want to get updates on what we’re working on and yell mean things me on the internet Please don’t I check out the social media links. I’m gonna go to sleep now, and I’ll see you next Wednesday

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  1. The matrix is one of those.movies that always pulls you in instantly and doesnt let.you go no matter.how many.times you see it….and here we are still talking about the mystery and epicness of The Matrix!!!!!

  2. Sexist. Because men are on average much stronger than woman and there is only one of her and many of them. Obviously, this man needs to go back to the reeducation camps. Ugh. /s

  3. The the brothers, now sisters did not write the matrix…
    Sophia Stewart
    Sophia Stewart
    Sophia Stewart
    Sophia Stewart
    Sophia Stewart
    Look her up!

  4. i disagree, part of the shock of Neo's revelation when he chooses the red pill is that he finds his reality is an illusion. But at the beginning we see Trinity defy the laws of his world. This reduces the impact to the viewer that neo's world is an illusion. He wakes to find he's in a big machine, but so what, he's just left a world where women fly and then disappear.

  5. Yes, exactly. A movie must begin by asking questions and making you care about a character. Seems like it should be easy, but so many miss

  6. To

    IM GETTING RECENTLY DATA AND WEIRD STUFF FROM THE TC AND LIGHT LIKE COLOR PATERN OF TRINGLE AND LINE X Y Z 'I FILL THAT SOMEONE TRING TO DELEIVE ME MESSEGE ALOT OF CLUE ; LIKE IN THE CLOCK 12:12 : 11:11 01 01 AND WHEN I SEE TC I FELL THAT THAY TTO ME ABOUT FUTERE TIME AND REALITY' SORRY ABOUT MY ENGLISH. MY NAME IS ADAM .
    Results for "IM GETTING RECENTLY DATA AND WEIRD STUFF FROM THE TC AND LIGHT LIKE COLOR PATERN OF TRINGLE AND LINE X Y Z 'I FILL THAT SOMEONE TRING TO DELEIVE ME MESSEGE ALOT OF CLUE ; LIKE IN THE CLOCK 12:12 : 11:11 01 01 AND WHEN I SEE TC I FELL THAT THAY TTO ME ABOUT FUTERE TIME AND REALITY' SORRY ABOUT MY ENGLISH. MY NAME IS ADAM ."

  7. Matrix movie opening building jumping scene of trinity is the beat realistic cgi i ever scene till date. Its the films that prompted my interest in computer science and what real ai can can do in future

  8. Even the discussion between Cypher and Trinity shows the betrayal of Cypher.
    A click sound happens in the middle of their conversation.
    "Did you hear that?" Trinity says
    "Hear what?" Cypher states

  9. i will seriously never forget the first time i saw this opening scene, nor this movie. i was glad to see you had a video on it because i've ALWAYS loved this opening and thought it was brilliant. thanks for giving voice to all the reasons why it's brilliant

  10. Lots of great analysis! I have to say, though, that I think I was rooting for Trinity at the beginning not because I saw her face, but rather because the cops were working on the same side as the Agents, who were obviously sinister. I suppose it's hard to say without going to an alternate reality where I haven't seen the movie and they didn't give her a big close-up, but I didn't feel like I was on the cop's side, even before you see the back of Trinity's head for the first time.

  11. I still remember what I felt right after Trinity disappeared in the phone booth the first time I saw it back in 1999. I get the superpowers stuff but I couldn’t stop asking why she had to take this phone call even if she knew she will be smashed by the truck. I was so confused after that intro.

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