Visual Analysis of 28 Weeks Later - ‘Don kills Alice’ scene
It is my intent to discuss and analysis in detail a scene from 28 Weeks Later by director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo via Fox Atomic pictures. This film is a sequel to 28 Days later: both films are representations of a dystopic future where ‘zombies’ or in this case ‘rage victims’ become the out of control mass. In the case of these two films the location has been in London, and particularly for the sequel, Canary Wharf (Isle of Dogs). The films are post modern sci-fi horror, taking yet another approach to zombie overthrow, where the chosen infection tool this time is of course the rage virus. Leading on from the end of the first film, 28 Days Later the plot continues, the virus has been contained to the UK, therefore America had ‘taken’ control, we are led
to assume, installing a military controlled ideology obviously for the benefit of us poor British victims.
Fresnadillo, J (2007) 28 Weeks Later, Fox Atomic, 20th Century Fox, DVD 00:43:25 The scene that I am focusing on is one, where Don (Robert Carlyle) the main protagonist, meets up with his wife, Alice (Catherine McCormick), then becomes infected, and then kills her. I have chosen this film and scene as I have a particular liking of post modern horror and this scene presents to me, in a short time, a highly emotional and horrific situation; a man brutally and savagely killing his wife after moments before they declare their love for each other “again”. I also feel that it has representation of power and the male gaze, and references to ideologies, in particular hegemony, exhibited in this film by America’s dominance over the British.
After, the ‘rage’ epidemic has died out; the remaining British survivors have been escorted by NATO/US Military Forces to the secured “District 1 - Safe Zone” on the Isle of Dogs. The only area of the country free of “the virus infected”, while the rest of the country is still unsafe and full of dead
remains of the starved ‘infected’. Potentially making the “Safe Zone” a kind of prison or reversed “concentration camp” where instead those who are wanted are placed inside for their own safety, while those who aren’t wanted or are infected are left outside to starve, rot and be burnt, like some mass genocide/holocaust. The entirety of Britain has also become a mass prison in itself, closed off from the entire world with all civilian air and sea traffic to and from it stopped, in order to contain the virus.
In linking ideology to the situation through which people are bitten, rage infection is passed on, the speed is too fast to control, the population quickly changes power; only a few are uninfected but they are also the new ideologists because they are the ones who are ‘aware’ and morally reasoning. Those that are uninfected are the ones in power, therefore the setters of the new ideals - but within this, we see and understand that the uninfected can themselves be split into defined groups - specifically the American military who seem to be running the show, therefore one could assume further that indeed the Americans are the setters of the new ideologies. Chaos and dystopia - beginning to reform
Film scene In which Alice (Catherine McCormick), after being found by her own children in their abandoned family home, is brought to the safety zone. She is seen to have been bitten but unusually not showing visible signs of infection. We later learn that she is infected but only acts as a carrier of the virus, and therefore placed, in quarantine, strapped down to the bed. Don (Robert Carlyle), the caretaker of the complex and her husband, learns of her discovery, and that she is being held in a distant and safe
corner of the complex, guarded and away from the uninfected populace. As a caretaker he has access all areas, and therefore goes off to find his wife.
The viewer must remember the last time Don saw Alice, was when they were being attacked by the infected, and he ran away, from his own wife, and turning in time to see her at the window, banging on the glass as she is grabbed and pulled away. So we can imagine that as a man, as a husband and as a father he has a lot of personal guilt and negative feeling, it is not a manly thing to do to run from trouble as that same trouble kills his wife. However that is just one persons viewpoint. Don would feel guilty about running away, but from the window that his wife was at, she might have seen him being chased by hoards of the infected.
When they meet again, we are led to understand that it is highly emotional. The music score defines this further, what sounds like a soft orchestrated string composition that increases its timbre as the scene intensifies.
Alice has undergone tests and ruthless cleansing procedures by people in full protective clothing and masks, stripped naked, and scrubbed with brushes and chemicals; she has been managed and treated like an infected piece of meat, depersonalised stripped of pride and dignity and now finally locked in a medical room, wearing nothing but a surgery gown. Sheâ€™s strapped to a gurney. We know this
to be important, as the tests undertaken by the Americans revealed that she is infected but only a carrier. This really sets the scene up for the viewer. Alice is vulnerable and scared; unaware that not only her husband but also her children are within the facility she herself is unaware of her own infection because if she were, then surely she would tell her husband before he kisses her.
On finding his wife, Don having an access all areas key, is able to unlock and enter into the medical room where his wife is being ‘held’, and therefore completing the set for the scene. She sees him, the scene is emotional, husband and wife meeting up, both believing that the other was already dead. We the viewer know all the time what is about to happen, this information has already been imparted. However this still adds to the tension of the scene. The couple are emotional, tearful even happy to see each other again. Don doesn’t think to remove the restraining straps; the first emotive act that any couple in this situation would take would be to kiss each other.
Unaware that she can still pass the virus to him, Don proceeds to go to his wife and then kiss her, and of course inadvertently and quite immediately becoming an enraged ‘infected’, while unusually in what seems to be a homage to the ‘Big Daddy’ character of ‘Land of the Living Dead’ (Romero 2005) still having memory and guilt of the last time he saw her. We then see Don go through the ‘metamorphic’ change. This bit of film lasts only moments for the viewer and really has
the appearance of a well directed shot, but from an interview with Robert Carlyle, we learn otherwise, “Robert Carlyle: That sequence was probably four or five hours to do. And I had a headache for two days afterwards from smashing my head. There’s no direction, it’s do what you want. All it says in the script is, Don transforms. ...all those things, those moments, were built up over four or five hours.” (indielondon.co.uk/Film-Review/28-weeks-later-robert-carlyle-interview). We learn from this really that the director is basically reliant upon the acting skills of Robert Carlyle. Don completes his transformation, becoming enraged, smashing his head into the unbreakable glass observation window, we see his close up now, eyes face and whole persona now a rage virus victim.
Alice observes, and struggles against her bonds, she becomes scared, and aware of what now has happened to her husband, and shouts out “Don” in a scream that is also an exclamation but all this does it draw the attention to her. So, making her the focus of his now uncontrollable ‘rage’ as he violent kills her by finally gauging her eyes out, as if to remove the shame he feels when Alice looks at him, by removing that ability, as we find out from an
FAQ session, which confirms that, “...the reason Don gouges out Alice's eyes is because he feels so much shame and guilt for abandoning her that he wants to take away her ability to look at him, hence metaphorically removing the shame she projects onto him.” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463854/faq#.2.1.5)
This film was directed by Spanish film director & producer, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. His main context is Spanish based short films mostly shot in Black & White. Many made for both Spanish & English speaking market. This relates to this product as this film has also been translated for the Spanish market. Also, knowing that many Spanish/European & UK film makers tend to bring gritty, realistic feel into their films, this is clearly comes across in 28 Weeks Later, with its gritty, choppy shot composition and shaky over the shoulder/first person shots, commonly criticised by the US viewers as cheap and amateurish. On this, the film in actual fact was filmed on location in London; and for this scene in particular, the Isle of Dogs. The film was distributed worldwide in cinemas by 20th Century Fox over 7 months from 26th April 2007 – 24th October 2007, although for a movie filmed and set in Britain, it was not released for the general “UK” audience until 11th May 2007.
Visually, the scene was made inside quite a small set, a medical room. This is poignant to the situation, because if Don had been in a more exposed environment when he became infected, then he might not have killed his wife. Technically the shots used were a close up shots, two shots, P.O.V for both characters view and wide shots. When we see Don attacking Alice, we the audience naturally presume that it is Alice still, even though we don’t see her face, when she is heard screaming. In actual
fact though, it is again revealed in the interview with Robert Carlyle that it was a lifelike dummy made to look exactly like her. “....the dummy was so like Catherine [McCormack]. It was like she was lying there” (indielondon.co.uk/Film-Review/28-weeks-later-robert-carlyle-interview). During this same scene, the shots of Don killing Alice; as mentioned above, may have appeared to last only for few moments, but in reality, as confirmed by Robert Carlyle, “all those things, those moments, were built up over four or five hours.” (indielondon.co.uk/Film-Review/28-weeks-later-robert-carlyle-interview). The sounds used in this are dramatic music, dialogue and sound effects. The music is an ironic melody using orchestrated strings, starts of softly, building up to a crescendo as man’s rage kills wife. Yet, the melody stays the same throughout. This, music appropriately fits the reunion of man and wife. It’s sad music indicating an unhappy reunion. Within the script/film we see and hear a rather fitting dialogue between Doctor Scarlet and General Stone in a cutaway scene during the Don & Alice scene, “Scarlet (US Army Doctor)
- we need to run tests”
- run tests on a corpse”
.... Is his ironic reply as the woman is literally about to become one; linking well with the music and setting up for the violent climax. There are then, the sounds of Don (Robert Carlyle) going into a rage which were recorded while filming and foley may have been used for biting and tearing of skin. Also, the fact that they used a dummy when Don was gauging out Alice eyes, would suggest that they added her final scream in after filming.
While watching this scene, I was really shocked and disturbed by shots of Don gauging out is wife’s eyes. It made me have to cringe and look away in shock, even
though I know something shocking was coming, just not when! I felt that this proves to me the film works well as a horror, as the point of horror is to shock and scare the viewers at any moment after building up the anticipation. In reference to this, a critic for www.chud.com wrote in a review, â€œIt is so brutal and relentless that I found myself cringing and felt my stomach knot up. That, to me, means a horror scene workâ€?, (http://www.chud.com/articles/articles/12120/1/DVD-REVIEW-28-WEEKSLATER/Page1.html), which reflects my own thoughts and feelings I had during and after watching this climatic end to this kill scene.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Film: Fresnadillo, J (2007) 28 Weeks Later, Fox Atomic, 20th Century Fox, DVD Websites: Synopsis for 28 Weeks Later, Internet Movie Database: IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463854/synopsis (accessed 25.11.09) FAQ for 28 Weeks Later, Internet Movie Database, IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463854/faq#.2.1.5 (accessed 25.11.09) Details/biography for Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Carlos_Fresnadillo (accessed 03.12.09) Reviews for 28 Weeks Later, Is it the zombies or the satire which bites deeper, Dooyoo, http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/movie-dvd/28-weeks-later-dvd/1382693/ (accessed 09.12.09) Lealos, S (2007) DVD Review for 28 Weeks Later, Cinematic Happenings under Development, CHUD, http://www.chud.com/articles/articles/12120/1/DVDREVIEW-28-WEEKS-LATER/Page1.html (accessed 09.12.09) 28 Weeks Later - Robert Carlyle interview, IndieLondon, http://www.indielondon.co.uk/Film-Review/28-weeks-later-robert-carlyle-interview (accessed 11.12.09)
Carr, K (2007), An Interview with Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, director of "28 Weeks Later", 7M Pictures, Columbus, OH: http://www.7mpictures.com/inside/juancarlos_feature.htm (accessed 11.12.09) Release dates for 28 Weeks Later, Internet Movie Database, IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463854/releaseinfo (accessed 11.12.09) 28 Weeks Later - Company Credits, Internet Movie Database, IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463854/companycredits (14.12.09) Full cast and crew for 28 Weeks Later, Internet Movie Database, IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463854/fullcredits#cast (14.12.09) Airshots - Aerial Photography, Ipswich: http://www.airshots.co.uk/Gallery1/Gallery.html (03.02.10)