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Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

Emotional Expectations Love • Sex • Death • Passion • Fear • Obsession Love • Sex • Death • Passion • Fear • Obsession Love • Sex • Death • Passion • Fear • Obsession

The trailer’s effective promotional rhetoric persuades the audience with emotional expectations as to the dramatic roller coaster they will experience if they choose to view the entire film. The Virgin Suicides was written by Jeffrey Eugenides and released as a novel in 1993, then in 1999 adapted to film by director Sofia Coppola. The film was released in 18 theatres domestically on April 21, 2000 and produced $235,122 on opening weekend. The film was released on both video and dvd on December 19, 2000 and has generated $10,409,377 worldwide; 52.9% of which was from the foreign market, (IMDB; 2007).

Consumption behavior of spectators is a direct result of the cultural claims that the audience depicts within the trailers context during reception. Extratextual discourses including movie posters, magazine publications, press reviews or television reviews, are also effective promotional modes that serve to promote the attraction quality associated within a feature film. Lisa Kernan reiterates the importance of these promotional outlets in stating, “industrial, institutional, and cultural influences shape both audiances’ interpretations of films and the ideological underpinnings of trailer production practices,” (Kernan; 2004; p.3).

Aside from the film trailer being released on international television, the film was also publicized and promoted through a variety of media distributors. International press


Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

reviews were written on the film including Box Office Magazine, The New York Times, Cine-Vértigo a Spanish review written by Ernesto Diezmartinez, ActuCritique a French review, Moovienet Review a German magazine, Zeta Filmes a Brazilian review, and several other global press reviews, (Paramount Vantage; 2006). The film was promoted through multiple outlets; however, the international poster distribution varied in visual presentation in order to appeal to certain cultural audiences. There are two posters that were distributed across the Spanish cultural communities, one focusing on only Kirstin Dunst and the other a close up of Josh Hartnett smoking a blunt. The Asian promotional poster doesn’t focus on just one particular star, but rather reveals a stereotypical American family of five, young and blonde Lisbon sisters. The Asian community is known for being psychologically a group-oriented community rather than an individual based society; therefore, the group image is the best promotional visual for popular reception from the Asian interpretive community. The Italian poster also displays all five sisters but they’re not smiling or looking at the camera, the mood is much more dramatic. In comparison, both Italian and American promotional posters recognize all four stars: James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, and Josh Hartnett, yet not Danny DeVitto who was recognized within the trailer. Cultural societies receive visual images differently and therefore, the delivery must be appropriate in order to effectively persuade a variety of discourse communities into watching the entire film, (Kernan; 2004; p. 13-16). Lisa Kernan addresses the importance of discourse and interpretive communities in stating, Different markets are made visible in trailers by textual evidence of “targeting,” or appeals to specific genders, age groups, cultures, or other categories


Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

of subjectivity within a trailer’s overall mission to expand, the demographics of the audience, (Kernan; 1994; p.15). The audience is directly addressed within the trailer through the utilization of promotional rhetoric. Through narration in either title slide or voiceover context the audience can become emotionally engaged in the dramatic content of the film. The rhetorical structure that the trailer employs enhances the viewers’ emotional engagement through the use of additional sound effects and music. The music and sound effects gradually rise in tempo and build to an emotional climax that leaves the viewers excited and engaged with particular expectations of emotional arousal, (Kernan; 1994; p.11-13). Ultimately, the emotional enhancement persuades the audience because they experience a temporary suspension of disbelief in which they invest in the characters and their fates. Kernan states, “The montage structure of trailers is key to their production of meaning, and transitions other than straightforward cuts are generally utilized to participate in a trailer’s “hype,” (Kernan; 1994; p.13). Finally, since this film was distributed worldwide, the trailer aims to promote the film across a variety of interpretive communities and demographics. By the trailer clearly recognizing the five culturally identifiable stars, the film arouses an interest in multiple audiences that those specific stars attract, (Kernan; 1994; p.80-81). Narration acts as a medium of communication for the audience to understand the emotional message of the entire film within its condensed form. The story of the Virgin Suicides emerged in the form of a novel written by Jeffrey Eugenides. The story was then adapted to the screen and delivered through the eyes of director Sofia Coppola in the


Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

form of a film. The story was then even further condensed into a trailer and reduced to its most narrative and basic form, (IMDB; 2007). The narration within the trailer can be analyzed within the three distinct sections of the trailer. The trailer is composed of title slide and voiceover narration styles. The first section of the trailer clearly utilizes the title slide as a mode of communicating the emotional message of the film. Inserted between visual clips from the movie, the slide narration cumulatively delivers this emotional message within the first section: “There are times when MYSTERY and BEAUTY, find you, touch you, haunt you. Moments you never forget. Questions you never answer.” The title slide narration directly addresses the viewer in the second person by using the word you. This style of narration immediately engages the audience to emotionally recall those moments that they’ve never forgot within their own lives. Giovanni Ribisi does the narration in the second section in the form of a voiceover, he states: So much has been said about the girls over the years…but we have never found an answer. Even then, as teenagers, we tried to put the pieces together…we still can’t,”(IMDB;2007). The voiceover switches to a subjective perspective, a narration that is consistent throughout the film, a perspective of one of the boys who adores the Lisbon girls within the story. The third section of the trailer includes a combination of both narrative techniques. However, what I would like to emphasize within this section is the sequence of title slides that flash the words: LOVE, SEX, DEATH, PASSION, FEAR, and OBSESSION in between visual clips. This sequence of words is shown to the audience three times during the end of the trailer. The rapid repetition of these words is


Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

emphasizing those emotions to the audience, and causing the viewers to generate specific expectations for the film as a result. The audience will be expecting love, sex, death, passion, fear, and obsession to be embedded within the story if they are persuaded to view the entire film, (Kernan; 2004; p.5-7). Aside from the audio element of voiceover narration, the trailer effectively incorporates both music and additional sound effects to enhance the emotional engagement of the viewer as an attempt to persuade them into viewing the entire film. Aside from streaming graphics, “narration is punchy and there is an increased reliance on sound effects and music to heighten the sensory assault of the images,� (Kernan; 2004; p.164). Through a stylistic analysis of the film I was able to detect a progression in both music and additional sound effects as the trailer evolved, ending with an emotional climax. The increase in both music tempo and incorporation of sound effects creates a dramatic emphasis as the audio interacts with the visual images portrayed. This audio increase in excitement and emotional arousal acts as a method of persuasion.

In the first section of the trailer there is a slow paced theme song lasting approximately the first minute and eleven seconds of the trailer. The slow pace allows the audience to perceive the main characters, character relationships, and establishes expectations from those characters within the full-length film. I was able to distinguish where the second section of this trailer began because it was where I recognized a change in pace. Suddenly, there is a sharp bang sound with a white flash transition incorporated during the editing process for a dramatic emphasis and to create hype, (Kernan; 2004; p.13). The image and the sound interact within each other to produce the cumulative


Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

feeling of increased emotional tension and physical action; ultimately engaging the viewer while simultaneously breeding expectations about the content of the film.

The second section of the trailer persuades the audience even more into viewing the entire film by placing emphasis on the popular stars within the cast. Title slides introduce the name of the stars and are quickly followed by a short clip of their character within the film. The trailer recognizes James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirstin Dunst, Josh Hartnett and Danny DeVitto within a sequence. These actors are paid excessive amounts just for their faces to be recognized within the film because they each draw different interpretive communities within the audience. Stars act as a method of persuasion. Shirtless Josh Hartnett certainly appeals to a younger female audience. The third section is again indicated with a white flash transition and accompanied by a sound warp effect as the music slightly increases. The third section is most notable at the very ending when a high dinging sound is matched up with the action of Lux winking. The audience is aroused by the mystery of the wink and is seduced by the beauty of the star; ultimately, the ending image leaves the audience wanting more than just a 2-3 minute trailer, (Kernan; 1994; 80-81).


Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

A review posted on Rottentomatos.com by Eric Lurio magnifies the emotional expectations about the film experience, “The best thing about Ms.Coppola’s adaptation of Jeffery Eugenides’ book is the atmosphere. It has a dreamy quality about it that both excites and mystifies,”(Rotton Tomatos; 2007). A dreamy feeling “Lux” (Kirstin Dunst) leaves the viewer experiencing with the mysterious kiss from the wink of her eye at the end of the trailer. The audience is the center of the viewing experience and their expectations are generated way before they view the entire film, but certain expectations are promoted and strengthened through the trailer, and they seem to reverberate within press reviews, (Kernan; 1994; 208).

The trailer is an essentially effective promotional tool that operates in a similar manner to the advertisements of products. The audience becomes actively engaged in the emotional climax that the additional sound effects and musical selection enhance. The “trailer logic” is visible within the architectural structure of its formation; with audio and visual cues collaboratively indicating distinct sections. The audio increase in excitement and emotional arousal acts as a method of persuasion as the dramatic expectations of the entire film progressively evolve. The rapid repetition of the following words: love, sex, death, passion, fear, and obsession on title slides are a precise example of how expectations are implanted within the visuals of the trailer. Young stars such as Kirstin Dunst and Josh Hartnett appeal to a younger discourse community while stars such as James Woods, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVitto appeal to an older audience and larger demographic. Stars clearly act as a direct method of persuasion.


Paper #3 ETS 154

Sarah DeLuca TA: Steven Doles

Kernan explains that the genre of coming attractions is successful in the art of persuasion because trailers “both impart and withhold story knowledge, performing a balancing act that both provides enough information and holds back enough information to maximize interest in seeing the entire film, (Kernan; 1994; p.80). The trailer employs an emotional rhetoric that serves to persuade the viewers’ expectations into viewing the entire film; the ultimate promotional objective that the trailer serves.

Word Count: 1,905 TA: Steven Doles Bibliography

❶ The Internet Movie Database Inc. Copyright 1990-2007. Associated with Amazon.com. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0159097 ❷ Paramount Vantage: A division of Paramount Pictures. 2006. http://www.paramountvantage.com/virginsuicides/html_3 ❸ Rotten Tomatos. Muze Inc. Copyright 1995-2007. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Copyright 1998-2007. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/virgin_suicides/ ❹ Eric Lurio, Greenwich Village Gazette. Copyright 2001. http://www.gvny.com/movies/virgin_suicide/index.html ❺ Lisa Kernan, “Trailers: A Cinema of ‘Coming’ Attractions (Chapter 1)” and ”Trailer Rhetoric (Chapter 2),” from Coming Attractions. Copyright 2003-2007. University of Texas Press. http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/excerpts/exkercom.html ❻ Timothy Corrigan & Patricia White, “The film Experience: An Introduction.” Copyright 2004 by Bedford/St.Martin’s. Published and Distributed internationally by Palgrave MacMillan.


International Marketing for Film