You are on page 1of 4

CLOSE ANALYSIS: Atonement

Opening sequence:
Character Briony
Opening shot of dolls house which is actually a replica of the family home
illustrates the power that Briony has over the household and its occupants.
A shot of Brionys toy animals all lined up like Noahs Arc which pans across
to a low angle shot of Briony at her desk typing also illustrates Brionys power
and need to control. She is represented as a God-like figure in the household.
Superiority reinforced by the way she is addressed by the servants in the house
as Miss Briony.
The way that her animals are lined up, the fact that she is writing a play, shots
of all her past writing and an extreme close-up of her blue eyes all illustrate
Brionys creativity.
Her conservative dress which seems to make her blend into the background
suggests that she is somewhat inconspicuous an unlikely character to cause
so much irreversible damage.
She walks in a very deliberate and controlled manner, indicating that she is
very sure of herself.
Setting
We are introduced to the setting of this film by a shot of Brionys dolls house
which is a replica of the family home. It is grand and stately.
England 1935 screen text states time and place.
Tracking shots of Briony walking through the house further reveal its
grandeur. The camera follows Briony across a beautiful and spacious landing
into an acid green servants quarters, illustrating that this is a wealthy, upper
class family.
A conversation between Briony and the servants in the kitchen reveals that the
household is getting ready for a dinner party which is to be held that evening.
Theme Story Telling
The theme of storytelling is indicated as early as the title shot, in which the
word Atonement is typed onto the screen.
There is further indication of this theme in the first shot of Briony, in which
she is positioned at a typewriter, writing a play.
During this sequence we also see a shot of pages of Brionys past writing.
The sound of the typewriter can be heard throughout this sequence, and it
eventually merges with the music.
Sound
Sound of the typewriter helps introduce the theme of story telling.
Single note on the piano begins to play during the extreme close-up of
Brionys eyes.
Music builds and eventually typing sound merges to become part of the music.

Music continues to build and speed up as Briony strides through the house,
implying her urgency to show her Mother the play that she has just written.
Music reaches crescendo when she sees Robbie standing in the doorway this
hints that the major conflict to take place in the film will be between these two
characters.

Lighting
Bright natural light streams into Brionys room and the landing.
Indicates a beautiful warm summers day.
Clear and vibrant.

Closing Sequence:
General notes
Begins with a shot of 15 television screens of 76 year old Briony during a
television interview.
- Tapes keep rewinding and repeating the same part of the interview Briony
asks the interviewer if she can take a minute.
- At this point the interview has gone wrong this is comparable to the way
Brionys life has gone so terribly wrong.
- Tapes rewind to show Briony wants to go back in time to make things right.
- Ironically, this can be achieved on tape but not in real life.
Close-up shot of Briony looking in mirror.
- She is reflecting on what she did all those years ago, and what has happened
since.
- She is clearly struggling to compose herself.
Over the shoulder shot of Briony from interviewers P.O.V., zooms to a close-up
of Brionys face.
- Background dissolves to black.
- Primary focus on Brionys face and what she is saying- nothing to distract
from this.
- Importance placed on dialogue.
- This shot echoes the shot of the younger Briony being interviewed by the
Detective about Robbie after Lola was assaulted.
- It is shot from the opposite side, so is in fact a mirror image of the earlier
interview. This emphasizes contrast.
Shot of the drowned Cecelia mimics the library scene, when we see Cecelia and
Robbie making love.
- She wears a green dress and her body is in the shape of a crucifix. She has in
a way been crucified by Briony, through her misinterpretations and
accusations on that fateful day.
Comparison to opening sequence
Briony takes a break from the interview in the dressing room.
- Like in the opening sequence, Briony is shown to blend in with her
surroundings.

The stark simplicity of this surroundings helps the viewer understand the
modern setting over 60 years have past since the opening sequence.
Its clinical starkness could also indicate that Briony is no longer the extremely
creative mind pictured in the opening sequence. Rather, her ability to be
creative is rapidly diminishing as her illness causes her brain to shut down.
It is ironic that she is dying from a disease that attacks her mind, which was
ultimately the cause of all the damage during the film.
Her appearance is the same, apart from the fact that she is now 76.
She is somehow much warmer. The way she speaks and acts is extremely
remorseful, even compassionate. We are finally able to relate to Briony as she
is fully aware of the damage she has caused, and has, in a way come to terms
with what has happened. We finally hear the truth from her own lips and
come to respect her because of it.
Opens with Brionys first play and ends with her last novel.
The theme of story telling has developed into a question of happy endings.

False Witness
Interview in the library
- Same shot mimicked in the closing sequence.
- Side lighting creates strong shadows across Brionys face to suggest her
deceit.
- Briony repeats the phrase I saw him, Yes, I saw him, I saw him with my
own eyes. Notice that she actually manages to avoid saying Robbies name
during the whole interview. Perhaps, this was a way for Briony to avoid
explicitly lying to the police as she never actually stated I saw Robbie.
Appearance vs. reality.
- Throughout this sequence the director gives us hints not to believe everything
we see.
- In the shot showing Briony looking for Robbiess letter we see the action in
the reflection of the mirror rather than directly in front of the camera.
- We hear the sound of the typewriter whenever we see shots of Briony,
especially during the interview.
- Cecelia states to the investigator I wouldnt necessarily believe everything
Briony tells you. Shes rather fanciful.
- Not only do these hints indicate that Briony is lying, but they also warn us that
perhaps all is not as it appears in the film. As we later find out, what we are
watching on the screen is the series of events described by Briony in her novel
Atonement, rather than as they appeared in (filmic) reality.
Class structures.
- Robbie is arrested immediately without an interview.
- The only other male who is interviewed as a suspect in the assault is Danny,
another servant in the house.
- What about all the other men?
- Paul Marshal lies asleep on the couch he is relaxed as he knows that Robbie
will be arrested.
- Robbie is considered by the members of the household to be a likely culprit
due to his class he is simply the housekeepers son.

The only two characters who even question his innocence are Cecelia and his
Mother who both know him well and love him.
The red glow created by the lights on the police cars indicates danger, even
death.
Briony looks out of the window at Robbie being taken away. Unlike the earlier
fountain scene that she saw through the window, Briony understands perfectly
well what is going on outside this time.
In a medium shot of Briony looking out the window, Brionys face is juxtaposed
with an image of Saint Matilda, which is part of the stained glass window she is
looking through. Saint Matilda is the saint of falsely accused people (Robbie).
The sound of Graces shouts and her umbrella banging against the police car are
cleverly merged with the music, and eventually turn into the tapping of the
typewriter during the close-up shot of Briony looking out of the window.
An extreme close-up of Brionys eye as she looks out of the window makes it
clear to the viewer that she knows exactly what she has just done. She looks
frightened and extremely guilty.

Related Interests