The genre of detective fiction is one that has changed significantly since its beginning during the Victorian era, with the scale of the crimes being committed on a larger scale nowadays and also the methods of solving crimes used by detectives. I will argue today that: “Fictional detectives that star in films and stories in the genre of detective fiction have changed dramatically in terms of their appearance and their role. Nowadays detectives can be anything from an investigative journalist to an FBI agent. But when analyzed in detail, it can be proven that the traits of fictional detectives have not changed much at all.”
1. Overview of plot Today I will be investigating the film Prisoners through context and techniques, and also drawing comparisons and differences between the detective character in the film (Detective Loki) to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Before I begin I would like to warn all people who haven’t seen the movie that my presentation may contain spoilers. The film Prisoners was released in 2013, the film is a crime/thriller. A case is presented to the audience through a kidnapping of the daughter of Keller Dover played by Hugh Jackman. Detective Loki played by Jake Gyllenhaal is assigned to the case, soon arresting the main suspect in Alex Jones played by Paul Dano. Due to a lack of evidence, Alex is released leaving the desperate Keller Dover to do nothing else except take matters into his own hands, kidnapping Alex and using methods of interrogation to find out the location of his daughter.
2. Detective Fiction Elements The subgenre in which Prisoners falls under includes a mix between a clue puzzler and a psycho thriller. This film is a detective fiction story as it focuses on the individuals involved in the crime, rather than the action. The gathering of evidence and red herrings are present in the film, allowing it to fall under the clue puzzler sub-genre. Human endurance and courage are repeatedly tested in tight/frightening places, allowing it to fall under the psycho thriller sub-genre, making it tense and apprehensive experience for the audience. The story is as formulaic as an Agatha Christie ‘Who dunnit’, this is fulfilled by the constant question being asked toward the audience “who did it”. Throughout the film, you are never sure if Alex is the correct suspect, asking yourself if justice is being served by Keller holding him hostage. The genre of detective fiction is very popular these days, as they appeal to most people due to their ability to excite and puzzle audiences. The film prisoners is ranked amongst some of the top detective fiction movies of the modern era, with its ability to connect with the audience through its plot and context.
3. Context Context plays a major role in the evolution of fictional detectives. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s the stories were set in the city of London. At the time, referred to as the Victorian era, it was a period of unparalleled growth. London was a criminal’s paradise with citizens rarely walking the streets at night. This added to the success of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories as he set them in a location with a growing crime rate.
On the other hand, Prisoners is set in a suburban neighborhood in Pennsylvania, America in 2013. A kidnapping case in the US isn’t rare, but they are time-consuming, with a great amount of evidence needing to be gathered to solve them. The directors behind the film Prisoners have chosen a great crime to present in a film. There is a huge difference between London during the Victorian era and America in 2013 in terms of crime rate, they are almost incomparable, but it goes to show that detective fiction can be set in any time or place. ULIC
4. Detective Comparison In Prisoners and The adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, the two detectives very much differ in terms of appearance. But when it comes to core values and traits, the two are very similar. I have put together a Venn diagram displaying differences and similarities in traits between the two. As you can see, both detectives share more traits than they do differ. Observance is one that is very evident when analyz two detectives.
Sherlock shows this by always being able to quickly read a situation and come up with a theory that explains, for example, he notices little things in characters such as twitches, stains on clothing and small scars or pigments. On the other hand, detective Loki shows observance through his analyzation of evidence. SHOW CLIP. In this clip, you will notice Loki’s methods of Interrogation and his ability to notice small things that lead to huge clues in solving the case. You would of all hopefully noticed how he interrogated the man, using laughter to implant a false sense of security into the suspect.
Also, Loki noticed days prior to the interrogation that the suspect was buying children’s clothes, which also goes to show that he is an observant detective. Another similarity to consider when comparing the two detectives is that both of them have strange addictions. Sherlock Holmes all throughout the series of stories is a compulsive smoker. This goes to show that he is under a lot of pressure and stress all the time. On the other hand, detective Loki has a very evident twitch which can be seen in this short clip. SHOW CLIP 55 Second mark. Analyzing the differences and similarities between the two detectives supports my thesis that detectives have not changed in terms of traits.
5. Symbolism Symbolism is a large part of this film, the uncovering of the crime is all solved through the use and meaning of symbols and esoteric concepts. The use of maze puzzles is used throughout the film as red herrings and actual clues. Symbolism plays a huge role in the introducing of the intelligence of the main character Detective Loki, and how he uses these mazes to find the abducted girls.
6. Cinematography The creators of Prisoners have used great film techniques to emphasize the crime and the feelings of the characters in the movie. Probably the most evident technique that the directors used is that in every outdoor scene during the film, it is always either raining or gloomy and overcast. This gloomy effect that is given off, reflects the emotions of the characters in the film. Rain is used to represent feelings of discontent and forlorn. There is a link between Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in terms of this film technique, as in London the weather is mostly overcast during also.
CHANGE SLIDE. A whole variety of camera angles are used in the film Prisoners to emphasize the emotion and the situation. A series of long and close up camera angles are used to show every important detail in the scene. When detective Loki is present in the film, it is evident to see that the directors have put a huge focus on showing his emotions to the audience by using a large variety of camera angles including the close-up, bird’s eye view and back view shots.
As you can see on the board, the close-up shot has been used to clearly show detective Loki and the top half of his body. It is easy to see that he is upset, due to the camera angle clearly showing this. The bird’s eye view shot is used quite a lot throughout the film, it is used to show the perspective of a character. In this shot Loki is overlooking a piece of evidence after he lost his job with the detective force, his hands through his hair, exposing cuts and tattoos on his fingers. The back view shot is another one that shows to the audience what is ahead of the character. In this shot, there is forest ahead of detective Loki, showing his confusion.
7. Race and Gender Gender roles are evident in the film Prisoners. The fathers of the two kidnapped daughters Keller Dover and Franklin Birch, perform acts that are seen as brave to find their daughters, while the mothers are seen to be very emotional and unstable during the process of finding the girls, breaking down and crying throughout the film. It is evident to see that men over power this film, with the main character in Detective Loki being male and also the suspects of the kidnapping being male also.
Race, on the other hand, is very well spread with no white overpowering. The involvement of the two African American and white American is evenly spread throughout the characters. Franklin Birch’s family is African American, involving him and his family heavily during the film. Both race and gender are two things that have changed drastically from the Victorian era to now. Women were rarely involved in the nitty gritty of the crimes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, whereas now they are. On the other hand, the involvement of other races in Victorian times was simply not something that occurred.
8. Conclusion It is evident to see that detective fiction has changed dramatically when comparing a film like Prisoners to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Detectives in particular though have not changed much at all in terms of traits. Detective fiction will always be evolving with technology improving every year, but we need to remember where it all started.