Hold’em Textual Analysis

When a stranger joins in on a poker game, it is revealed that he is no stranger at all… but a merciless person seeking vengeance.

Textual Analysis:

Incredibly, the entire six-minute short film is filmed entirely using only one continuous shot.

Whilst the title sequence is playing with a black screen behind the white sans-serif typography (a common convention of the thriller genre and symbolises innocents fighting against evil) , there is non-diegetic dialogue of men, which then carries on over to the next shot, creating a sound bridge. The three men are making jokes and laughing, suggesting a good friendship as well as not having any worries. Furthermore, an eerie atmosphere is set due to the low-key lighting.

When Cal comes in, he stands in the shadows in the background for a while, immediately making the audience to suspicious, putting them on edge and making them ask questions such as, “who is he?” and “is he dangerous?”. The woman states that her battery died and so he had to give her a lift… but was is just a coincidence? The camera pans around the table, making the scene more dramatic and realistic for the audience. When Cal doesn’t look at his cards, it is conveyed that he isn’t really there to play the game, but is maybe there for another reason.

When two of the males blatantly lie about where they work, the audience can depict that they may be criminals. However, the ‘leader’ of the three men states that they work in a garage, and when Cal says the name of the garage (Vincent) without them telling him a dramatic sound effect is heard (which sounds like a heart thump) suggesting that he knows them. The people around him begin to get worried and ask questions, “you know Vincent?” whilst the female’s body language changes and leans away from Cal. The OTS shot conveys that Cal has got everyone’s attention and therefore power. Dialogue foreshadows what will happen to them as Cal states that “things don’t go well for these guys” highlighting that they are in danger. Their facial expressions change and show terror, illustrating they know the danger they’re in.

The ambient sound of rain in the background forebode what is about to happen. Three gun shots are fired and all but one are dead, the ‘leader’. The camera continues to pan around the table, but faster, speeding up the pace and making it more dramatic as well as Cal shouting and getting angrier, making him more dangerous. When presented a picture of a 15-year-old boy, his brother that was murdered by the men and asked if he knew is name, he blankly says “no” but before he can even finish the word he is shot.

Finally, Cal hits the table in anger, conveying that he still doesn’t feel better even after vengeance and a WA shows the dead bodies, highlighting what he has done.

My Opinion:

This was quite predictable however, I do admire the advanced skills of the director and the actors as it was all filmed in one single shot. The mise-en-scene was great including the props, location and the lighting throughout which helped create an eerie and intense atmosphere. I think more sound could’ve been used to improve the film overall and put the audience on the edge of their seats throughout.

Media Theory:

  • Levi Strauss (Binary oppositions) – Good VS Evil, however it could be suggested that within this text there was no good, only evil VS evil.
  • Propp’s Narrative theory – There are no heros, only villains.
  • Todorov’s Narrative theory – There was no attempt made by the characters for a new equilibrium so the film ended in disequilibrium.

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