Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2011

Sin City (2005)


Discussion Questions:

Remember, your images are ABOVE your name.

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.


I am looking for general observations about the film and the relationship to any aspect of f/x that we have examined. The images attached to your "words" are to clarify the intention but are not meant to be action specific. We are tying the films 300 and Sin City any other films that you might find of value in your discussion.


Jennifer Beggs

The movie, Sin City, opens with black screen – there is dialogue and sounds at first, but no images right away. This being the opening of the film sets the tone for the introduction for the plots and characters. The black screen is very mysterious and eerie. It forces the audience to pay close attention to what is being said. When a man is talking to a girl named Nancy, his black silhouette is projected on the wall. We do not see the man and we do not know what he looks like. His silhouette being shown as a large black shadow on the wall adds to his lack of identity, and thus adds to the eerie atmosphere of the scene. This helps us imagine how the little girl feels – nervous and unsure of what will happen.

The first colour we see in the movie is a woman’s vibrant red dress – similar to 300 where baby is glowing in red light at the very opening scene of the film. The film was originally shot in colour and then was enhanced and turned into black and white, with few elements that glow in vibrant colours at certain points throughout the movie. Most scenes are set at night and are very dark in the background. This way the audience doesn’t get to see what might be happening around the characters – we are forced to only think about what is happening between the characters – the interaction between people directly without being distracted by the surroundings. Using the black and white effect creates high contrast. The blackness creates a very pure effect – very straight to the point with little distractions. In one scene when a man is hugging the woman named “Goldie” he talked about her scent and how she smells. Because there is no colour and the surrounding scenery is black, as an audience we have no choice but to zone in and imagine what he is describing.

There is a scene where two men are sitting and talking to one another. One man punches the other man and screen goes black. The sound continues over a black screen, allowing the audience to experience the effect that the man who was just punched might feel. When someone is hurt, usually the last sense to go is hearing. This effect allows us to put ourselves in the man’s shoes and imagine what he is feeling. This effect is very disorienting because he/we are not fully aware of what is going on. Eventually the man shoots the other man and the screen goes black again to emphasize that something significant has happened.



Jaliya Fonseka

In monochrome movies white denotes visible things and black, invisible things. Thus, Sin City utilizes a somewhat inversion of this effect. An overall representation of white still seems to be used for light, however this effect switches back and forth, sometimes used to show shadow. Another major role of the colour white seems to be for the identification of a character and their respective roles, personalities and even their duty.

Hartigan's opening scene illustrated this, as the colour white was used to heighten the appearance of the  scar on his forehead and also his tie, which was lit in white. The simple  highlighting of these objects tell us that, Hatigan has a vast history of crime fighting (scar) and that he is a professional, one who's lifestyle depends and revolves around his job. Similarly, the character Kevin is first introduced to the film as a darkly rendered figure who's goggles or glasses are entirely white. This quickly depicts this character as a very dark and mysterious one, perhaps identifies his role as a villain. 

Blood in Sin City is at most times shown in pure white. Not only does this have a very matte and cartoonish visual appearance, but it also contrasts well with the black background presented in most of the scenes. White luminous blood is often seen on or coming out of the heroes villains. Thus, white as blood helps differentiate the hero's from the villains as heroes often bleed red blood.  Further, since the villains are such darkly rendered characters the white blood eludes to the end of their life - as they are descending from the darkness to the light. Whereas, the depiction of white on the heroes signals a removal to a different place of existence.

The use of very simply articulated matt white for blood also helps the director filter and mediate the aspects of the film that need to be exaggerated or subtle. It also helps to maintain the viewers focus on the scene and its meaning as oppose to letting their focus move to the gruesome lustration of blood and gory.

The colour white is thus not only used for symbolism that often reveal traits of the characters in the film but also as a sensory mechanism that assists the viewer and guides their focus where necessary.


Miles Gertler 

The use of colour in Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s overwhelmingly black and white Sin City is not a means to a single end. Rather, the layering of its many readings as a cinematic device contributes to its cumulative role as a special effect.

Rodriguez and Miller designed the film’s visual identity in a vein similar to that used in the Film Noir genre from the 1940s and 50s; deeply contrasted black and white add to a sense of mystery that dramatizes and removes total clarity from a scene. In Sin City, single elements are often hyper-colourized amidst an otherwise desaturated environment. The most apparent reasoning behind this is that in Miller’s graphic novel series of the same name, the same effect is used in print. The film, stylistically true to the original in many ways, often uses the same colour selections as Miller, often to elaborate on a distinguishing characteristic of an object or character. For instance, Senator Roarke’s son, Junior, also known as That Yellow Bastard in both the novel and in the film, is rendered in an unbecoming goldenrod in both. Miller continues to use intense elements of colour for their representative value throughout.

Red often accompanies the visceral, powerful narrative elements as seen through the examples of spilt blood, a hero’s car, or the bedding wrapped around a femme fatale. Gold seems to suggest a sense of alarm or danger: the colour of explosion, of Manute’s golden eye, and of the prostitute twins’ hair, which lights up when seen through the eyes of Marv. Despite the superficial associations that one can continue to identify in the film’s use of colour, the directors are not dogmatic in their approach to it, and are flexible with its use. For example, a character who bleeds white in one seen may bleed red in another, altering the perception that a viewer may have of that individual. Furthermore, colour is used as a suggestive device in many ways; when a radioactively yellow Junior injects Nancy with a syringe after having kidnapped her, the liquid in the glass cylinder is the same yellow hue as his skin, a visual parallel to the ongoing forceful violation of the innocent victim. And finally, Kadie’s Bar, the one environment where all of the male leads are filmed, is filmed entirely in colour, albeit muted.

Beyond the iconographic readings that an audience may consider, the limited use of colour in the film makes allusions to things beyond the style of Miller’s original work, as director Zach Snyder does in his film 300; known as Neo Film Noir, certain colour films exist that elaborate on the same themes as traditional black and white films of the same umbrella genre. Much of Miller’s illustrative style can be seen in some of the posters created for these films, such as one made for Henry Hathaway’s 1953 film, Niagara, starring Marilyn Monroe (1). These too make sparse use of colouring for an intensification of visual effect on a single element. What these and Miller’s original works have in common is the expense of printing in colour. Whether cost of printing colour is as relevant to more contemporary printed works as it was to those from the Film Noir period is irrelevant, since it is the collective group of connotations and allusions of the genre as a whole that is perceived from the borrowing of its graphic style.

Ultimately, the use and selection of colour varies and its purpose is not entirely clear. However, it is through the layering of its many readings as a cinematic device that contributes to its cumulative role as a special narrative effect.

(1) Turner Classic Movies Database. Niagara (1953). Turner Entertainment Networks, 2011.

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Suzan Ibrahim

The high contrast values in Sin City creates very provocative scenarios and dramatic atmospheres that alludes back to the fact that this fiction was originally based on a comic. The high contrast was constant throughout the whole movie and provided different effects such as removing unnecessary details. sharpening the characters expressions, and manipulation of space and depth of the context while at other times it was less obvious so as to allow rain or other details to show and create a different mood.

A lot of the spaces in which the characters inhabited was much less visible because of the high contrast value. This allows the viewers to focus primarily on the dialogue and actions rather than on the small details that usually adds a sort of sentimentality to the relationship between the viewer and characters. Objects and details are usually things that the viewer can directly relate to by the mere fact of owning such similar things, however, in this case the viewer is instead taken to a far-away and a strange place where such things are less significant and the distance is instead increased between the viewer and plot.

When the focus is much less on the surrounding details, the characters gain a larger focus on their relationship and action. The high contrast values acts almost as a spotlight of interrogation. For example; If there is a bright light value it becomes almost as an exposing factor of the character and we might find out more about the person, e.g when a dark and secretive villain steps out of the shadows and into the light we are exposed to the mystery. While characters that remain in the dark throughout the movie can create a sort of a tension that keeps the viewer on edge or alert and actively engaged in the plot of the movie in order to find a resolution to the mystery.

The movie alludes often back to the box-like quality of the cartoons which it was based originally on through the manipulation of space and depth within each scene. The scenes often have a two dimension quality because of the contrast between white and black as well as the decrease of spacial depth by elimination of the details in the surroundings. This technique is also taken even farther by introducing pure two dimensional silhouettes that minimized texture but increases the focus on the specific action of the characters. The inverse technique of white silhouettes on black background gives another sort of depth that is similar to the more realistic scenes and keeps up with the tone and atmosphere of the entire movie.


David McMurchy

Silhouettes play a small yet important role in the portrayal of perticular elements in the movie Sin City, through the extreme simplification of those elements, whether they be people or objects, to a purely graphic and symbolic form.

While Sin City is a movie that is mostly absent of colour and tone, it is still graphically rich in terms of contrasts, shades, silhouettes and the sparse use of colour to be visually entertaining.  In order to create a movie that can satisfy our visual sense, these different techniques need to be employed at various stages and in various usages. 

The use of silhouettes, however, goes against the grain of the film, in that it takes a film very rich in visual stimulation and injects small elements which are so removed from visual embellishment that they become purely symbolic.

For example, when Dwight sinks into the pits, his body is reduced to a pure silhouette which slowly sinks through black.  This reduction removes all unnecessary visuals and recreates Dwight as a symbol for his own mortality in that moment.  Later, Hartigan chooses to end his life in order to save Nancy from Senator Roark’s revenge.  The minute leading up to his suicide sees contrast levels in the snow and woods increase, taking detail out, until he is a kneeling silhouette, representing sacrifice and human mortality.  This moment is an extremely powerful one, and instead of cluttering it with the scenery surrounding him, the filmmakers chose instead to isolate the meaning behind his actions and display that in its pure form.

Elsewhere, details and definition is removed from particular objects and elements in order to use them symbolically rather than as set pieces.  Hartigan’s tie is one example.  In the dockside scene, when he confronts Roarke, his tie has been turned into an outline, a silhouette tie.  The tie is no longer just a part of his costume, but is now symbolic of the everyman who goes to work and does his job.  It represents Hartigan’s belief in the job he does and his dedication to doing it right, day in and day out.

Silhouettes play an important role in Sin City.  They reduce elements, whether they be people or objects, to their most basic form and thus make them into symbols. 


Benny Or




William Pentesco

Lighting plays one of the largest roles in film. Lighting can create many different elements of a scene and also control how well it works. Low-key lighting and high-contrast lighting are both situations where spotlighting would be used. Characteristics of a spotlight would be speed shadows, high contrast, blown out whites, and a desaturation of colour (do to the light intensity). These traits made it difficult to tell when a “spotlight” was actually in use, or not in use in the film since the graphic nature of it embodied full use of high contrast and desaturated techniques throughout.

The most noticeable areas where spotlighting was incorporated in the film was where a door would be opened in front of a car headlamps. The introduction of Nancy Callahan as a kidnapped girl is a good example of spotlighting. The sudden blast of light makes the scene abrasive, encouraging the narrative of fear for this young girl. When the doors open into the bishops room it gets bathed suddenly with light. This is another instance of the spotlight effect. It reinforces how the bishop was suddenly startled awake.

Marv’s character is matched up with spotlighting as he goes around interrogating people for information. The spotlight highlights the duality of the victim and the interrogator. A lot of the conversations he has the person being interrogated is in harsh light, gritty, light.

With this movie much of it was shot with high contrast lighting. I feel the effect was to enhance certain characters with extended shadows are intense areas of focus. This effect to me started to get overdone, thought the film does a good job of maintaining its graphic appeal.


Emmanuelle Sainté
"high angle view"

High angle views are used frequently and repeatedly in Sin City. Similarly to their use in 300, most of these seem to be establishing shots – views overlooking the city from above, or erratically driving down a sinous mountain road, etc. These, once again, help move the story along by allowing the audience to quickly take in information about setting and situation.

In general, however, their use seems to differ from that in 300.  While in 300 they were more of a dramatic device, that increased the tension the audience felt and thus drew them into the story, the shots are used here much more frequently, occasionally can even be considered an effect. The jump down the stair well is an example of this, with the high angle view emphasizing the height and danger of the scene. In the scene where Marv is dunking one of his victim’s heads in a (very dirty) toilet, the high angle of the shot has the effect of causing a sense of suspension, so that you were watching the scene from Marv’s perspective, but had a sense of what his victim was going through.

As well, high angle shots are used to add an emotional tone to scenes. For example, the scenes that use these views include one at the very beginning, when the little girl, Nancy Callahan, is introduced to Roark Jr, her would-be murderer, and is clearly terrified. Also, these are used in the lovemaking scene between Marv and Goldie, and later when her twin, Wendy, holds him in her arms in his death row cell. The emotion in these scenes is almost palpable, and the high angle views they are shot in seem to emphasize this even more.

Therefore, while 300 and Sin City both make use of high angle views rather frequently and to dramatic effect, Sin City uses more of these views, often to imbue scenes with an emotional tone.


Tristan van Leur
"low angle view"

Sin City is a carefully crafted movie that relies upon on the setting the mood and emotion of the city and scene to convey desired style of the scene.  One of the techniques heavily used to set the mood are a varying array of camera angles.  Each one is carefully used to set a particular emotion and feel, or replicate a scene from the graphic novel.  When they use a low angle view, they use it in situations to assert dominance and power, and in any scene with a body on the ground.

Low angles shots are easily picked out in scenes when someone has been shot or stabbed or hurt and is lying on the ground.  Almost every time the frame moves to a low angle view.  But what is interesting, is most of the time, when the killer is alive the camera zooms out to have a low angle shot of the killer standing over his victim, showing his power and dominance.  One great example of this is when Dwight and Meho are toying around with Jackie Boy.  The camera is zoomed out and Meho and Dwight calmly stand over their prey, displaying their dominance.

The low angle views are also used in scenes that do not involve a body, and they tend to display someone’s dominance over someone else.  Two great examples of this are when Marv is walking up to Rourke’s statue, and the low angle shows Rourke towering over Marv, which display’s the power that Rourke has.  The other good example is when Marv is standing over Rourke’s compound.  Marv towers above it on a cliff with an extremely low angle staring up at him.

Sometimes it is more subtle use of slightly lower angles that the director uses as well.  In conversations, the speaker with power is consistently shot with a slightly lower angle, making the speaker appear taller and larger.  One time this is done beautifully is in Rourke and Marv’s conversation.  Marv is sitting level with Rourke but every time the camera cuts to Rourke, it is at a slightly lower angle, making the viewer feel Marv’s size advantage and strength.

The camera angle is Sin City are meticulously crafted to bring the viewer into the world of Sin City.  The use of low angle shots help to convey strength, power and dominance within a conversation is extremely effective in allowing the viewer to feel like a part of that world.


Benjamin Van Nostrand
"depiction of nature"

In general, the nature of Sin City is minimal, flat and entirely subservient to the great brooding darkness of the City. On the few occasions that nature makes an appearance, it is generally framed with fences, roads, sewers, wires and dockland – manifestations of the city's dominion over its 'natural' surroundings. Since the film is really about this particular fictional city (hence the name), it makes sense to reduce nature shots to a minimum and only employ elements like forests and hills when necessary to show non-urban settings. In general, nature shots are only used as a visual cue to suggest that actions are taking place outside of the city, and very little time is taken savoring the natural scenery in the same way that many scenes savor the built-up urban chaos of the city.

Additionally, the very flat look of nature shots (namely the fact that many forest shots look like actors standing in front of plywood cutouts of trees) might be an intentional aesthetic decision to bring out the  comic-book cell look. Hartigan's stumbling out of the forest when approaching the Rourke family farm, or Marv's extensive preparations for trapping Elijah Wood's character both have moments when the depthless soundstage look matches perfectly with what I imagine the comic book cell to look like.

On the other hand, the limited selection of nature shots and lack of dynamic nature shots might be an expression of the technical limitations, as Sin City was fairly early for an all-CG film and natural settings are difficult to reproduce digitally as well as being computationally intensive to render realistically. For example, during the car chase between Hartigan and the Yellow Bastard, the actual 3D parts of the shots were painfully CG, with the cars and trees especially falling into Uncanny Valley and the snow being almost but not quite believable.


Shane Neill
"use of rain"

Sin City is a collaborative adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel between the author and director Robert Rodriguez. In the collaboration, great effort is taken to render the novel’s aesthetic of high contrast—exclusively black and white images—that are inspired by early film noir.

In the print version of Sin City, rain is drawn in two ways. First, as in the triptych of “Marv in the Rain,” rain is a thick medium that creates a middle ground. The large irregular drops of water screen over the figure behind them. The distant figure appears as an anomaly struggling against the weight of the field of lower-left biased texture. The second manner of rendering rain uses slashes of white over the backgrounded figures. The magnitude of these vectors gives the milieu a sense of action and speed that contrasts with the sense of slow determined movement of the figure. For instance, on the cover of The Hard Goodbye, the graphic explosions of the rain against Marv’s stoic form render a sense of ultra slow motion and suspense. Beyond its graphic representation, the rain serves to visualize the forces of the scene working against the story’s protagonists.

As Miller and Rodriguez attempted to directly translate the images to film, they decided to film all the action against a green screen so that they could determine and control the graphic contrast of the figures and the backgrounds. To create the effects of rain for the film a ‘screening’ technique was abstracted from the graphic novel. Rain and snow are filters that are added graphically to the film in post-processing that adhere to the aesthetic goals of the two graphic rain types. The first type of rain is abstracted to snow. The size of the rain drops, their density, and their perceived slowness is more idiomatic of snow. In the car chase scene, the movement, speed, and direction of the whirling gusts of snow act as a counterpoint to the movement of the cars. This contrasting movement frees the scene from a perspectival understanding of the space. A third further subversion of space comes as the camera pans around the scene, its orbit confusing the sense of gravity. Against this camera movement, the snow’s bias becomes the means by which to orient the multiple movements.

The second rain type—the vector—becomes a texturing screen in its translation to film. In the attempt to heighten contrast in the film, texture is often lost in the elimination of middle tones. The over screening of rain becomes one of the only opportunities to give texture to the scene. The white lines of the rain briefly etch relief over the dark figures and background. Though there are no ricochets of rain bouncing off the film’s characters because of filming in a dry studio, the rain still creates a sense of action and speed that is achieved in the graphic novel. When focusing, as in the image above, on the close up shots that reveal a character's emotional state, the speed of the rain screen creates a perceived slowness to human movement that heightens the tension and determination of their actions.

The use of precipitation as a screen has interesting implications when taking into consideration the historical role of screens. Jacques Lacan says, “The screen is here the locus of mediation.” While he is referring to the media screen or the monitor which is fodder for too many post-modern discussions, we will look at the screen as a spatial mediator. Looking at development of liturgical screens in the Middle Ages, Funari discusses the work of Jacqueline Jung who:
has insisted on the unifying function of the choir screen through an analysis of it as a permeable barrier, marked by portals and niches into which the subject may project herself. [iii] Her work has reinforced the liminality of the screen as a point of passage and transition. (Funari)

Let us reconsider the screening of rain over figures in Sin City as more than a graphic appliqué. Certainly, the screens create a sense of depth-of-space in the otherwise quite shallow scenes. [I believe Ben Van Nostrand will talk more about this in his answer.]  Perhaps more importantly, let us consider the rain as a liminal passage. The rain is a means by which to unite the space of the viewer with that of the film. Whether it is through the visual texture of the rain, the haptic simulation of wetness, or the psychological empathy of the viewer with the figure on the screen, the rain stimulates the viewer to imagine themselves in the scene in a way that the other scenes do not.


Furnari, Rachel. “Screen(2).” The chicago School of Media Theory.


Michelle Greyling
"depiction of materials"

Sin City is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel series. Miller's graphic novels is drafted in absolute black and white and contains no shades of grey. The director Robert Rodriguez transfers this drawing quality to the film, Sin City. This film, unlike other black and white films does not depict any shades of grey. In the making of the film, Rodriguez is faced with the challenge to depict shadows and depth realistically while limited to only two colours, black and white. Sin City is mostly filmed against green screens with the background images added in post production. Green screen filming depend greatly on the use of background images and post production effects to produce the quality and add realistic elements to the film. When filming against green screen both the perspective and depth of the film is largely obtained and manipulated by shadows, contrasting colours and the creative implementation of backgrounds. The reduction of colours resulting in the two toned film of Sin City presented further challenges for Rodriguez to overcome. Rodriguez is consequently forced to invent numerous creative ways to overcome this challenge while keeping true to the essence of Miller's graphic novels.

Rodriguez started to focus on the method with which he would depict materials in the background of each scene. Taking into account that most of the film was created with the use of a green screen, his main concern was with the detail of each background material and how it may create shadow, perspective and depth in the film. Rodriquez used black on white with the inverted application of white on black to successfully depict depth and perspective in various instances throughout the film. In the scene where Marv and his probation officer is in a bathroom, Rodriguez display the first wall with white tiles and black grout and the wall perpendicular to the first wall, with black tiles and white grout. This use of inverted colour application successfully create a sense of depth and perspective. The application of vivid contrasting colours of black and white in background materials successfully portray also the emotive projection of each scene.

Another significant colour application occur when Rodriguez create shadows in a room with tiles that present dominating linear lines. A good example of this method is depicted in the scene where the probation officer had her hand eaten and Marv attempted the rescue. In the scene Marv is on his knees comforting the probation officer from behind where they sit together in the corner of the room. Here the linear lines of both the wall and floor tiles depict a perspective similar in the way that a painter would. The use of lines on both the horisontal and vertical surfaces forces the perspective to be even more evident. These lines all point directly toward Marv and the probation officer. This is an innovative manner to depict perspective and depth of the scene filmed in front of green screen while simultaneously emphasizing the subject matter and displaying agony of the moment. To create this realistic depth and perspective for specific scenes Rodriguez used tiles as floor material and ofter as wall material as well.

Each line moved toward a focal point somewhere behind the main focal point where the actors were. This essentially did not only create depth but placed an extraordinary focus on the subject matter. In the same scene shadow is depicted by a sudden increase of a vivid display of contrasting black tiles with white grout which is placed on the opposite side of a splash of white depicting light shining on the subject matter which simultaneously also emphasized the focal point of the scene.

To further emphasize perspective and perhaps force perspective in the film, Rodriguez place an extreme focus on the detail of each material. The greatest challenge being to depict realistic depth and perspective in the film forced Rodriguez to depict materials in great detail. An increase depiction of perspective was achieved by this exaggeration and overemphasis of the detail or texture of each material. In one scene timber floors are shown with extremely deep grooves that point toward a focal point in the background beyond the subject matter. Rodriguez repeats this emphasis to detail throughout the film in wall paper, cracks on the walls, stitching on comforters, stitching on leather jackets and timber material. This technique ensures realistic depth and perspective in the film. In contrast with the film "300" and several other films produced with the use of green screen, Sin City is challenged with the use of minimal colour variation. In the film "300" the use of tiled floor surfaces with lines pointing toward a focal point in the rear of the scene is often implemented. In contrast with "Sin City" where the use of colour and shades of colour is limited the perspective lines depicted by the floor tiles in "300" is emphasized with the creative use of colour and a wide range of colour tones.


Richard D'Allessandro
"animation vs manga/graphic novel to stylized film..."

Like the translation of almost any story to another language or medium, the adaptation of animation or graphic novels to stylized film is one that concerns audience.  Frank Miller’s Sin City, was told as a graphic novel firstly.  The work was a success and met with popular appeal within the comic-book literate community.  Though, once filmmaker Robert Rodriguez deemed the work more than worthy for the cinema going viewer, Frank Miller’s story would reach an entirely different audience, arguably representing a more culturally and perhaps intellectually diverse demographic.  Certainly, it can be said that the movie watching community adds more than a view million accessible minds.  In this way, great works of fiction like Sin City may span between the differences of people and even generations by a retelling across popular art forms.

The difference between the way Sin City has been adapted by Robert Rodriquez, versus the way many other stories of the same genre have been adapted to film, is his faithfulness to the original work.  Rodriquez’s conviction extends beyond those consistencies of character, plot, and even setting, and beyond the basic intent to allude to the graphic novel genre.  Bringing to the film a profound respect for the style and graphic economy of the original telling, his desire was to tell the same story in the very same way.  The film Sin City is referred to as stylized film precisely because it deviates from those effects native to film, and the film has been intentionally crafted to convey the same affect of the original work by paralleled means.  Rodriguez has essentially adapted the effect of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, as well as the story.  Enthusiasts of the graphic novel genre can attest to the effect of careful and reductive illustration to convey the impact and intensity of a moment in time.  Frank Miller’s work in particular has a clarity, and visual ease that achieves a vivid beauty, not dissimilar to works in modernism.  Using the heavy ambiguity of black, the awe-struck brilliance of pure white, and those few metaphorically loaded colours, Robert Rodriguez has reduced the visual noise that accompanies film by custom, highlighting and preserving only those important aspects of the story.  It is story told in light of only the most essential and carefully chosen qualities.  It’s pure story.

Films have been quite commonly adapted from works of animation as well.  In fact, most of the earliest graphic novel adaptations have been adapted to animation, and then adapted to live-action film.  This succession appears probable enough, as animation seems to hold a convenient technological and affective midpoint between graphic novel and film.  Though, what happens to film adaptations as a result of this intermediary is surprising.  Animation effectively brings still images to life, though due to the graphic economy of the process, it has produced less than remarkable images on film.  Animations, adaptations or otherwise, often appear flat and two dimensional, using visually noisy and often superfluously complex backdrops to compensate.  Animation brings with it a style, particular too, between artists, yet it has not successfully lent itself to film.  There is nothing that can be borrowed to inform an acute sensibility towards light.  The flattened quality of animated characters cannot be suggestive enough for the materiality of real things.  The attitude of animated environments contradicts every familiar effect of a scene filmed, where its noise and complexities are meaningful.  It is worth mentioning that there have been instances where film makers have borrowed the aesthetic of animation to create a stylized film.  Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly are a few good examples.  Though, it is near impossible to separate these works from animation in the end, and it may be debatable as to which they really are, work of film or animation. Because of films like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City and Zack Snyder’s film 300, however, we have enjoyed the more abrupt progression between graphic novel and film.  The effects and qualities of both graphic novels, in these two examples, have informed successful and equally compelling film adaptations of their own kind.


Talayeh Hamidya



Maryam Abedini Rad

Sin City, also known as Frank Miller's Sin City, is a 2005 crime thriller film written, produced and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It is a neo-noir based on Miller's graphic novel series of the same name.

Sin City opened to wide critical and commercial success, gathering particular recognition for the film's unique color processing, which rendered most of the film in black and white but retained or added coloring for select objects. The film was screened at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in-competition and won the Technical Grand Prize for the film's "visual shaping".

Performance in film includes an actor’s facial expressions and body language. With film’s ability to create a close-up of an actor’s face, for example, there is a much wider and subtler range of emotions and feelings that can be conveyed and expressed through the medium by means of performance. Eyes give particularly important signals when trying to read someone’s expression. Likewise movement and the way in which actors hold and move their bodies show how they are thinking and feeling.

For instance, Marv has a mental condition. In fact, his mental condition is medical. There are pills for his condition. Through his voice-over we learn that he has trouble concentrating and cannot think straight. He even mistakes another woman for Goldie. Marv is certainly mentally unstable. With regard to emotional instability, I think it is related to mental instability and thus, Marv also exhibits emotional instability with his facial and physical moves.

Another example is that the character of good cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) fits the description. He has a medical condition as well, except this is dealing with the heart. His condition does not allow him to do his job to the best of his ability. Sometimes he cannot support his own weight. Sometimes he cannot even lift his gun. His outstanding performance of the character’s condition makes us believe this disability with the special situation. One can easily find a deep pain from his eyes and facial reaction. It worth to say the contrast, the black and white themes are helping a lot to focus on his facial and physical move which convey the emotion and feelings of him.

Then cuts into a closer shot at the point in the scene where the audience is likely to want to see the character’s faces more closely. In particular, the film director wants us to focus on the emotions of the characters. The editing, as with other film techniques, follows the dictates of the story. This shot eliminates the space around the characters, emphasising their gestures and facial expressions. Point of view shots allow us to experience the emotions of the lead character, her anxiety and apprehension as she goes to meet the imprisoned serial killer.

This is a dark film full of emotion and fear. We can see this purely from the eyes of the characters, one looks angry and the other scared, shocked, stressed etc. Plus the use of famous actors will draw the eyes of fans.The red and rustic gold, oranges and yellows even in the characters faces help us to believe those various emotions of actors and focus on it.

This film isn’t very realistic, because nothing is real in it. Although, we can see the dramatic emotions of the characters,and a list of the seven deadly sins. The only real things in this film are the moves and emotions on the faces, necks and bodies of the characters. Because, the film employed the Sony HDC-950 high-definition digital camera, having the actors work in front of a green screen, that allowed for the artificial backgrounds (as well as some major foreground elements, such as cars) to be added later during the post-production stage. 

This technique also means that the whole film was initially shot in full color, and was converted to black-and-whiteColorization is used on certain subjects in a scene, such as Devon Aoki's red-and-blue clothing; Alexis Bledel's blue eyes and red blood; Michael Clarke Duncan's golden eye; Rutger Hauer's green eyes; Jaime King's red dress and blonde hair; Clive Owen's red Converse shoes and Cadillac; Mickey Rourke's red blood and orange prescription pill container; Marley Shelton's green eyes, red dress, and red lips; Nick Stahl's yellow face and body; and Elijah Wood's white glasses. Much of the blood in the film also has a striking glow to it. The film was color-corrected digitally and, as in film noir tradition, treated for heightened contrast so as to more clearly separate blacks and whites. This was done not only to give a more film-noir look, but also to make it appear more like the original comic. This technique was used again on another Frank Miller adaptation, 300, which was shot on film.


Jamie Usas

Robert Rodríguez captures the noir affect of Frank Miller’s Sin City by virtually bringing each cell of the original graphic novel to life through live action filmmaking.  Sin City is an incredibly effective mixture of postproduction effects; high contrast and isolated color timing, forced perspective compositing, and background matte painting, which draw the viewer into the nightmarish, film noir inspired imagination of the Miller and Rodríguez collaboration.  What is the greatest achievement of the film; however, beyond the highly stylized visual aesthetic, is the imaginative strength of the film’s cast to project themselves not only into the mental space of the characters they portray, but to mentally project themselves into physical space as well.  Due to the heavily aestheticized nature of the filmmaking process required to bring the look and feel of a 2D graphic novel into the 3D world of time and space, all of the principle photography for the film took place on a vacant, green painted sound stage, allowing for the greatest creative control over the image in postproduction.  However, this left the cast with the challenge of acting without the benefit of any on-location “mise en scene” to respond to, which is quite remarkable when one considers the heavy role of the ambient environment of Sin City.  For every setup, the actors had to collectively imagine the texture of the walls, the smell of the air, the feel of the rain and any other sensual perception otherwise taken for granted when shooting on-location.  The only reference available to the cast was the graphic novel itself, which is a testament to the affective quality of Frank Miller’s original work, to give enough of a tactile base through a series of monochromatic images that an entire world could be accurately imagined by it’s inhabitants before that world had ever been rendered perceivable within the film.  While Sin City is not the first film to be shot entirely for chroma key, it is one of a select few that manage to stand on their own merit as a work of cinema, beyond merely a work of special effects.  This credit must be, at least in part, to the tremendous ability of the source material and the cast of the film to develop a “technique” for bringing the unperceivable into sharpness of style and narrative that is crystal clear.



updated 22-Dec-2011 2:44 PM

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