Design Impacts on Zach Braff’s “Garden State”

Imagine if you have a horrible dream in which you are trapped in a crashed plane full of terrified passengers who know that the end is any second. As the oxygen masks and drinks shake and spill, the chaos of this moment somehow ceases to disturb him, because the deep and defenseless state he is in cannot be lifted, even under the most severe circumstances. This intriguing and compelling moment graces the opening scene of Zach Braff’s Garden State, a film of realization, suffering, and love, and leads to one of many symbolic and metaphorical moments that consist of a young man struggling to overcome emotional difficulties and a dysfunctional past. During each major sequence of events that take place throughout the story, the visual aspect presented to the viewer plays an important role in understanding the meaning and intent of the director’s vision. The design of this film is one of the most important elements used to convey the thematic symbolism and the appropriate mood at each moment with specific techniques such as lighting, color and structure. It leaves the viewer with a deeper understanding of the character’s inner thoughts and feelings, and creates a powerful staging during each of those great defining moments. Through effective design, each phase of the main character’s progression toward change is symbolically represented and helps illuminate the staging that brings emotional impact to the narrative of this moving film.

The film’s story centers on the life of Andrew Largeman, (Zach Braff), a psychologically repressed New Jersey native struggling to make it as an actor and part-time waiter in Los Angeles. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach him, Andrew
The father leaves the message that his mother has died on the voice-recorded answering machine while lying in bed one morning. With little apparent reaction, he returns to his hometown and follows the traditional funeral motions, finding family friends and high school classmates burned out with lethargic boredom. For the first time at home in several years of estrangement, Andrew struggles to cope with past and present failures, including a distant surface-level relationship with his father (Ian Holm), and everyday reminders of how unimportant and pathetic he is. it’s his acting career. is turning out to be. During a session with a local neurologist for headache symptoms, Andrew wonders about the effect the plethora of antidepressants and mood-stabilizing medications he has taken for as long as he can remember could have on his life. In making the decision to discontinue all prescription drugs, he becomes familiar with and amusingly intrigued by a talkative, happy, and lucky girl named Sam (Natalie Portman), who struggles with her own failures and insecurities. Through the growing relationship of these two very different but somewhat alike loners, Andrew and Sam find comfort and strength in each other’s company and conversation. A series of crazy, emotional and hilarious adventures between the two misfits lead to Andrew’s emotional enlightenment and acceptance of his teenage flaws, guilt and lifelong heartache. With the visual design of each of these moments, viewers have the opportunity to experience the film through Andrew’s point of view by appropriately shaping the look of each scene to fit what he feels. While Andrew’s life changes for the better, the design and staging fit accordingly and represent an effective vision that is aesthetically present and helpful to the experience of this film.

One of the most used tactics to create meaning in this film is how design is used to so literally represent the tone of Andrew’s life before his emotional swings. The colors used in several of the opening scenes are white, gray, and dark blue with little energy or depth. These colors tell the viewer with little to no dialogue about his mood and the life he leads. One of the first opening scenes, following Andrew’s dream of being a passenger on a crashed plane that served as a metaphor for his life, is a shot of him lying motionless on a white bed, in a completely white room. The close framing of the shot shows how trapped he looks in his own room, or perhaps in his own life. The vision or implication presented to the viewer is what a mental hospital or prison might look like. This scene is followed by many scenes of the same nature, with dark and cloudy colored lenses, closed frame shots and open spaces with widely separated characters. In most of these shots, including one of him stuck in traffic alone and another remote stop from his family at his mother’s funeral, the viewer sees Andrew alone, away from other actors and focused so that he is clear to see. . the sad, blank looks on his face. The staging is effectively achieved in a scene where Andrew is shown, alone on a strange couch after a night of filming in ecstasy, with a dark blanket covering him. The dark, smoky air that surrounds you can be seen with the sun peeking through the holes in the dark billboards that cover the windows. As Andrew slowly awakens, alone, the viewer is shown the nature of his life; under the influence of something that prevents you from feeling real and sober life experiences.

The developing relationship between Andrew and Sam is the most vital motive for the change in Andrew’s life, and that is seen quite obviously as the design takes a new shape. When first introduced to the character of Sam, the viewer is exposed to a laid-back and nervously cheerful personality; the polar opposite of Andrew. Everything about the two characters is different, down to their different colors of clothes and body language. The first scene of the two together, which takes place in a nearly empty hospital waiting room, conveys the characters’ varying levels of comfort as Sam walks over to sit as close to Andrew as possible in the large space, as he sits down. feel stiff and tense. As the conversation progresses, your body language becomes more fluid and engaging. As Andrew sees Sam’s world through a visit to his home, the viewer is also entering a different world than the one they started with. The tone changes from drab and stoic, to bright and inviting with orange walls and colored curtains that Andrew initially feels out of place but eventually slides in. Upon entering his room, the same bright orange dominates the environment accompanied by girl dolls, glowing lamps and sentimental trinkets that symbolize his innocence in front of Andrew’s. The warmer lighting surrounding Andrew and Sam while they are together continues as their relationship progresses, and the staging becomes noticeably closer. Their growing emotional attachment is seen through different aspects of lighting and distance, especially in a scene where they are swimming late on a very foggy night in a pool full of other people their age. As Andrew swims alone at one opposite end, a photo taken from above shows Sam swimming toward him from the other end of the pool. They then slowly approach, illuminated by the warm light of the pool light at the bottom, which frames the two heads shown, gradually moving closer to each other. This scene conveys the growing closeness that is taking place and its effect on Andrew and his former way of life.

Another important relationship that contributes to Andrew’s momentous internal change is a lack of communication with his father. The house Andrew grew up in is large and empty-looking, with the same bleak colors seen in the opening scenes of the film. The space between them, as they speak face to face for the first time in years, represents their emotional distance and the fact that they hardly know each other. There are three scenes where Andrew and his father interact, the first two are similar in nature. The first takes place the day after the funeral, when they are forced to meet for the first time in years. Andrew stands near the door as they begin to speak, while his father sits behind a large desk. Neither of them move much as they carry on a forced conversation. The second shows the two in the kitchen, purposely spaced a significant distance apart, showing the father, this time, near the door. Through the archway that leads to the living room, all you see are the pale gray and white tones of the furniture and the light from the windows; the same color of light that dominates the scene. The third takes place towards the end of the film, after Andrew has undergone considerable emotional transformation through his time with Sam and the absence of his medications. This scene begins with the same distance between the two characters, but changes dramatically when they start a real, deep conversation, and ends with the two characters sitting close enough to touch. The lighting changes to a warmer quality that makes the color show on both sides of the character. The latest interaction between Andrew and his father creates a staging that leaves the viewer with a new emotional attachment to the two characters who are building a new relationship.

Garden State is a movie that is realistically honest and sends the viewer into a passage that is poignant, dark, and comical at the same time. The way that writer / director / star Zach Braff’s vision is intriguingly evident through the concepts of lighting, design, and staging makes viewers identify and identify with the main character and the number of diverse and poignant situations. in which it is found. on.

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