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Michael Moore - Bowling for Columbine Textual Analysis

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Emily Newson

on 1 September 2014

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Transcript of Michael Moore - Bowling for Columbine Textual Analysis

Michael Moore - Bowling for Columbine Textual Analysis
Equilibrium
At the equilibrium, Michael Moore has used combination of voice over and different camera angles to introduce the location of the documentary, USA. The voice over, consisting of Michael Moore himself, has been used to narrate the camera work being shown, by introducing the setting, date and time of the documentary. At this point, the audience is shown an extreme long shot of the Washington monument at sunrise, followed by a morning ariel shot over an American town. These shots have been used to immediately inform the audience that the film is set in the USA, as well as to create the impression that it was the morning of the footage which is to follow. As the documentary continues, a combination of reconstructions and actuality footage has been used to help connote how it 'was an average morning in America' and how people all across America were going about their daily lives. Towards the end of this sequence, a panning shot of the Statue of Liberty has been shown to once again reinforce the setting and to connote the theme of freedom in America today (possibly linking to the freedom of owning a firearm). During this sequence, we can hear the quiet non-diegetic music of a matching band playing a famous American tune. The low volume of the music means that it has not been made a dominant feature and has simply been added to help the sequence flow.
During the title sequence, archive footage of American bowling competitions have been inserted (linking to the title of the documentary) to help keep the audience entertained as the titles are shown, as well as to introduce a new era. The black and white effects help to connote the old age of the clips. At this point, the non-diegtic music, 'Take the Skinheads Bowling' by 'Camper Van Beethoven' has been inserted to add an upbeat and happy tone to the action taking place.

Nevertheless, the footage of people bowling and upbeat music is quickly cut and archive footage of an old black and white toy gun advertisement takes its place. This is done to connote how guns were introduced to the era and how people viewed them as a safe and positive input to society (in comparison to today). The black and white archive footage then changes to archive footage in colour, connoting a change in decade. The following footage, accompanied by a voice over shows Michael Moore and his family in their early days and the involvement of guns in their lives at that time. This use of home archive footage helps to create a more personal connection between Michael Moore and the audience by allowing the audience a look into his personal life.
Before the documentary begins, the production company's ident , United Artists (An MGM Company) is shown to inform the audience which company has produced the film.

The narrative structure of the documentary is set out as an 'introduction'; the topic of firearms in the USA is presented near the beginning of the documentary before being explored in further detail.
Background Information
Bowling for Columbine is an American documentary film, released in 2002, which was written, directed and narrated by Michael Moore. Michael Moore's aim of the documentary was to explore what he suggests are the main causes for the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999 and other acts of violence involving guns in the United States of America.
Once the opening sequence has ended and the music has faded out, the audience is introduced to a new location (the bank), shown through the use of a upwards panning shot. At this point, a sound bridge of a woman's voice has been used before we are able to see the protagonist/presenter himself, Michael Moore, talking to the banker. The documentary continues by using primary footage to show how easy it was for the protagonist Michael Moore to obtain a firearm from the bank. At this point, a combination of hand held camera work, such as over the shoulder shots and long shots, have been used to follow the action as it unfolds and to create a sense of realism. This use of old style filming helps to create a 'made at home' look.

Michael Moore has inserted still images of primary research into this scene, such as the newspaper article; this helps to aid authenticity, add further information to what he is trying to promote and supports filmed scenes.The use of the 'seen presenter' at this point helps to give the documentary a personal feel. As Michael Moore poses one of the many questions involving guns within the documentary, 'Don't you think it's a little dangerous to hand out guns in a bank?' the film's title sequence begins, leaving the question unanswered. This has been done to emphasise the obvious answer and allow the audience to answer the question themselves.
Introduction
I choose to analyse this documentary film; I think that seeing Michael Moore's filming techniques, narrative structure and use of documentary codes/conventions will help me to understand how to form my own documentary, as well as give me inspiration for my own work.
Furthermore, it also linked in with my filmmaker analysis of Michael Moore himself. The documentary won many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Due to this, I think this will be a great documentary to analyse to see what makes it effective and stand out from other documentaries.
Another typical convention which Michael Moore has used in his 'Bowling for Columbine' film is his use of interviews. Unlike many documentary's Michael Moore is very personal about where he holds his interviews. For example, he has interviewed many citizens in their own home and workplace. Nevertheless, when interviewing the police officers ('experts') he has interviewed them in a professional environment to help add a sense of seriousness and realism to the subject.
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