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The Police Genre: Seeing and Knowing CSI

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lina latif

on 21 September 2012

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Transcript of The Police Genre: Seeing and Knowing CSI

The Police Genre: Seeing and Knowing CSI CSI is primarily structured through following the work of the police forensic scientists so it is much less about physical action than the process of solving crimes. The relationship between style and the human body is CSI’s greatest innovation (Bignell, 2007). The use of rapid zooms towards and inside the body or items of evidence (often at extreme magnification and using computer generated imaging – CGI) develops the common theme that seeing in a special way is the key investigative activity in the genre. CSI is distinctive in its use of long sequences showing the process of autopsy and the scientific analysis of fragments from bodies or crime scenes. Fluid but very slow camera movements track around the dimly lit spaces of the crime labs while the characters conduct procedures such as examining clothing fibers or skin cells through microscopes, or painstakingly arranging the fragments of an object so they can identify how it was broken. Pace is created in these long sequences by the addition of non-diegetic music and the camera’s elegant dancing motion. Long camera shots produce the impression of continuity through time, and allow the camera to follow characters as they reveal their thoughts and their relationships with each other and their environment. This generosity with time provides the viewer with the opportunity to consider what can be seen, thus providing the audience with relevant cues and encouraging identification with the main characters. Extended shots of the scientist working enforce the viewer’s concentration on the detail of how the characters act and react across a sustained period of action. At the same time, these long sequences show the characters moving in space and allow for physical and emotional distance from them, so that analytical and critical understanding of them can be gained by revealing movements of the body, gesture or costume. Since the scenes move relatively slowly, it generates a sense of realism in following the investigators’ work as it occurs and also requires the audience to observe them and interpret their actions without the camera providing the movements from wider shots to close-ups, and the dramatic contrast which usually offer an interpretative point of view on the action. The camera in CSI seems to force objects to reveal their secrets, paralleling the work of the forensic investigators with the looking done by the camera. The present is characterized by its stillness, seen especially in the forensic scientists’ absorption in their work and the literal stillness of dead bodies or pieces of evidence. But this stillness is made to reveal movement and passion that happened in the past. From the evidence gathered, the team reconstructs a crime that is then either:
• re-staged by conventional flashback
• attack on the victim’s body re-enacted by means of CGI
• prosthetics and models so that the process that caused the injuries are known In doing justice to the evidence, the forensic reconstruction of the process of the crime gives back a story to a body or an object. However, there is little character development in CSI, and only fragments of the characters’ domestic lives or past experiences are revealed. ‘The evidence never lies’ – it is comforting to know that in a grey world. There is comfort with Gil Grissom or Horatio Caine or Mac Taylor are on the case. The emphasis is on the concentration of the investigators and their systematic absorption in their work, connoting their professionalism and efficiency. The present is therefore known by restoring a past that led to it and what is seen in the present is explained by another form of seeing that projects a past backwards from the present. This is also something of an exception to the way in which characters in long-running series are usually explored in ever-increasing depth, so the series are drawn towards the characters. linalatif1gmail.com
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