The beginning of the film

Get to know and understand the meaning of symbols and motifs as predictive elements at the beginning of a film

Every film has a beginning, including Run Lola Run. But what is special about this part of a film?

The beginnings of films, like the beginnings of novels or plays, are among the densest parts of the entire work. These beginnings are mostly, but not necessarily, identical to the “exposition” (from the Latin exponere,which literally means “to deal with” and in the figurative sense “to explain” and “to represent”), an important part of the cinematic performance. The exposition introduces the genre and mood, describes the place and time of the action and introduces the main characters. It also introduces the action or the conflict and, under certain circumstances, gives initial clues to the outcome of the action. Central themes and motifs of the film are also introduced – sometimes in the form of symbols – in the exposition. The basic mood of the film is often conveyed through the music.

The most common form is the deductive exposition, which introduces the action from a distance (for example: city, house, protagonist) and classically begins with an establishing shot – a wide shot which then focuses down into specific shots. However, it is possible to reverse this approach to exposition. It could begin with a close look at figures or events and only provide general, orientating information later (inductive exposition). .

Symbols are carriers of meaning that represent something else and whose meaning we learn through experience and culture. For example, the cross is a symbol of Christianity. Letters, traffic signs or the dials of clocks are symbols.

Motifs are narrative building blocks that are significantly repeated in a film text and reappear during the film. A motif can be, for example, an object, a colour, a place, a sound, a melody or even a certain stylistic use of the camera.

Individual elements in the film can thus take on the role of symbols as well as motifs.

TC: 00:00:00 – 00:04:32

Task 1

  1. Watch the beginning of the film and pay particular attention to symbols and elements that (could) develop into motifs through repetition.
  2. Generate still images by tapping the camera icon in the video. With the lasso tool you can cut out essential image elements (symbols and motifs).
  3. Briefly describe on the note cards which symbol or motif you recognized. You can combine related elements with the circle tool.
  1. Research the possible meanings of the symbols and motifs that you have selected and interpret them in the context of your expectations of the film. If you have already seen the entire film, you can relate the expectations that the beginning of the film builds with the help of symbols and motifs to what happens later on in the film and to the overall structure of the film.