Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Limitless Techniques


Neil Burger’s Limitless is an interestingly made film for me, particularly through the varieties of techniques it employs to convey information and ideas to the viewer.

Briefly, the story centres around this deadbeat guy who comes into possession of a miracle pill that lets him access the full capability of his brain and thus achieve things in life he never thought were possible.

During the film, the effect this pill has on Eddie (played by Bradley Cooper) can be easily shown in terms of the results it produces; for instance the money, women, popularity, career and general lifestyle successes he accrues.

However, what is harder to show on film is the way in which the pill works and the effects it has on his Eddie as it kicks in. How can you convey these abstract ideas in a way that makes sense to the viewer? One obvious way in which this issue was tackled was through the use of Eddie’s narration. At times, he directly describes what is going on, but beyond this lies the more interesting stuff.

For a start – cinematography and lighting: Eddie’s regular life is presented in drab and cold green, blues and greys, but when he takes a pill his world is literally illuminated – bright, sunny and clear: a better place to be.

When he first experiences the pill’s effects, he sees another image of himself walking where he was moments before, to imply a heightened sense of self awareness- manifested directly here as an out-of-body experience.

This is also shown through time slowing down, sounds being amplified and certain details in the environment being zoomed in on- none of which are presented as being literal but help to get across the idea of Eddie experiencing a heightened sense whilst on the drug.

More outlandish effects used in some scenes include: letters of the alphabet falling around him as he types away furiously on his novel, the ceiling tiles flicking through stock market information and the various fighting techniques he had seen on TV in the past flashing through his consciousness as he employs them almost instinctively for the first time during a brawl in the subway.

My personal favourite though, is the ‘zoom through multiple shots’ sequence that is used twice in the movie, most noticeably during the opening credits. The camera zooms through shot after shot of bustling New York City giving the illusion of one long seamless take. With so many sounds, sights, lights, people – all with their own incredible minutiae of detail, seemingly going on forever. Drug or no drug - even in just one night and one city, the possibilities presented here are truly limitless.

21 July 2011

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