Mississippi Burning Opening Sequence


Mississippi Burning Opening Sequence
Mississippi Burning
• Two anonymous figures
– Highlights that racial tension affects whole
• White person first
– Whites are superior to blacks
• Black child
– Child, indicates Parker’s sympathy is with black
– Could also mean blacks treated like children
• White fountain hand operated/black constantly
– Whites have power to control events, black
community are powerless
• ‘White’ sign higher than ‘colored’
– Superior attitude. Although separate, not equal
• White fountain new, metallic, good working
order/ black one old, state of disrepair, low
– Discrimination in all aspects of life
• Pipe divides the fountains and screen
– shows the racial divide and the central concern of film
Lighting and Music
• Light comes in from white side
– Dark shadows cast over black side symbolising the
persecution by the whites
• Whole scene fairly dark
– Majority of whites also in the dark regarding their
racist views
• Traditional gospel music
– Plea to God from the oppressed/persecuted people
– Soulful but depressing. Engages viewer’s emotions.
The Title
Monochrome Title
Visual Metaphor representing racial divide
• Black background
– Black community pushed into the background
• Title in white
– Whites remain prominent. Their views heard over
Burning Church
• Supposed to provide peace and comfort,
symbol of love and hope
– Destroyed by hatred of white community
– Symbolises loss of peace and hope in community
• Visual representation of hate and destruction
– Racial tensions in community
• Gradually collapses
– Community gradually collapsing/torn apart by
racism of whites
Contrast with Water Fountain Scene
• Running water creates sense of calm
– Represents life/life giving element
– Peaceful
• Contrast with destructive force of fire
– Racial divide is destructive
• Juxtaposition of two images
– Very different but both symbolise division in
• Silence at start
– Illustrates isolation of setting
• Music commences
– Peace will soon be disturbed
• Sound of snare drum
– When ‘authorities’ enter scene
– Like a march, two communities going to war
– Like the drum roll heard before an execution
• Boys’ car enters scene
– Sound of crickets, peaceful
• Police cars enter scene
– Revving engines, menacing. Intend to intimidate
Music builds tension, especially as it speeds up
• Black boy in back in darkness
– Shadow hangs over him, perhaps marking him out
– Could be ominous foreshadowing of imminent fate
– Reminds us of opening shot of water fountain
• KKK members step out of car
– Unable to see clearly because of strong light
– Highlights secrecy of activities/hidden identity
• Shine torches in faces of activists
– Intimidates but also unable to clearly see their faces
– Illustrates mystery with which they keep their racist activity
• Screen goes black after first gunshot
– Only one possible conclusion – do not need to see to know what
• Happens at night
– Under the cover of darkness
Camera Shots
• Long shot
– Car’s progress: single car in undulating road. Ominous.
– Alternates with close-ups in car
• Wide angle shots of convoy
– Shows no escape
– Reinforces vulnerability of boys: single car in vast countryside
– See ‘predator’
• Close-up of black boy
– Unsettled, uneasy. Allows viewer to empathise
– Looks over shoulder – black community always doing so in
• Long shots to close-ups
– Predatory cars chasing their victim
– Become part of the panic inside the car
• Keep changing
Camera Angles
– Echoes unsettled, frightening, chaotic nature of scene
• Point of view angle
– Feels like we are partaking in action
• Extreme close-ups
– Viewer empathises with activists
– Can see fear
• High angle shots
– Establish dominance of the police and vulnerability of victims
• Framing of head and chin of one of the murderers
– Terrifying in its effect
• Close up of gun and trigger being pulled
– Shocking shot – shocks us out of apathy
– Close up of blood on face is harrowing
• Black activist assesses the situation correctly
– ‘Oh, they ain’t playin’, you better believe it.’
• Klansman
– ‘I shot me a nigger’: feeds into existing knowledge
of the Klan
– Deep southern drawl
• Language makes viewer uneasy
– ‘Jew boy’ and ‘Nigger lover’