Statistical style analysis The English Patient

Data was recorded from the following five parameters of the shot over the first 30 minutes of The English Patient, shot length, shot scale, camera movement, camera direction, and camera angle. For comparative purposes, the same data were recorded from the first 30 minutes of Jurassic Park. Barry Salt has already argued that 30 minutes is a representative sample to analyse. To test this hypothesis, we shall compare the results of the statistical style analysis of the first 30 minutes of Jurassic Park with the statistical style analysis of the whole film.

The statistical tests applied in this section to the collected data are the simplest ones available on SPSS: calculating the frequency of variables (i.e. counting them), representing those frequencies as percentages, calculating the mean, the standard deviation, and the skewness of the results.

The first 30 minutes of The English Patient (up to the moment where Caravaggio introduces himself to Hana, and they go into the kitchen of the monastery) comprise 356 shots. In terms of shot length, the main values are to be found in Table 3.1 (on p. 113).

The first column indicates shot length values (1 second, 2 seconds, and so on); the second column the number of times this shot length appears in the first 30 minutes of The English Patient (1-second shots appear 41 times, 2-second shots 84 times); and the third column indicates the percentage of shots with each value (1-second shots constitute 11.5 per cent of all the shots in the sample, while 2-second shots represent 23.6 per cent of all the shots in the sample).

Table 3.1 only represents shots of length 1-10 seconds. There are additional values, up to 129 seconds (the opening credit sequence shot), but the frequency of shot lengths above 10 seconds is usually very small - one or two examples. Shots of length 1-10 seconds constitute 92 per cent of all the shots in the sample.

Table 3.2 shows that the mean (the average) value of shot length of this sample is 5.1. In other words, the average shot length (ASL) of the film is 5 seconds (there is, on average, a cut every 5 seconds). The standard deviation of shot length is 8, indicating a wide dispersion of values around the mean, while the skewness of values is 10.97, indicating a very strong postive skewedness of values, favouring those values below the mean. What this means is that there are a large number of shots in the range 1-4 seconds. All of this information can also be represented visually (Fig. 3.1, on p. 112).

The value of this information may not be readily apparent. One of the best ways to make sense of it is to conduct a comparative analysis. The first 30 minutes of Jurassic Park (up to the end of the scene where Grant, Sattler, Malcolm, and Gennaro see a dinosaur egg hatch in the lab) consists of 252 shots, in comparison to The English Patient's 356, a difference of 104 shots. This indicates that The English Patient has 40 per cent more shots than Jurassic Park, a surprising result considering that The English Patient is a highbrow mega-movie imitating art cinema aesthetics, while Jurassic Park is a blockbuster full of fast action.

We can make many other comparisons. Jurassic Park's values for shot length can be found in Tables 3.3 and 3.4 (on p. 113). The shot lengths in the range 1-10 seconds only constitute 80 per cent of all the shots in the sample, suggesting that Spielberg's film has a wider variety of shot lengths. This is reflected in a skewness value of 2.68 (the mean value is 7 seconds and standard deviation is 6.69). Whereas the skew value of The English Patient is 10.97, in Jurassic Park it is only 2.68. This shows that the shot length values are more evenly distributed around the mean of 7. There is still a bias towards lower values (lower than the mean), but the bias is far smaller than in The English Patient. This information can also be represented visually (see Fig. 3.2).

We can explore farther this difference in shot length values. In The English Patient, 52 per cent of the shots fall in the range 1-3 seconds. In Jurassic Park, only 35 per cent of the shots fall within this range. We have to include the values up to 5 seconds before Jurassic Park reaches the same percentage (in fact shots falling in the range 1-5 seconds constitute 54 per cent of the film's total). However, by looking at the bar graphs we can detect a similar pattern: a low value for 1 second, rising steeply for 2 seconds, and then falling gradually for the values 3 and 4 seconds. Furthermore, no shot length above 4 seconds in The English Patient and no shot length above 6 seconds in Jurassic Park constitute more than 10 per cent of the total values. Whether these results only represent patterns common to The English Patient and Jurassic Park, are common in film-making, or are an anomaly will require further research.

With the above tests we are simply scratching the surface of what can be achieved with statistical style analysis. It is also possible to apply the same tests to the results obtained from the other four parameters of the shot. But because this would make this chapter even longer, we shall instead consider camera movement and shot scale. With the data collected on camera movement, we

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Fig. 3.1. Shot length for the first 30 minutes of The English Patient

Fig. 3.2. Shot length for the first 30 minutes of Jurassic Park

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