Forrest Gump For over a century now, individuals have been flocking to witness the magic of motion pictures. It is a world made possible by a director and a dream. Unbeknownst to many, the making of a motion picture is a tedious event, involving scripts, takes, re-takes, and an abundance of post-production editing. Many people sit and enjoy a movie without realizing the complexities and the amount of individuals involved in creating the film. These individuals create the landscapes and backboards for us, the ultimate image also known as the mise-en-scene. My favorite film of all time is Forrest Gump.
Forrest Gump will go down in history as one of the greatest films ever made. This film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, and took home six of them. This is in part because of the phenomenal cast and crew members involved in the production of this film; individuals such as the director, cinematographer, and art director, to the actors, sound people, and most importantly the editor, who pulled everything together and created the final cut. All of these plus additional elements such as sound, style, societal impact, genre, and film criticism make the film such a masterpiece.
In this paper I will go into detail about these elements and as to why they add character and zest to the overall success of the film. Forrest Gump is a film that draws out every emotion that is available to the viewer; at times it draws empathy, as well as sympathy and sadness because of the real-life elements that are a part of the plot. The film is also loaded with irony and many opportunities to laugh at the naivety of the main character, Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump is a story about an “Unusual man doing unusual things” (Groom, 1996, pg. v). As a result of how fantastic the film was, and how great the crew and cast were, Forrest Gump was nominated for thirteen Oscars at the Academy; which is a highly prestigious honor. Almost all elements of this film were up to be recognized. The list of elements that won an Oscar: best actor, best director, best effects (visual effects), best film editing, best picture, and best writing. However, the list goes on even further when mentioning the additional ones that were nominated but did not win.
This would include: best supporting actor, best art direction-set decoration, best cinematography, best effects (sound effects), best make-up, best music, and best sound (Dirks, 2010). Every one of these elements is crucial to the popularity and overall success of this film. What I plan to take notice of first is the director, Robert Zemeckis. Robert has led a successful career of directing many blockbuster hit movies. Movies such as the Back to the Future trilogy, Cast Away, Contact, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, just to name a few. It is no wonder why Robert is such a successful and well-known name in Hollywood.
Robert is a director that continually makes great films that have recurring actors, Tom Hanks being one of these actors. The style of storyline that Robert chose to use in this film is mostly in chronological order; however, the story is narrated by Forrest in the future, so the story also has moments of incongruous editing. The text states that incongruous editing is when a film jumps around in time (Goodykontz & Jacobs, 2011). You see ’future’ Forrest is telling the story of his life to numerous people who are sitting next to him at the bus stop.
The story that he tells is in chronological order, basically catching up to where he is at that moment, at the bus stop. I highly enjoyed this approach that the director used; the story would continually flip back to ‘future’ Forrest as the movie went on. I believe that the movie would have been dull, had it not been from the perspective of Forrest in the future. Excitement is added by the way that he remembers the events in his life, and how even today he is still excited about them. This movie was adapted from the book of the same name, written by Warren Groom and the screenplay was written by Eric Roth.
Although much of the story was changed, between the book and the film, it still remains based on the book. This is a story of a man who is highly naive, some would say slightly mentally challenged, who travels the world and is involved with many political events that occurred from the 1960’s to 1990’s. He faces hardships and overcomes adversity. In the final scenes devastating news is given to Forrest; the conclusion in this movie really pulls the whole movie together and makes it very satisfying. The exposition of this movie is right out the box with this film.
It starts with a feather floating high in the shy aimlessly, drifting down towards the ground. At first the audience thinks nothing of it, however, as we later on see, this feather floating and landing on the ground in front of a dingy, worn pair of running shoes, is a symbol of the story. It is a symbol of the life of Forrest Gump, a man who drifts everywhere and becomes a part of many cultural events. We then come to realize that Forrest is a little slow and does not perceive the world as the majority of people do; with this we find a lot of verbal irony on Forrest’s behalf.
The set-up is that Forrest is pushed away by his peers except a little girl named Jenny. Forrest is the protagonist in this film and his friend Jenny is the antagonist. Goodykoontz and Jacobs describe a protagonist as the main character in a movie; they also describe the antagonist as the character in conflict with the main character (Goodykontz & Jacobs, 2011). Forrest is highly conservative, and Jenny is an outright liberal. As the story goes on, Jenny becomes more and more rebellious towards society’s standards.
The confrontation is that Forrest is forever seeking to save Jenny, and to get her to conform to the way of life that he lives. However, Jenny is highly rebellious and wants to live the unhealthy lifestyle that she lives. Jenny was abused as a child and she lives very domineering to the men in her life, and since Forrest is good, she pushes him away, because all she knows is destruction. The conclusion brings everything to a head. This is where Forrest goes to Jenny’s house where she lays on him that she has a son and it is his.
This is where it gets all fuzzy, emotionally, because we find out that finally Jenny is settling down and accepting Forrest and his conservative ways. However, in the final moments of the film the story turns sad and Jenny dies of an unknown illness; which leaves Forrest to care for his son that he previously knew nothing about. The main character in this movie, Forrest, is played by Tom Hanks, who is a career veteran of great movies; he is a wild card actor because he is able to play various types of roles (Goodykontz & Jacobs, 2011).
There are a couple of secondary actors, Jenny, played by Robin White; Lieutenant Dan Taylor, played by Gary Sinise; and Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue, played by Mykelti Williamson; all of these actors would be classified as character actors, because they have been in other various films, but were always secondary characters (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). Sally Field is also in this film as Forrest’s mother, but the audience does not see too much of her. Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his grand performance in Forrest Gump.
He also won many other prestigious awards such as a Screen Actors Guild award, a Golden Globe, a Kansas City Film Critics award, and an American Comedy award. Robin White and Gary Sinise were nominated for a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award, but neither won. The cinematographer in this film is a man by the name of Don Burgess. Don was also the cinematographer in other Robert Zemeckis films, such as Contact, Cast Away, and The Polar Express (the latter two films had Tom Hanks in them).
The cinematographer in a film is the one who directs the camera and chooses what kind of shot will take place, whether it be a long shot, a close-up, or somewhere in between. They also control the lighting and determine what will be best for each particular scene. The cinematographer designs the mise-en-scene. In the beginning we see a medium shot of a feather floating in the wind; the feather then lands on the ground which the cinematographer uses an extreme close-up of the feather and Forrest’s sneakers.
Following this the camera zooms out and moves up to display Forrest sitting on a bus stop bench, next to a woman, as he is commenting about her shoes. This series of events and different shots really adds to the zest of the film. Right off we can hear Forrest’s manner of speaking, in addition to the way that he perceives the world. Another scene that I would like to point out is when Forrest is in Vietnam, and he finds Bubba shot. In this scene the cinematographer uses a lot of close-up shots of Forrest and Bubba. I believe this is to hype up the dramatics of the situation.
However, a few moments later Forrest picks up Bubba and runs with him out of the jungle. In this scene the cinematographer uses an extreme long shot; the scene lasts a full 25 seconds, which is a long time for a shot in a movie (Goodykontz & Jacobs, 2011). In this scene, Forrest and Bubba start from far away as they exit the jungle, it continues to progress until finally they run past the camera. This is a very important scene in the film where Bubba eventually dies. The cinematographer did an excellent job of capturing the planes overhead bombing, while Forrest is trying to save his friend.
This scene is very meaningful. The editor of this film is Arthur Schmidt. An editor is the person who pieces all the appropriate shots into the final cut, basically rearranging the story into a plot (Goodykontz & Jacob, 2011). Arthur Schmidt won an Academy Award for his stupendous work in this film. There was a ton of post-production done on this film. There was a scene where Forrest meets, President John F. Kennedy, the visual effects team along with the editor made this scene possible; since John F. Kennedy is currently diceased. Another scene takes place where Forrest is running rom some boys because they are chasing him down. In this scene Forrest is wearing leg braces, but there is a moment when Forrest begins breaking out of the braces, while he is running. The editor slows this scene down and closes in on Forrest’s legs, in order to emphasize him breaking out of the bondage that the braces caused. This is a pivotal scene, it is the prelude to the rest of the movie where Forrest is constantly on the move; his legs are a way for him to escape. In addition, this scene is full of direct cuts and jump cuts.
A jump cut is when there is an obvious jump in the action during a transition, and a direct cut is when one shot instantly takes over for another shot (Goodykontz & Jacobs, 2011). The various elements that the editor used were simply fantastic; it is no wonder why he won an Oscar for this film. There are many moments in this film where all types of sound are utilized, specifically sound effects and music. Each of these effects boosts the emotional value of scenes. There is a scene where Forrest is getting on the school bus for the first time. He is having trouble finding a seat because all of the students are denying him there seat.
All of a sudden he hears the voice of a little girl saying, “you can sit hear”. During this scene, sentimental music plays in the background, simply adding emotional value to what Tom Hanks is saying. Forrest says to the woman on the bench next to him, as he is narrating the scene, that he finds it, “amazing what a young man recollects,” how he doesn’t, remember many of his ‘firsts’, but he cannot forget the first time he heard Jenny’s voice, he says that, “she was like an angel” (Finerman, Tisch, & Newirth, 1994). In addition to the music, every sound other than dialogue was a sound effect that was added post-production.
This film was also recognized for its phenomenal soundtrack. In some movies songs are intentionally written for that particular movie, but in Forrest Gump these are previously existing songs that the director thought would fit the tone or mood of the particular scene(s) (Goodykontz & Jacobs, 2011). It is the soundtrack of the 60’s, filled with political songs such as “For What it’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield, and “Fortunate Son,” by Creedance Clearwater Revival. It also contained songs suitable for the action that was taking place, like “Sloop John B,” by The Beach Boys, while Forrest is in Vietnam.
The song mentions the lyrics, “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on,” and, “I feel so broke up, I wanna go home, let me go home,” these lyrics seem highly fitting for the scenario that the troops were in. The soundtrack won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. In our text it quotes that, “even though we go to films to be entertained…movies are something more than that…they are also historical documents that help us see—and perhaps more fully understand—the world in which they are made” (Goodykontz & Jacobs, 2011).
Forrest Gump touched on a lot cultural events and stigmas. First off is that Forrest is disabled and still was able to do more than most people who are not disabled do in their life. In addition, Forrest saw all people as equal, no matter what skin color they had. He also gave money to Bubba’s family, even though Bubba had died before Forrest created the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Forrest gave Bubba’s half of the profits to Bubba’s remaining family.
Bubba gave Forrest the idea and Forrest was paying due to his lost friend, through his family. This is something that he definitely did not have to do. He stands for anyone who has ever felt inadequate. Forrest Gump will go down in the history books as one of the greatest films ever made. This is because a huge number of cast and crew made this possible, from the director, cinematographer, and art director, to the actors, sound people, and most importantly the editor, who pulled everything together and created the final cut.
Additional elements should be recognized as well for the overall success of the film, such as sound, style, societal impact, genre, and film criticism. A lot of hard work, time and effort go into making a movie, and unfortunately not a lot of the public are aware of this. However, once they learn a few things and realize the distinct meaning behind a slow-motion shot or the color of a characters costume, they take a more appreciative look as to what they are viewing. The mise-en-scene makes all the difference; it is what makes or breaks any movie.