Applying the concepts to a trailer of my choice…

Posted: July 13, 2010 in Media

Well I decided to apply the various concepts we discussed to a trailer of the  film ‘Leon: The Professional’ because I have heard from others that is an enjoyable film and that it also is a  revenge/thriller film, which is the genre I am planning to base my own trailer on eventually.

Here’s the trailer I’ve chosen to analyse:


The equilibrium is stated to the audience quite quickly in the trailer- we are introduced to characters and there are various hints at what the narrative will be in the film. For example, this is conveyed mostly through the voice over featured in the trailer: ‘In the art of the kill, Leon was the master’ – this introduces the protagonist of the film and also some of the story, which is implied to involve professional killings/assassinations. ‘He never missed a hit’ – this introduces the character’s personality to us and lets the audience know his job is a big part of his life as he has developed it into a skill. This leads us to think whether his job will come to affect some else’s life or be the main part of the narrative.

There is a definite disruption in the equilibrium when we are introduced to more characters that seem to have significant importance to the plot. For example when the voice over says that Leon ‘never had a reason to care…until now’ this indicates a disruption in the equilibrium as the protagonist looks upon a new character. This implies the new character will somehow disturb the equilibrium that’s already been established, much like how Todorov said. Further disrupting the equilibrium, more oppositional characters are then introduced, which are police officers that have appeared to have killed a young girl’s family (Which is shown through close ups and scenes of shootouts) and we begin to wonder whether the equilibrium will be able to be restored.

There is hint at a recognition of the disturbed equilibrium through the fact that the young girl’s family has been murdered and she turns to Leon, the protagonist, to help. The girls sobs of: ‘Please open the door….Please!’ makes us, and the protagonist, recognize the fact that the equilibrium has been disturbed and we wonder how and if Leon will help her restore it. A theme of revenge is also apparent here, where we hear the young girl say ‘I wanna get those dirt bags who killed my brother’ and this implies that the protagonist and the young girl know who disturbed the equilibrium and we wonder how they will set the score and therefore set a new equilibrium.

An attempt to repair the equilibrium is shown through the fact that there are montages of shots where we see the protagonist looking after the young girl, which tells us he has let her stay with him and implies he is going to help her and therefore restore the equilibrium. The voice over states the two characters ‘are about to come face to face with the cop who’s crossed the line’ which implies directly that some confrontation between the heroes (Leon and the young girl) and the villains (the bent coppers) is going to take place in order to try and repair the equilibrium (which would be getting revenge on the cop who killed the young girl’s family I guess…). We hear the villain say ‘Bring me everyone…’ to which another character replies, surprised: ‘you mean everyone?’ the villain screams ‘EVERYONE!!!!!‘ Which implies to us that an attempt to repair the equilibrium has possibly occurred and the villain is rattled- making us wonder what Leon/the girl have done and whether they will get away with it. A tense montage of shots including the police, who are thought to be the ‘bad guys’, the girl running/crying and Leon shooting/diving from an explosion also teamed with tension building, dramatic music in the background makes us tense in the wonder of how and whether the equilibrium will ever be restored.

Unlike Todorov, the reinstatement of the equilibrium does not occur in the trailer. But clearly I think this is the nature of all trailers- we want  a hint of what equilibrium there was at the beginning of the film- but not too long as it may get boring (and this can be longer in the actual film or go into more detail) and then we want the equilibrium then be disturbed and the recognition and attempt to repair it also- we don’t want to see anything that might tell us the ending of the film or what outcome it has otherwise it would spoil the entire film and we wouldn’t feel intrigued to go and watch it…which is what trailers are really for….



I can see various objects and things that can denotate the obvious messages in the trailer and reveal aspects about the film. Such as…

Guns= clearly denote violence and murders. This reveals to the audience the film at and could be particually violent and/or scary and also implies Leon’s profession, as he is a hit man.

Cuddly toys= these denote innocence and vulnerability in a particular character and perhaps a certain character that will be protected by the hero (such as the little girl will be protected by Leon).

Police= they usually denote a crime has taken place, most of the time this is a murder. They often denote justice and goodness also (although here it is clear that the police are in fact the villains of the film).

Explosions= Chaos and anarchy. they denote that something dreadful has happened or that some one has committed an act of rebellion.


There seem to be more of these, or I just find it easier to connotate than denotate…I think…such as:

Leon’s black coat= from films we have often discussed that this connotes a troubled protagonist or what is otherwise known as a ‘reluctant hero’ (such as the lead role in ‘I Robot’ and Neo in ‘The Matrix’) and I think this applies to the film as although Leon seems to be the hero of the film, he is still a murderer and this implies he will be a reluctant hero. He also is seen to pause when he sees the little girl outside his flat, crying to him for help and this implies that although he will be the hero of the film he will be hesitant or reluctant to take this role at first.

Sunglasses= I think this connotes that a person does not wish to be seen or recognized by others- implying they are villainous or have enemies. It also connotes they are sleuthful characters who do not like to get attached to others.

White clothes= I think this connotes a pure and innocent character, perhaps even a hero or someone needed to be saved by the hero. Cleverly I think the trailer reverses this by dressing the hero in all black (which usually connotes rebellious and evil characters) and the villain in white (which usually connotes helpful or heroic characters) which helps the audience think about who is the hero/villain and whether our stereotypical views of who a hero/villain should be are always correct.

A smashed picture= I honestly think this is quite regularly used in TV and film to connote chaos and mourning– usually by a break in/murder. A villain who is clearly brutal and insensitive breaks into a house and in the process breaks a picture of a character/characters. These character(s) in the picture usually have some significance to what happened and if they themselves find it, will be outraged and perhaps even seek revenge. Here the picture connotes this through it’s importance that the police have killed two people in the picture- but one is remaining, which is the little girl who just escaped a gruesome fate.

Action Code…

There appears to be a few of these featured in the trailer, such as…

When a family is murdered by the villain= through this action there is an obvious disturbance in the equilibrium as we see a girl has been left behind and has luckily escaped. The fact she escapes disturbs the equilibrium as we know she will need someone to look after her and protect her, but we wonder who will take up this role.

The girl going to Leon’s flat= This action, which is the girl nervously walking straight to the nearest door, ringing the bell and pleading softly for someone to let her in and help her gives some insight into the narrative. We know the girl is in trouble and is now asking for the protagonist’s help– it shows us how the two characters meet for the first time, what relationships they had at first (if any) and how their two lives were thrown together

The cops gathering outside Leon’s flat= This seems to imply that a resolution could be at hand– the police have somehow discovered where the girl is and are attempting to kill her to finish off the job they started. They fire at the door, throw in explosives, everything to try and get them out, which conveys the sense that the villains are attempting to get the girl but we wonder what the outcome will be…will Leon be able to protect her??


There is one interesting example of this in trailer I can clearly see, and this is the battle between the ‘hit man’ and the policeman. The reason I talk about this in semiotics is because the trailer seems to break the rules in this sense. For example, if most people saw a TV programme/Film or whatever media product which involved a policeman locking horns with a professional killer what instantly come to mind is this: The policeman is the good guy because he reinforces the law, protects the innocent etc and the professional killer is a bad guy because he murders for money, breaks the law and obviously doesn’t care for anyone etc etc. But what I like about the trailer is that the narrative implied makes us challenge what we would usually denote from an idea such as this, because Leon, although he is a professional killer, seems to be the hero of the story, while the policeman, although he is meant to represent justice, seems to be a brutal villain. By reversing usual stereotypes or signs we read in everyday media products it leaves us thinking whether what we instantly make out from a piece of information is entirely true and we should perhaps think about it in more detail than just making an everyday assumption.


Hero: Clearly Leon. Leon is not your usual hero (like a usual prince charming or a Hercules) but he is the hero of the film none the less (or this is what the trailer implies). Overall I like the way the character type of hero is challenged as usually a hero is naturally innocent and pure- and by making the hero a professional killer it makes the film out to be more interesting as it is breaking the conventions of usual characters seen in films.The reason he appears to be the hero is because he appears to recognize the disruption in the narrative ( the girl’s family being killed) and protects more vulnerable/innocent characters from various threats, such as the villain himself. Like a hero, he also seems to go through vigorous changes in personality throughout the progress of the trailer- he starts off isolated and committed to his job and then turns out to be changed by the arrival of  a new character– he seems more concerned about her than his job, he has someone to care for etc and hero’s tend to be the character’s that have changed the most by the end of the film. The trailer also makes it clear that he will go on some kind of journey in order to try and restore the equilibrium, but will he be successful in this? Well, the trailer doesn’t say…

Villian: Interestingly this is implied to be  a policeman. Not your stereotypical/fairytale villain then, as policemen are regularly in films, featured as the heroes of the story (such as the two policemen in ‘Se7en’ and The detective in ‘V for Vendetta’) and by reversing this and making the villain a policeman it therefore interests us as it is breaking usual character conventions– shocking us and making us want to know more as it seems unique and different. The way the character is also presented to us also implies him to be the villain, such as his quite strange and obsessive lines‘I like these calm little moments before the storm’ and ‘EVERYONE!!!’ The character is also said to have ‘crossed the line’ which indicates he is a bad character who has gone too far and done something terrible– so therefore the villain of the film. He also seen breaking into people’s houses, shooting/aiming guns and this implies he is obsessed with something, like villains usually are, and is doing violent and horrible things. And this makes us wonder whether he will be stopped…and why he is doing this all in the first place…

Princess: The little girl. Clearly she is the character that needs to be saved from the villain (policeman) by the hero (Leon). And this is quite unconventional too…well sort of. Generally when we think of the princess type of character, which Propp called a kind fo ‘reward’ for the hero for restoring the equilibrium, we think of actual princesses, beauties and love interests for the hero to aspire to ‘win’. So by using a vulnerable little girl as  a reward for  a professional killer stopping  a villain’s rampage seems unique and interests us as it would not be what we would usually expect from a film. I suppose she is the reward to Leon as she is implied to give him a new take on life a ‘reason’ to live and somebody to care for when at first he had neither on these things and lived alone. By helping her it  is implied he will therefore reward himself as there is hints at the fact he is getting something he has never had– a child to look after and care for like his own.

In terms of Propp’s narrative structure, here’s what I found in my analysis….

The preparation- We are prepared for the narrative to follow as we are introduced to the main character (Leon) and learn a little about him by seeing montages of him at work (being sent on jobs to assassinate various people). And this prepares us for a violent story that will perhaps involve murders, violence and maybe even revenge.

The Complication- Evident in the trailer by the little girl’s family being murdered. This complicates things as she knows they want to kill her too and that she must get away, but has nowhere to go. This definitely complicates things. The complication in the film is also shown further when she happens to knock on the protagonist’s door…we wonder what he’ll do: will he answer the door and help her out of this complication? Or will he ignore it and allow her to be killed like the others?

The Transference- I’m not entirely sure what this is to be honest, but I’ll have a pop at it anyway…I’m guessing this means the hero is being transferred to a place or maybe psychologically to  state of understanding where he sees something is wrong and that he must put things right, because he is the hero. So I think this is implied in the trailer (if this is what it means!) when Leon decides to take the little girl into his home and look after her, as she clearly needs help. I think that, although you don’t see it in the trailer, it is implied that she tells him what has happened to her and her family and this opens his eyes to the disruption in the equilibrium and makes him realise he must be the one to put things back to normal (or attempt to anyway).

The struggle- I’d say the longest section in the trailer, from around the middle to the very end. We see both sides, good and bad, struggle to get the outcome they want (policeman wants to kill the girl, Leon wants to save her) and this is shown through various shoot outs, characters aiming guns at other, at other unseen characters, explosions, characters looking angry/upset/frightened for reasons that remain unknown etc. These all imply that struggles to restore the equilibrium are being made but we don’t know in what order, the details or who will be successful in this struggle. Which makes us want to watch on to find out…

The return and recognition- Not established or even touched on. Trailers like to leave these parts a mystery as these are the vital points to a film. When we begin to watch a film we haven’t seen before we want to see how it all ends, as this is considered the most important part. So seeing what happens at the end of a film in the trailer would ruin watching experience and put off the idea of watching the film itself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s