Argo- Director study Essay

Submitted By M3lman
Words: 1387
Pages: 6

“ Argo is about storytelling, and in particular, the way fantasy touches a certain place in our collective consciousness. “Ben Affleck’s storytelling uses a number of techniques-Reaction shots, cutting, lens changes and subtitles-to portray the chaotic culture clash of the 1979 Iran-hostage situation.
Affleck presents the hysterical anger of the Iranian people through the use of reaction shots. In the first scene Affleck presents the protestors, many baring English signs-“USA return the Shah”, “Justice for murder”-superseded by a reaction shot of an Iranian man viciously stabbing an effigy of the Shah for 8 seconds. The human eye can register a single image shown in 1/20th of a second, the 8 seconds that Affleck uses is therefore a deliberate time used to emphasize the raw emotion of the Iranian protestors. This reaction shot presents the pure rage felt by the Iranian people over what they saw as the Shah escaping justice in his flight to America. Affleck chose a reaction shot as it presents the audience with the feelings of the Iranians and shows their raw animosity of their emotions when it comes to the Shah. This is superseded by the animalistic presentation of the Iranian protestors, there is “standing room only for hangings in the square” and the audience is reminded of cattle as the protesters mill around the gates of the Embassy. By presenting the Iranian people like this Affleck builds the suspense as the audience knows the danger that Mendez is flying into and also the danger that the Americans hiding in the embassy face if they are exposed. It is easy to believe that the rage expressed against the pillow could be turned on the Americans should they be discovered.
The final scene of Affleck’s Argo follows the escapes as they make their way through the dangerous Iranian airport. To accentuate the danger Affleck uses reaction shots throughout the scene. The reaction shots show the anger of the Iranian guards and the confusion of the Americans. The reaction shots of Azizi show his suspicion and hatred for the Americans, the low angle of the shot also shows the power that Azizi has at that moment. Azizi’s harsh icy reactions show the danger that the Americans face should they be found out. Using reaction shots allows Affleck to expose the hatred the Iranians had for the people that were interfering in their justice and revenge, these reaction shots appear throughout the film and are especially prevalent in the Bazaar scene where they are used to show the suspicion of the Iranian merchants. The reaction shots of the Iranians in the final scene remind the viewer of the first reaction shot they saw, this emphasises the danger the Americans face as it is easy to see that fanatical rage being used against them. To further emphasise the fear and chaos felt by the Americans Affleck used reaction shots of them as well, these reaction shots are presented when the camera pans across all of their faces, both in the van and as they line up in the airport. These reaction shots are contrasted against those of the Iranians focusing on the clash of cultures- one filled with fear, the other filled with anger and hatred. The Americans are shown to be civilized, fearing for their lives in the face of the Iranian fanaticism-where the Iranians are shown to be filled with wrath and national zeal. This national zeal is believable and particularly prevalent to the American audience who have experienced events such as the twin towers and even more recently the Boston bombing. These events are so similar to the Embassy situation that it is easy for us to believe that the Iranian’s actions have not been exaggerated by Affleck.
Cultural differences are the heart of Affleck’s Argo. Affleck uses cross cutting in both scenes to explore this theme. In both scenes Affleck cuts between the Americans escaping, the Iranians and the CIA headquarters. The use of cross cutting is effective in portraying the cultural differences of the Iranians and