In the film Gladiator, the director Ridley Scott describes sets out the plot in a way which enhances Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. Within the storyline, the scenes in which help to deepen our understanding of Aristotle’s theory are the Reunion of Maximus & Commodus, and the attempted escape of Maximus. The film techniques of music and shot types display the plot to follow Aristotle’s concept of tragedy.
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist that wrote many manuscripts and poems in regards to his own beliefs and ideology. His manuscripts explored the concept of story making and retell us what he believed a tragic plot looked like. Within these poetics, Aristotle regarded to tragedy as “An action that is serious and of great magnitude complete in itself, in a dramatic form with incidents arousing pity and fear to accomplish a catharsis”. This quote meant the use of a turning point to engage the audience with the character. The Climax and the final moment of suspense within the film are the two main scenes I focus on within the film Gladiator. The plot is built through the use of film conventions that each portray and build the drama within the film. I think that music and the shot types that Scott uses are both film conventions that are used to portray the genre of tragedy.
In short, the plot can be described as a series of main events within a play that are presented by a writer in an interrelated sequence. Scott’s use of plot to create pity and fear lead us to associate his use of film conventions with Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. Aristotle says a film should “arouse the audience’s emotions”. But in order to engage the audience’s empathy, there must be a turning point of climax that needs to be intense, exciting and of great importance. The reunion of Maximus and Commodus is the key turning point in the film Gladiator. The reveal of the Spaniard’s true identity in the Colosseum is what initially engages us to stand to feel the emotions as if we were standing alongside the characters. Scott does this very well with the use of music and shot types. The low angle shots of the antagonist (Commodus) in the film portrays his power and authority. This enhances our understanding of the hierarchy in the film because we see Commodus through Maximus’s eyes. The music changes a lot through the scene to create pity and empathy for the audience. the fast pace and loud background music build the suspense of the scene leading us to fear for Maximus’s life. By creating a scary moment for the audience, the idea of tragedy is introduced and we can connect Scott’s use of techniques with Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. By fast tempo music, Scott intended on enhancing the climactic part of the film. He wanted to get the audience on the edge of their seats, even tho we know what the inevitable is, he wants us to sympathize with the characters as if we are truly witnessing the reality. The music also builds a Catharsis for the audience, this being parts of the film that “satisfy our appetite for emotional indulgence” as Aristotle describes it. By enhancing the audience’s emotions and allowing them to sympathize with the with Maximus and the film as a whole, show us that Scott used the film conventions to develop the conventions of tragedy.
A tragic plot must have a certain order of incidents that all connect together and bring about a final moment of suspence. In the scene where Maximus’s planned escape fails, the music and shot types develop the idea of a tragic plot. This escape scene features Maximus trying to escape his death and break out of the walls of the slave quarters. This scene gives us the last glimmer of hope for Maximus because we anticipate that he will escape Rome. The shots…
This scene makes us as the audience feel un-secure and worried for the life of Maximus. Scott uses the shot types to give us new perspectives that we wouldn’t generally see to show the drama that is occurring behind the scenes. While Maximus travels though the tunnels to his escape the camera shots cut back the action where his fellow gladiators are fighting for their lives and distracting them. In the beginning of the fight, the Gladiators look like they have the upper hand and the soldiers are losing. But when this changes and the gladiators start to die, our fear for Maximus grows and as an audience our indulgence of fear and pity grow.