A shot-by-shot analysis of the Married Life montage from Up!
This is a transition shot, bridging the gap between Carl as a child and Carl as an adult. The dynamic action of the camera flash, along with the abrupt sound jolt the audience from the previous shot with its popped balloon into a new time frame.
Notice how the flash bulb itself has a similar shape to a balloon, and it sits in the center of the frame.
Also remember that this montage is starting with a flash of white. Don’t forget that, okay?
We start on a close shot of Carl’s face, using the previous shot as a bridge. This grounds the transition, using the same character in two different time periods.
The shot pulls back to reveal Ellie, and the dynamic motion of the camera is paired with her nervous energy. She bounces in the frame, giddy in the moment, and as soon as the shot finishes pulling back, she leaps at Carl.
Look at the different energy levels of the characters. Ellie is bursting with excitement, but Carl is more reserved. His motion towards her reads as emotionally happy, but constrained.
This shot begins the use of a jazzed up version of The Wedding March, taking a stately song and infusing it with bouncy energy (much like the other elements of this shot and scene).
Also of note: This is the first bow tie we see on Carl.
There’s a cut that happens right on the kiss. There are a few things happening with this choice:
- It creates an opportunity to pull back and bring in more of the surrounding space
- It changes perspective in a different way than the previous shot’s camera motion, adding variety to the montage
- The sharp cut suggests that the action it highlights (the kiss) is a bold, dramatic moment that signals a sharp change in these characters’ lives
- The framing continues to keep the focus on the center of the image, but this wider shot also brings in the edges of the pews, allowing us to see the guests. This gives the audience a sense of space and tells them which guests came with the bride or the groom.
Already we see a sense of how Carl and Ellie’s personalities reflect their families. On Ellie’s side, we see someone applauding and bouncing in his seat. Carl’s side is in shadow, and the one person we can see appears fairly static.
The shot also directs our attention toward the next shot, as Ellie and Carl’s eye line points toward Ellie’s family.
The colors! Everyone’s attire is bright, cheerful, and loaded with different colors. Look at the floral print on the woman on the right, or the stripes on the shirts the men are wearing.
Then there’s the motion. It’s a static shot, but everyone in it is moving to make it feel dynamic. There’s movement on many planes going back away from the camera. There are different characters moving in every direction, to the sides, up and down, even diagonally. The shot is exhuberant.
And look at the way they’re displaying their excitement. There’s someone upside down, their bare feet sticking up in the air as they wiggle with glee. In the middle, a man fires off a shotgun in celebration. There’s a whistle being blown in the second row. A hat gets tossed. There’s nothing holding back their expressions of joy, just like there was little that could hold Ellie back from kissing Carl in the previous shots.
Look even more closely at the clothing they’re wearing. It’s not just colorful, but informal. Shorts. Suspenders over collared shirts without jackets. Bare feet. The script describes them as looking like “wild frontiersmen.” The movie only has a short amount of time to characterize this family, so they’re painting with a broad brush.
Bank this for later: They’re all piled on top of each other, and there are lots of children. Don’t forget this detail.
Now back to our previous setup. It’s a traditional shot-reverse shot edit, returning us to the camera position from Shot 3 after a quick cut to what the characters were looking at.
This helps keep the audience’s sense of space clear and uses the motivation of the characters’ attention to suggest when to change shots. It’s also setting us up to draw a contrast between the similar shots of Ellie’s and Carl’s families, using repeated setups to focus our attention on the important differences: The people within the shots.
Carl looks away from Ellie’s family and waves to his own. Look at how little of his body moves, compared to the actions of Ellie and her family. It’s timid. Reserved. It’s setting us up for the contrast of the next shot.
The palette is muted: blacks, whites, and grays.
The action is solemn. Everyone is clapping, but mostly motionless. Some of them even look like they’re bringing their hands together in prayer. The script refers to them as “rigid puritans.”
Note the composition of the families. Few children. Few people, in general.
And notice how far apart they’re all sitting. There are fewer people than Ellie’s family, but they’re taking up the same number of pews. There’s a coldness and distance beyond their reserved reaction. It all suggests a difficulty showing affection and a sense of formality and propriety.
Because of the contrast with the previous shot, it’s played as a joke. It suggests we should value Ellie’s family’s excitement and displays of affection.