Introduction to Film Studies Comparison Essay
Movies which are the subject of discussion for this essay: ‘Hachiko’ and ‘Two Brothers’.
‘Hachiko, a dog’s story’ (2009) is based on true events and mainly features a dog named, you guessed it, Hachiko. In the film, Hachiko is separated from his master when the master suffers from a heart attack and kicks the bucket. Similarly, the two sibling tigers are separated from themselves and their mother in the movie ‘Two Brothers’ (2003). Both films show the bond between the respective characters before the separation comes and thus throughout the movie the audience understands the relationship between them. Furthermore since these films have animals as their protagonists, another aspect that the directors and screenwriters play with is anthropomorphism. Where they make the animals look like they have human traits and behaviors, and this is done powerfully with point-of-view and close-up shots. So it is a combination of these different elements that effectively makes both these films successful and heart-wrenching.
First off I’ll discuss the ways in which both films show the initial bond between the characters. In Hachiko, the scene that shows this is the day after Hachiko’s master finds him, when he goes to the train station to get to work and he suddenly sees Hachiko standing outside from the inside of the train. The shot here is a point-of-view shot, as we see Hachiko from the point of view of the master in the train. He then tries to get Hachiko to go back home but to no avail. He then misses his train. (Interesting that this movie too has trains, like so many of the films we studied in class). After the master brings Hachiko back to the house, Hachiko manages to escape yet again and it is then that the master as well as we the audience realize that Hachiko just wants to send his master off to work and will then go home, coming back later at exactly 5pm to greet his master. The repetition of Hachiko sending his master off and then greeting him after work, day after day, season after season and year after year; drills into our minds that Hachiko is really attached and loyal to his master.
Similarly in ‘Two Brothers’, the scene that establishes this initial relationship is when the two tiger brothers are seen running around in the jungle and when one of them encounters a porcupine, he climbs up a tree, scared. But then his brother comes to his rescue and makes the porcupine back off. The brothers then tumble around affectionately and play with a coconut much like 2 human brothers would play with a football. Though the relationship is not drilled into our minds like ‘Hachiko’ does, we still get a sense that the two cub tigers love each other. Also this is further emphasized with the shot of all of them-the mother, father and the two tiger cubs-sitting in a small clearing near the river. This shot explicitly makes the audience think of them as a family and families have a sense of togetherness. This is why these scenes are important to establish in the beginning (and can be said to be a type of exposition, because without it the rest of the movie wouldn’t make any sense) so that the audience can sympathize with the characters when they are separated from one another later on.
Once they are separated from their respective counterparts, anthropomorphism comes into play with the use of point-of-view as well as close-up shots. In ‘Hachiko’, point-of-view shots are mainly used and are used effectively. One such scene is where Hachiko is in the storage shed and the master is in the house arguing with his wife. In this scene we are one with Hachiko and can hear their muffled voices discussing him; also what makes this realistic and quite frankly, cool, is that the point-of-view shots are in black and white. This is because dogs are rumoured to be colour-blind, although I think some can see red.
In addition to that there is this one shot in the movie which is also my favourite shot, that shows Hachiko thinking and this anthropomorphizes him. In this shot, Hachiko is walking along a railroad track and he comes upon a split in the tracks, the camera is then placed just above his head and we see the tracks splitting in two directions from him. To me, why this is a powerful shot, is because this shot was taken at the point in the movie when his master had already passed away, and thus the split in the tracks symbolised that he could choose which path to take; the path to go back to his master’s family or to live on his own and wait for his master every-day in front of the train station. He chose the latter. Also in a way it was a point-of-view shot, though we were not seeing from his eyes, we were seeing what he was seeing, and because we were above him we separate ourselves from Hachiko and thus could see his hesitation. That way, we as an audience get the feeling that Hachiko was making a decision- which is what we humans do, making him humanlike.
‘Two Brothers’ on the other hand uses more close-up shots than point-of-view shots. At the scene of the first separation, the bolder of the two cub brothers is left behind as his mother could only carry one of them away. When this happens, the cub left behind cries and calls for his mother and brother to come back. Here we get a close-up of his face and see the sadness in his eyes as he looks up at the wall where his mother escaped with his brother. Shortly after, he hears human voices and looks towards the source of the sound; here we get another close-up of the cub’s face. In this close-up the cub’s head is slightly tilted and the audience gets a sense that the cub is wondering who and what is nearby; attributing human thoughts to the close-up of the tiger cub’s face.
In another scene, we see the more timid of the two cub tigers on a shelf full of stuffed animals, playing hide-and-seek with his young owner. Here there’s another close-up where we can tell that the cub is trying not to move as his young master searches for him, just like a human child would act. Then an event happens and the cub is put in a cage and driven away. Here we see another kind of point-of-view shot similar to that in ‘Hachiko’. Where we as an audience seem to be directly next to the cub and so we see his young owner running after him but also in a sense, running after us. This shot makes the audience sympathize with the cub tiger and also makes the audience feel what it is like to be in his shoes as he is being separated yet again from his loved ones.
Furthermore, both films use juxtaposition to maintain the bond between the separated. For example, in ‘Hachiko’, there is juxtaposition between Hachiko’s present life and his life before his master passed away, showing that Hachiko thinks of his master daily or maybe even every minute. Similarly in ‘Two Brothers’ the cub tigers are juxtaposed with scenes of each other. Though the juxtaposition of these scenes in both movies are used to accomplish the same thing (maintaining the relationship), in ‘Two Brothers’ the meaning is different from ‘Hachiko’ as it shows that these two cub tigers still have hope to get back together and become brothers again, while Hachiko can never get back his master.
Another similarity between these two films is the ending. In ‘Hachiko’, Hachiko is lying down at his usual spot in front of the train station. Then we get a close-up of his face and see his eyes slowly closing, and suddenly we flashback to memories of him and his master, much like the acclaimed ‘life flashing past your eyes’ moment before death. Then a flash of light and back to his face and finally the camera drifts up over the train station signalling the end of the movie. In my own interpretation of the ending, the flash of light symbolises him passing away and the tilting of the camera indicated him floating up to heaven and then in a way he is back with his master in the land of the dead.
In ‘Two Brothers’, the two tiger cubs have been reunited for some time now, but then at the denouement, they say goodbye to their friends and walk off into the jungle…and some would have thought that was the end (I did), but no, they then encounter their mother and there’s another happy reunion. So at the end, the characters in both films were brought back together, if not physically (Two Brothers) then spiritually (Hachiko).
The reason I chose to compare these two films was because I saw a lot of similarities, the main one being that it’s about animals. Also by comparing these two films, I found out that what really makes an impact to the audience are the point-of-view and close-up shots which are used to play with anthropomorphism which is ultimately the most important aspect in both films. In addition, I myself am an animal person and so found it interesting to compare and contrast two animal films to find out why they are so effective in telling the story to other animal and non-animal lovers alike.