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The Motorcycle Diaries - Film Study -

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1 The Motorcycle Diaries - Film Study -
Dir. Walter Salles Adapted from book of the same name by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.

2 SCENE: Opening Sequence
Functions as an Establishing Sequence, in which we are introduced to the two main characters – Ernesto and Alberto - through short biographies, as well as the journey that they are about to depart on. Importantly, the narrator and protagonist in Ernesto is clearly established.

3 First shot is a close-up of Ernesto, who we have already heard narrating during the opening titles in a non-diagetic voice-over.

4 Ernesto is packing for his trip, including books, medical supplies, and asthma equipment. This is a direct contrast to Alberto, who is only packing clothes and singing about good times.

5 An high angle shot is used to show Alberto highlighting their journey on a map of South America.

6 Long shot of Alberto and Ernesto departing, as if from the point-of-view of Ernesto’s family
The lighting is bright reflecting the tone. The motorcyclists comically avoid an accident as Ernesto’s family anxiously watches

7 VISITING CHINCHINA SCENE: Ernesto & Chinchina Dance

8 Bird’s eye long panning shot of Chinchina’s family residence
Bird’s eye long panning shot of Chinchina’s family residence. The emphasis is on the opulence and wealth of her family as highlighted by their mansion surrounded by a well-manicured lawn. The motorcycle is dwarfed by this wealth. Text is provided by Salles that identifies the location, date and distance travelled so far. This will re-occur throughout the movie.

9 Mid-shot of Ernesto, isolated and appearing serious, watching people dance from the periphery. He is not wearing a suit like most of the other male characters.

10 In contrast, Alberto is a confident dancer.
The diagetic music is positive and energetic. The interior lighting is washed with gold reflecting the mood.

11 A long shot of Chinchina’s house.
Ernesto’s tent is foregrounded and seems impoverished in comparison to the mansion.

12 SCENE: Ernesto visits Mrs Rosa (Significantly, this occurs at the same time that ‘The Mighty One’ breaks down for the final time.)

13 Lighting is much darker, reflecting the more sombre tone of this scene.
Non-diagetic sound – Ernesto narrates a letter to his mother about his experience.

14 Ernesto’s voice-over narration is the only non-diagetic sound.
He discusses what a significant and confronting event this is for him, visiting this dying woman. His connection to the old woman is established through his physical care, and description of her similar respiratory problems to his own. Diagetic sound – Ernesto is gently talking to Mrs Rosa

15 Close-ups of Ernesto’s face are used to highlight his sadness and compassion at the fate of Mrs Rosa.

16 SCENE: Meeting the Communist Couple
Importantly three events have happened before this meeting: Ernesto treats Mrs Rosa. ‘The Mighty One’ is abandoned. Ernesto and Chinchina break-up. These three events change Ernesto and the film takes on a much more serious tone from now on.

17 The inhospitable, isolated desert in which Alberto and Ernesto meet the couple on the way to the mine is highlighted through a mid-shot of Ernesto, that draws attention to the terrain behind him.

18 Mid-shots of Ernesto and Alberto highlight their unkempt appearance, as their faces are dirty, and are unshaven. Again, dark lighting and shadows is used to create a serious tone. The only light is that of the campfire reflected on the faces of the group.

19 Ernesto and Alberto’s appearance is similar to the communist couple’s
Ernesto and Alberto’s appearance is similar to the communist couple’s. The link between them is established by the sharing of blankets and food, despite the obvious background differences. Non-diagetic voiceover by Ernesto commenting on the importance of this event.

20 The scene ends with a long shot of the group around the fire.
Symbolising their bond against the darkness.

21 VISITING THE LEPROSY COLONY SCENE: Ernesto’s 24th Birthday Party & Symbolic Swim

22 The river acts as a symbolic divide in Ernesto’s eyes between the sick and healthy. A long shot of Ernesto and Alberto crossing in the boat, establishes the distance between the two colonies.

23 Ernesto and Alberto refuse to wear rubber gloves and are willing to touch the patients.
Close-up of the handshake highlights this. Camera cuts to a shot of the patients commenting on what “gentlemen” Alberto and Ernesto are.

24 Long shot of Ernesto through the window
Long shot of Ernesto through the window. Again he is isolated at a party. The window acting a metaphorical barrier. The party has similar lighting and music to the one at Chinchina’s earlier.

25 The colony for the healthy is well-lit up with substantial buildings.
In contrast, the leprosy colony is ramshackle and has little electric lighting. Ernesto symbolically and impulsively swims the river despite his asthma and the physical challenge He has just made a political speech at the party about all of South America being really just one race, and this swim is his first action based on these words.

26 LANDSCAPE Long shots that pan across landscape is an integral part of Walter Salles’s storytelling in the film, The Motorcycle Diaries. Examine shots 1 to 6 from various stages in the narrative and answer these questions. What are some of the common features of these shots? How does Salles’s use landscape as a motif (symbol) in his film? What does this stylistic choice by Salles add to your understanding of the film?

27 SHOT 1

28 SHOT 2

29 SHOT 3

30 SHOT 4

31 SHOT 5

32 SHOT 6

33 SHOT 7

34 SHOT 8

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