Soul Reaver Introductory Scene Analysis

The entire video can be found here.

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This scene begins with an establishing shot that sets the scene, for an area of the game that will become key to the entire series – the Pillars. This acts as a link to both the previous, and future, titles in the series and familiarises both old and new audiences with the idea of the pillars. Furthermore, they loom over the the characters within the narrative, evoking the ideas of power and domination; the pillars dominate and control the characters throughout the narrative and so this brings the idea to the forefront of the audiences’ mind.

The colour palette used in this scene also serves to further set the scene, with earthen colours and a toned-down palette that link in with the historical, and dirty, settings of the game. The use of symbols, and pseudo-sigils, also links into the fantasy setting and introduces the audience to the hybridised genre – horror and fantasy, and by including themes familiar to fantasy audiences – a medieval setting, and magic, the risk of audience alienation is minimised.

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After this, the shot moves from long-shot to close up of the main antagonist (protagonist of the previous game). The shot moves slowly to a close up, tracking past several minor characters without showing their faces – showing that they are faceless, nameless, slaves to the antagonist. This, contrasts with Raziel’s introduction, showing immediately his face, and establishing him as the narrator, and hero, of this game.
Kain’s portrayal, and first introduction in the game shows him sat atop a throne of his own making – exuding power, dominance, surrounded by his minions, this is echoed in the narration, and the ominous “Kain is deified”. This is also ironic, considering the later revelation that Kain is not in control, and is, infact, a puppet to the very pillars he makes his throne. This is an example of dramatic irony, a narrative device, and introduces a key aspect to Kain’s character – that he is arrogant and egotistical. The shock of seeing Kain – who was previously good or at least neutral, as the antagonist; brooding, dark and evil, also introduces the audience to his anti-hero status. The low-angle shot also further emphasises the power Kain exudes, even putting the audience in the submissive position. This draws them into the narrative, and again emphasises the power Kain exudes.

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Raziel’s introduction is done in the guise of a tracking shot, at first from behind, concealing his identity, before jump-cutting across to his face. As the audience is aware, he is a vampire, but is portrayed as very different to the general vampires the audience is accustomed to. This subversion presents itself in the animalistic, and strong, appearance of all the vampires which further sets this fantasy world apart from others, deliberately distancing itself from cliche tropes. Raziel is shown as confident, and strong, which of course are attributes soon stripped from him. At the start of this narration he is very similar to Kain – arrogant, and self assured – but this soon changes, as he becomes almost the literal opposite of Kain, a good against Kain’s harsh. His militaristic apparel further introduces the audience to the world of the game and the power of the vampire clan.

The camera tracks Raziel from the front as he walks, bringing motion to the scene, and drawing the audience into the narrative – they are following the scene, as if they are within the narrative. This again cuts to a scene with Kain in it, done to show his reaction to Raziel’s presence. The narration at this point also shows how disillusioned the vampire clan has become with their power: “over time we had become less human, and more divine” and this further emphasises the power Kain exudes, sat at his throne. The narration at this point further adds to the scene and history, introducing the audience to what has happened since the previous installment, familiarising them with the setting and environment.

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This next scene shifts the power from Kain to Raziel, and shows him as he has described – powerful, god-like – although his presentation, akin to more demon than god, asserts the vampires as beings of evil, destruction. And, although Raziel kneels, it is clearly him in power during this scene. He has overtaken Kain, and though he kneels in submission, his wings show he has grown more powerful. This scene sets into motion the events of the entire game, the event that sets Raziel off on his quest. The scene jump-cuts to Kain’s reaction, and anger, at this revelation, for the benefit of the audience. And though Kain was shown pleased at Raziel’s appearance, this quickly subsides and the audience realises how cruel Kain has become, once he rips the very wings from Raziel’s back. The narration at this point becomes much more personal for Raziel; the scene-setting has finished, now he is recounting what happened to set him off on this quest. His dialogue becomes bitter and angry, filled with hatred towards Kain – where there was previously praise, and descriptions of how powerful he was, there is vitriolic speech, spat out with anger.  By the end of the scene, the power is once again restored to Kain, as Raziel lies at his feet in agony whilst Kain stands over him, powerful once more.

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This next scene begins with another establishing shot, showing the world of Nosgoth, emphasis upon the old setting and landscape that the audience will soon be exploring. The camera then arcs across to display what happens next. In this particular shot, Kain has shunned Raziel, displaying Kain’s reaction, and his apathy towards Raziel. This scene also serves to establish another key area in Nosgoth, the realm Raziel later returns to, and the bright colours used in this scene contrast to the dull, ethereal colours used during the rest of the cutscene. This emphasises the importance of the area, and the magic present within.
The switch from non-diegetic narration (which isn’t heard by the characters in this particular scene, and is used as a means for narration), to diegetic speech (which is heard and sets into motion the events of the scene) – in which Kain resigns Raziel to his fate – brings realism to the scene. It also shows how resentful Kain has become, how paranoid he is about losing his fate and asserts his status as antagonist of this installment. This is the first time we hear Kain speak within the entire game. The entire latter part of this shot is presented from an over-the-shoulder perspective, we see Kain’s reaction to the entire scene, and this shot is used to assert his power. He has power over this scene, and he is manipulating it, shown by his presence in a thirds shot – he dominates the screen, we focus on his reactions. Raziel’s fate is merely in the background, an afterthought. This is a metaphor for the way Kain now regards Raziel, as something from his past, not of importance.

The following scene is filled with bright colours, and surreal, swirling, formless, animation. This contrasts to the very serious, angled architecture featured previously within this scene. The camera follows Raziel on his fall downward, portraying his transformation from strong military leader to wraith. The entire scene is obscured and horrific, described in his narration, leaving much of the actual process to the audiences’ mind, only seeking to heighten the horror of the actual scene. When Raziel emerges the image is a stark juxtaposition to his initial portrayal. He is no longer strong, but skeletal. No longer pale, and gaunt, but blue, a direct contrast to his white skin previously. This shows that his physical appearance has changed, as has his outlook on life – both are intrinsically linked – and is a metaphor for his rebirth as an entirely different being. Raziel’s appearance in this film also adheres more to horror tropes, he is skeletal, almost a zombie. This acts to establish the horror aspect of the game.

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This final shot ends with the ominous “Raziel, you are worthy”, which serves to establish another key character within the narrative – the Cthulhu-esque Elder God. And, just as Kain is dominated over by “his” pillars, Raziel is dominated over by the shaded Elder God. Looking up at it, from another low-angle shot, further emphasises the dominance of the Elder God over his fate, though, again, he does not yet know it.

The scene closes with a zoom-out, then a fade to black to ease the cut into a different scene.

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