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Jack Sparrow’s Character and his Trickster Traits in the Movie

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a film directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer back in 2003, is an action adventure film in which two civilians get twisted into the cruel world of piracy. It has the exact dose of good fights, stunning visual effects, interlaced plots, parallel actions… but above all good characters leading the story and twisting it on thousand different ways. This Walt Disney film is based on the famous Disneyland and Disney World ride adventure called, of course, “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Unlike the ‘fun’ ride at the Disney parks, this film has deeper meaning other than just the ability to capture and hold the viewers’ attention. By scrutinizing the literary elements of this movie, we can discover those deeper meanings and therefore enjoy the film to its fullest potential. The director and writers use a clever way of dosing information to the spectator. The characters of the film look for specific and often antagonistic objectives. But, the most charismatic of all the characters and one I admire is Captain Jack Sparrow, performed brilliantly by Johnny Depp.The character delicately balances between lucidity and madness. Jack Sparrow represents the trickster archetype of Carlo Goldoni’s renowned Alecchino, demonstrating these necessary trickster traits in his exploits throughout the film.

The trait of confidence (and in some cases over confidence) is introduced to us in the character entrance scene. Jack seems to be bailing the water out of his boat, and the potential seriousness of this scene is portrayed through Jack Sparrows facial emotions. We know that his boat is sinking fast, however Jack appears to be overly confident, showing no signs of panicking. He passes by a cave, Jack sees the corpses of other pirates and the warning sign, and devotes a gesture with his hat, suggesting Jack is a man of honour, and courage.The director shows and enhances this by looking forward in terms of direction and future. The camera point and placing within the frame looks up at jack, giving him a point of authority, which is supported by the heroic stance he adopts. The camera is focused on the mast of the boat, giving us an impression that the boat is large (when really, it is merely a dinghy) in front of the other grand boats, suggesting again that Jack is a confident and important character. This idea is also supported by the lighting contrasts. The light shines and glows on Jacks face, this helps the audience to focus solely on him. The lighting on the bottom half of the scene, appears to make Jack look as if he is emerging from the darkness, once again giving him importance. The light is warm, planting the seed that Jack is ‘good’ or civilised at heart. As Jacks boat is in the final phase of sinking, he remains orderly calm. His squinted facial expressions and gestures indicate that he is in the process of calculating or working something out. As he steps onto the jetty with ease, his physical side and agility is introduced to us. He arrives at the port just on time, questioning the audience “is he a genius or a complete disaster?” We get our first impressions of him being the trickster type, as his timing and movement relates to that of Commedia del’arte’sAlecchino. Once again the camera suggests that he is in charge, by following behind him as he walks swiftly along the jetty. The director has used these camera angles to covey his perspective of Jack and manipulate and trick the audience. The scene lasts a little over a minute and there?s not a single dialogue in it. Everything works with the soundtrack (composed by Klaus Badelt) and staging. In this scene, we start the get the smallest feeling that jack will be an important character. He is introduced to us as a trickster, but one that we should learn to sympathise.

The traits of agility and cheating are best shown off in the scene where Will and Jack are engaged in battle. The scene opens with Jack emerging as if out of nowhere and holding will at sword point. This associates with the Alechhino character, where he has used the element of surprise. The setting of the dirty, serene blacksmith workshop makes for a perfect place to stage a fight. The light is dark and low, like the slow and cautious soundtrack being played. The only warm light comes from the cracks in the walls, indicating to the audience that the place is isolated and away from the hustle of the town. The director uses an over the shoulder shot as Jack appears to be curiously eyeing Will. His facial expressions clearly indicate to the audience that he is trying to recall something; this is supported by the line “you seem somewhat familiar, have I threatened you before?” Jack displays the common trickster archetype of trying to avoid fights, as he conjures up a comeback and decides to be swiftly on his way. The shot then switches to Will holding a sword up at jack. Portraying his over confidence; Jack lowers Wills self-esteem as he, using clever word play, threatens Will on the topic of crossing paths with a pirate. The director decides to covey that Jack can fight when he needs to, as the camera turns to a medium shot of Jack as he makes the first move of his sword. Jacks swordsman ship shows the audience that, although he can be goofy at times, he is very skilled and practiced when it gets serious. Once again, contrasting between his easy going nature and seriousness. The director used this particular shot to emphasise to the audience that Jack is experienced and trained when it comes to doing what he does best. The light strikes down through the roof onto the edge of the shot, as jack confidently, taking long strides, makes his way to the exit. He is stopped when Will throws his sword into the door latch. The camera is placed against the sword, looking onto the side of jacks face. His facial expression is one of shock and surprise. The director’s intention in this shot was to convey to the audience how close the sword was from his face. He has does this brilliantly, as the shot captures both Jacks reactions, and the subtle lighting in the background. Jacks agility is displayed furthermore, as he is hung form a chain but continues fighting with the free hand. The lighting then changes to a darker tone, as if the light from outside is being covered by something. As jack is held at point, he withdraws a gun, clearly paying no attention to the rules of a fair fight. This indicates to the audience that he will do anything to get his way, and frankly doesn’t care about the ‘rules’. The scene closes with Jack pointing the barrel of the gun at Will. The shot switches to a direct close up of Jacks face, as pain and shock is displayed. The panning out shot shows the result of this.

Jack Sparrows traits of thinking ahead and improvisation are displayed best in the scene where he, together with Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom), steels the interceptor ship. In the beginning of the scene, Jack and Will are situated underneath a bridge, with Jacks facial expressions clearly indicating that he is in the process of analysing the positions of his targets. Once again, the previous trait of overconfidence is displayed when Jack overlooks the smaller ship docked in the bay, instead beckoning straight for the larger one, the interceptor. The camera position is a point of view shot from Jack and Will. This camera angle allows the audience to witness exactly what Jack is. The long shot of the camera, allows us to see all the men surrounding the ship, determining exactly how big of a task this will be. Jack is mentally sure he can pull this off, but to eliminate his partners (Will Turner) doubts, he lashes out with a the line “Don’t question about your business boy, there’s no use going, just go. How far are you willing to go to save her?” In which Will replies, “I’d die for her”. By using this wordplay, Jack has reassured and instilled confidence into Will. We begin to realise that Jack is knowledgeable when, using only the resources available to him at the time; he conjures up a plan to sneak aboard the ship without being seen. He improvises an underwater breathing device using a nearby canoe and uncommon utilization of Newtonian physics. The Camera angle looks up from underwater to the jetty. The director then angles the camera into a tilt across to the shot of Jack and Will walking underwater. The warm light from the sun above the water, streaks down onto the canoe, indicating that theremight be hope for their plan. The shot then switches to the inside of the canoe, showing Jack and Will from a frontal view. During this, Will exclaims “This is either madness, or brilliance,” to which Sparrow replies, “It’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.” Truer words are seldom spoken, again indicating that Jack is sure of his plan. His movement through the water is smooth and swift compared to Will’s, as if implying that he has been through and experienced a similar situation before. His large, unhesitant steps relate to that of Alechhino’s. The camera looks up from the water into a close up of the side of the grand ship, emphasising again the size of it even more. The light at the bottom of the ship is dark, indicating the dangers of the water. The top of the ship is lit in a much warmer light from the sun. The director has used this shot to establish the grandness of the ship. The soundtrack also complements the lighting. The composer has used a low, almost dark and subtle piece, when the camera emerges at bottom of the ship. But as it tilts upward into the light of Jack and Will climbing the ship, the diegetic music becomes a more upbeat and faster tempo, almost in time with the accurate movements of Sparrow. As he boards the ship stumbling, Jack comically and confidently exclaims that he has come to ‘take over the ship’, with Will following in his footsteps. This provokes to the audience that Jack is clearly in charge and the one making the decisions. The appearance and nature of Jack leads you to under estimate him. They reply with laughter, then smugly point out that this particular ship cannot be crewed by two men, that they’ll never make it out of the bay, to which Sparrow replies: “Son,” and raises a pistol, “I’m Captain Jack Sparrow. Savvy?” Jack uses this line often throughout the movie, as if to try to make his mark in the world and more importantly, constantly remind himselfof whom he is. During the pistol encounter, the camera is placed against the barrel of the gun, giving a close up Point of view shot of the confused expression of the crew member. This is again displaying over-confidence and eliminating any hint of failure of his plan. The scene cuts to The Commodore at the dock, where he sees Sparrow and Turner trying to steal a currently unassailable, mediocre ship in broad daylight, at which point he says, “That is without doubt, the worst pirate I’ve ever seen.” The shot then switches to the inside of a handheld telescope, giving a rounded view of what the commodore can see, the crew floating on a dinghy while jack and will prepare the ship. The director has used this technique of the shot to indicate the task that has been achieved by jack. The shot pans over from the crew to Jack and will, where it can be seen that Jacks is ordering will to hoist the sails, using exaggerated and almost silly hand gestures. He is swaying gently. The director has interpreted this into to the character to convey his perspective of Jack in his on-going decision between savagery and civilisation. The over emphasised movements relates once again, to that of Alechhino’s, showing that the writers have taken abroad the traits of this comedic trickster and instilled into their own character of Jack Sparrow. As the scene moves forward, the soundtrack gradually increases its tempo, as if it is building up in anticipation to the big moment of when they steal the ship. The warm light is shining from the corner of the shot where Jack is standing at the bow of the ship looking at the oncoming crew, implying once again that the plan is nearer to success, this is supported by the smirk Jack has across his face, further assuring the audience that all is going to plan. The shot switches to between the two ships, giving the audience a 180 view of what is taking place on both ships. In this shot, the camera is swaying gently, hinting to the audience that the tides are not too rough. Jacks signature walk is once again used as he strides across the ship effortlessly cutting all the ropes. He leaves the port taking of and bowing his hat to the commodore, in thanks for letting him get away. By doing this, Sparrow brings comedy into this tense scene.His theme track is played, as he sails into the fraying light of the horizon, the light being hopeful indicating the adventure ahead. Thinking ahead is once again displayed by jack when the crew decides to use the cannons, discovering that Jack has disabled the rudder chains in advanced. The shot used in this scene is take form a high point looking down, it seems as if is Point of view shot from the crow’s nest. The scene ends with Jack cunningly steering the ship over the dinghy full of crew, this is again a Point of view shot, as the bow of the ship collides with the camera. The camera zooms out backwards and pans over the top of the ship and sea, using a medium shot. The light is dark and cool in the corner of the shot. The director intends the audience to see the ship sailing into unknown darkness, by using this particular shot. The commodores first mate exclaims “that has got to be the best pirate I’ve ever seen”, in contrast to what the commodore said previously.

In conclusion, it is clear that the writers have tried to present Captain Jack Sparrow as a character the audience is encouraged to admire, and I certainly do. The director emphasises his trickster traits and we realise that he is an expert in his field. Like Alechhino, I believe Jack Sparrow will be a character remembered for many years to come.It?s is interesting to see how information is dosed between the number of intersecting characters and goals. In that sense it’s a complex and comedic film. The character of Jack Sparrow is one we cannot eliminate from our minds. He possesses all the trickster traits, mixed with civilisation. The film is sure to age very well.

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