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Split screens and superimpositions in Grand Prix

by Critical Commons Manager

Multiple split screens and layered superimpositions characterize both the title design sequence and racing action sequences throughout John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix. These scenes were designed by legendary motion graphics artist and animator Saul Bass to heighten the dramatic tensions of grand prix racing, but also as relief from the relentless roaring of formula one engines, allowing the simultaneous presentation of multiple points of view and synchronized actions by drivers on the race track and spectators watching the race.

Split-screen in the opening of Requiem for a Dream

by Michael Frierson

In the opening to Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000), Sara Goldfarb’s son Harry is a drug addict and comes to steal his mother’s television set. As Sara (Ellen Burstyn) hides in the closet, Harry (Jared Leto) becomes increasingly angry with her, and Aranofsvky uses a split screen to simultaneously present both the interior of the living room closet (and occasionally Sara’s subjective point of view of the living room through a hole in the closet door) and Harry’s rampage in the living room as he works to steal the television set she has chained to the radiator to keep him from stealing. Part of Aronofsky’s strategy here is to replace traditional ‘objective’ camera placements with ones that are more subjective, rendering the isolation and alienation of the main characters who suffer from addiction, particularly Sara’s descent into psychosis brought on by the prescription amphetamines that she takes for weight loss. By simultaneously presenting the mother’s fear – a dark, confined entrapment shown in close up and claustrophobic subjective shots through the keyhole -- and the son’s rage – a maniacal pacing back and forth as he berates his mother for the key and unchains the television -- the split screen in Requiem makes concrete their estrangement and isolation as heroin takes over Harry’s life. In addition, the split screen simultaneously presents both “cause” – the depth of Harry’s addiction as he steals the television (steals again, or why would she have chained it?) and “effect” -- a mother’s fear of her own son, enabling his addiction when she slides the key under the closet door for Harry to unlock the television. We see on screen two contrasting states of being that is starkly opposite our traditional image of mother and child.

Montage of split screen driving sequences from John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix

Saul Bass designed these split screen and lyrical, multi-layered superimposition driving sequences, which heighten visual impact and narrative tension

from Grand Prix (1966)
Creator: Saul Bass, John Frankenheimer
Posted by Critical Commons Manager