From Russia with Love

Personally, I am not a fan of the Bond series, so I am not familiar with the film From Russia with Love (1963), but I was able to watch the film to better understand how the title sequence ties in with the storyline of the movie. James Bond is called to Istanbul to meet with a female agent who claims she has fallen in love with him and requires his assistance, but instead she’s luring him to help the agents of the criminal organization SPECTRE procure a decoding device. The title sequence gives insight into the mood and setting of the film through its use of imagery, fluid and quick movements, brightly colored typography, the James Bond theme music, and low lighting.

The title sequence opens up with a full body shot of a Russian dancer to the right of the screen with text projected on her body. Not much imagery other than this is used, but her body is used as a canvas on which the typography is projected and creates a visually remarkable title sequence. Having the dancer as part of the opening credits foreshadows a scene in the movie where Bond has been invited to a communal gathering in Istanbul where a scantily dressed woman entertains the crowd with her charming dance, which establishes the recurring theme of the film that focuses on women’s sexual appeal. After the full body shot is shown once, the camera is quickly homes in on the dancer’s limbs and body parts so that it takes up at least half of the screen. First, the dancer moves her arm deliberately slowly so that the text projected on her body is able to be read, but since the movements are calculated well in this way, a seductive and cunning tone is set from then on. The movements turn quick as she shakes the reflective fabric and swaying coins in the viewer’s face, almost as if to remind the viewer the film is fun and full of action.

The use of typography in the title sequence is truly unique to me as I’ve never even imagined such a clever way to showcase opening credits. The text itself does not move, but with the dancer’s limbs moving up and down and side to side, it creates the illusion that the text is scrolling across the screen. The News Gothic typeface moves so fluent that it may have been impossible to accomplish this motion with the technology at the time of the production of this film; they are only possible through the way the dancer moves her limbs. Instead of programming the text to move like a belly dancer, it seems that the designer of the title sequence chose to use a dancer to manipulate the text herself so that she could give it character through distorting it. Sometimes, text is projected onto the body until the dancer moves out of frame and allows the text to be placed onto the wall behind her. Other times, after the dancer moves out of frame, the text disappears with her as if it could only exist on her body, which I admire a lot, but I do wish this was the case for the whole title sequence. When text is projected onto the dancer’s reflective outfit while she shakes rapidly, the text is projected a second time on the smoother surface of her skin so that the viewers would be able to read it. While the rapid movements of the dancer is exciting, I am bothered that I am unable to read the text because I assume I will only get one chance to read it. I would prefer that the text be projected on her skin first and then transition to the sparkling clothing. The use of colors in the typography; however, is a mystery to me. I notice that only bright colors are used so that the text is legible, but I don’t understand why certain colors are used at certain times as it does not seem consistent. Despite this, the text is not just colored, but it is the lighting for the opening credits; another unique feature. 

Along with the imagery and typography, lighting and sound also attribute to the tone of the title sequence. Low lighting must have been required so that the text could be seen clearly; however, a warm light does shine onto the dancer’s body in side angles to highlight her the outline of her body and not overcome the text being projected on the front of her body. Frankly, the lighting and the scantily clad Russian dancer conveys a provocative theme that may show throughout the movie. There is only one mature dance scene in the movie; nonetheless, almost every woman in the movie is romantically portrayed. This may be because the creators of the film want to place James Bond as an unattainable man. No sound is present, only the classic James Bond theme is playing during the opening credits. While it’s customary to use the theme for every Bond film, it ties in perfectly with the rest of the title sequence because the theme itself is cunning and sly with some bursting trumpet notes to imply action and excitement. Both of these elements form the image that is James Bond; a crafty and suave secret agent.

The dancer’s movements manipulating the text along with the dark lighting and the James Bond soundtrack all implies something deceptive as if not everything is as it appears to be. This is especially prevalent with the typography design since it’s not often that text being projected onto a body instead of a wall is a good thing due to the distortion of the text; however, it’s purposeful use in the title sequence suggests it to be an ingenious idea. All design elements of the title sequence come together to set a mysterious yet intriguing tone as Bond films are usually full of secrecy and savvy.