His Dark Materials (2019)

The opening sequence for “His Dark Materials” offers many design elements for analysis. The most prominent design elements are light, movement, and sound. At the 20 second mark, the camera begins moving backward at a moderate pace. The camera is on a linear, horizontal path—almost like it’s moving back through time. As the camera is moving backward, objects in the foreground shift to the background and eventually disappear from view.

The two screenshots below show the movement of the camera. The staircase moves from the foreground to the background. This is an example of movement.

The opening sequence also uses a lot of light play to depict a mysterious/exploratory, mystical ambiance. The first half of the opening sequence is composed of darker colors with flares of light for visual interest, but the second half consists of lighter colors with accents of darkness. The contrasting colors pull the viewer’s eyes toward key aspects of the film. For example, at 0:40, the viewer’s attention is turned toward the girl. Golden light surrounds the girl amidst the darkness. Because of this scene, the viewer can only assume that the girl is a prominent character.

The screenshot below shows the silhouette of the girl in the opening sequence of  “His Dark Materials.” She is surrounded by the golden light, which draws the viewer’s attention. This is just one example of light play.

Another design element in the opening sequence is sound. There is an instrumental theme that plays throughout the opening sequence, which helps establish an exploratory, mystical vibe—it sounds somewhat heroic. Sound effects accompany the instrumental theme. At the 45 second mark, the camera moves from the inside of a tower to the snowy valley. Once the camera moves through the window of the tower, a gusting wind sound effect plays along with the theme. The sound effects throughout the title sequence enhance the visual elements, making them feel real to the viewer.

Discussion — One Response

  • Eric Pryor 04/13/2021 on 8:51 PM

    Great analysis – I love the use of light in this sequence, there are great color and contrast. There is also a lot of symmetry, which is a major theme in the books on which this show is based!

Sorry, but commenting has been disabled.