The Film Before The Film: Carnivale (HBO)

In the Carnivale title sequence, there are lots of visual elements that are used to convey the mood of the show. Throughout the sequence, the visual elements smoothly transition back and forth between photography from the 1930s and religious illustrations and artwork. Including photos and archival documentary footage from the 1930s is important because its grounds viewers in that time frame of history where there was devastating social and economic events occurring in the US. The inclusion of famous works of art from Michelangelo and Raphael helps the viewer to understand the recurring theme of the show, which is the eternal conflict of Good versus Evil.

Art work that the tarot cards transition into


The next thing that is used in the Carnivale title sequence is the use of movement. This is done by transporting the viewer inside Tarot cards by using 3D interpretations of works of art. The transition between the two is seamless and furthermore, then once again transitions into clips taken from historical documentaries and films. This type of variation is maintained until the end of the title sequence, reinforcing the idea of connectedness

Documentary footage included in the title sequence

between the tarot cards, famous artworks, and the real-life footage. The title sequence schematizes, through connectedness and circularity, the relations and themes that the series explores. Like other fantasy HBO series (Game of Thrones), the sequence is long in duration and is a forceful, mood-setting way to introduce the viewers to the show.

Tarot cards at the beginning of the title sequence

The last element that helps set the mood of Carnivale is the use of lighting. Lighting in Carnivale tells the viewer who is good and who is bad. As I said above, the reoccurring theme is the eternal conflict of Good versus Evil. Therefore, the lighting operates on the thesis that “goodness” is bright and illuminating while evil is dark and shadowy. Throughout the title sequence and the show, the narrative is often placed in dark settings. In the dark or shadows, the morally good characters display light while morally bad characters exist in the absence of light.