A Scene Breakdown of Dark Days 《黑暗的日子》
00:00:00 Title Card – production company, filmmaker’s names and etc.
00:00:44 Wide shot (Establishing shot) revealing the locale of Penn Station and the characters (several people) walking down the subway station.
00:00:49 Subtitle: New York City
00:00:54 Wide shot establishing the inner locale of Penn Station, a subway train slowly starts to run. Camera pans right to the body of the train.
00:01:19 POV of the train driver (or the train if it has an eye) looking at the way/tracks ahead.
00:01:26 Cut to the road above the subway system, a guy walking on the street. Camera pans right to the stairs, the guy walks down.
00:01:44 Back to the POV of the train. The gloomy underworld shows a great contrast of the upper-world.
00:01:55 (The most formalistic shot of the movie) Panning from the same guy walking down the stairs to the gate of the tunnel beneath the subway. The pan ends with the gate right in the middle of the frame. Sound of the subway train increases, followed by the train going through the rectangle frame within the frame. Beautiful composition! The carriages of the train form a very fast slide.
00:02:39 The guy walks into the tunnel. Trash is all over the place. He puts down his torchlight and a hole is revealed by the camera tilting down – the entrance of the lower level of the tunnel – the real resident hall for homeless people like him.
00:02:53 Wide shot of the lower level tunnel.(Amazing continuity! Must be staged. Academic Editing) The guy squeezes himself in, wearing the same dress, a star on his head. Music segues in, very rhythmic and intangible music that adds mystery of this world that is never known to the outsiders. Dip to black.
00:03:02 Fade in with a dolly shot following the main character walking down the tunnel. VO of himself (probably in an interview) narrating in ebonics his first experience coming down the tunnel, scared and uneasy. “When I first walking in the tunnel, it looks dangerous, man! Very dangerous. Even in the day time, it was dark. I was scared!” A scratch sound of the disc by DJ Shadow pops out, meanwhile, the guy walks into the shadow.
00:03:34 Dissolve into a very smooth dolly shot of the subway tracks. The guy keeps talking about why he came here. “On the ground, there’s kids fucking with you, there’s policemen fucking with you…Nobody’s coming down to mess with you…” The camera continues to move, a guy with a big garbage bag walks into the frame.
00:03:48 Dissolve into another moving shot (long take) displaying the residency/environment of the tunnel. Fantastic realistic shot that simply shows the fact because the fact is very strong and impressive visually. Music starts to soar, drum beats can be heard!
00:04:38 Back to the guy walking in a reversed direction
00:04:54 Edit to a guy sleeps on the ground.
00:04:59 Jump to a spotlight of the train coming closer to the camera. The incoming train unveils the beauty of the perspective view of the gradually lightened tunnel. The music crossfades with the sync sound of the horn.
00:05:11 The Title of the movie “Dark Days” shows up in the darkness as the train exits the frame from the right.
00:05:19 A wide shot of a house.
00:05:33 A medium shot of Tommy and his girlfriend. Subtitle of the character’s name: Tommy.
00:06:06 The door of the house. Shabby and simple.
00:06:12 Cut to a black guy sleeping on the bed. Subtitle of his name: Tito.
00:06:23 Cut to a white guy sleeping on the bed. Subtitle of his name: Ralph. Asymmetrical composition based on the former shots. Pan to Tito who was complaining the coldness.
00:06:40 Cut to Ralph. Dialogue. Sounds of a train heard in the end.
00:06:48 Jump to a train passing by.
00:07:00 A guy sitting on the stairs, smoking.
00:07:06 A naked guy shaving with a broken mirror in his hand, telling the filmmaker how he built his home out of “shit.” Subtitle: Greg.
00:08:01 A dog living there. The residence’s accompany.
00:08:08 Tito and Ralph talking about the dog. This part is a little bit boring. Several long takes.
00:09:52 A very short take of a rat. Then the train passing by again, but from a different direction.
00:10:03 Introducing Henry with subtitle. Trains can be heard in the background. Henry is painting on the wall.
00:11:28 Greg shaves in his dumpy home and complaining about his MF life.
00:12:08 Mythical music cuts in with Henry smoking outside of his house. The music involves a very strong emotion that is analogous to the character’s feelings. Another train comes over. Henry throws away a bear bottle. Sound of the bottle hitting a hard surface and breaks can be heard very clearly. Henry walks back with a bitter face.
00:12:34 The yard of someone’s house, clothes hung on a rope. The guy starts to talk about making money. He shows the CDs that he is going to sell.
00:13:37 Subtitle: Ronnie. He shows his van and the trash bags. He uses “you know what I’m saying” a lot. Funny accents and language.
00:14:40 Same guy shows his television.
00:15:25 The white guy Ralph is painting on his wall and talks.
00:16:56 Subtitle introducing Clarence and Dee, both smoking.
00:17:20 Subtitle: Julio. He is demonstrating his self-made sound alarm system.
00:19:00 The black guy invites the filmmaker to hang out. “I’m going to get paid, there is no doubt about it.” Audiences become aware of the existence of the filmmaker himself.
00:19:36 The young white guy pushes a cart along the subway tracks. In the soundtrack, he blames the people for the poor environment. “I have to wash their ass.” Dolly/track shot of the trash dumps.
00:20:16 Cut back to the two guys talking about dogs and smoking again…
00:21:26 Parallel editing of different people doing different things in this sequence.
00:22:10 A guy picking up garbage in the upper-world.
The other guy cleaning the trash cans.
The filmmaker asks questions of the garbage picking guy. Then switches to the can collecting guy, who makes money by selling the can.
00:25:00 A transition, accompanied by the background music. Dogs bark, beats emerge in the music. The can collecting guy talks about his family irreverently.
00:26:43 A guy is making foods. The other plays with the dog.
00:29:13 The garbage collecting guy introduces his dog’s family. The mother dog, the boy and the girls.
00:30:03 Introducing Lee. Pictures of dogs.
00:33:02 Feeding dogs. Music in, very melancholic.
Shot of a guy sitting on the stairs by himself. Loneliness.
00:34:09 Variation of the music. A shot of the upper-world. Police sirens can be heard. Empty streets. Weird music signifies something is happening.
00:34:32 Suddenly comes the Image and sync sound of a burning house. Dee talks about his problem with a fellow who threatened to burn his house down.
00:35:40 Other people’s comments about the burning.
00:36:51 Two people making foods. Another transition into another scenario.
00:38:26 A shot of two birds on the street. Kind of metaphoric of freedom. Followed by another shot of the train. Back to the underworld.
Two guys are talking/arguing about the rats in the house. Cut with rats scurrying.
00:44:26 A guy tells the trick to keep the rats away in a self-mockery way. Audiences feel a little sympathetic for them.
00:45:39 Another guy boasting about his own food that is clean, and tastes really good.
00:46:36 Brian comes to visit his friend. Two guys hug.
00:47:38 Medium shot of Brian taking a shower in the tunnel, swearing “holy shit, fuck” because of the cold water. The poor living environment illustrated/vocalized through an outsider’s experience.
00:49:08 Another train coming, transition again. The shots of the trains serves for the structure of the documentary as hints of new sub-topics or divisions of different parts.
00:50:00 Two people’s argument about smoking.
00:51:13 Music sneaks in with the shot of a guy moving a big couch/sofa.
00:52:47 The white guy talks about the death of his daughter when he was in jail. Very strong emotionally. The documentary starts to trace the cause of these homeless people living underground.
“She was raped, her legs cut off, her arms cut off, and she was burnt. That made me so fucked up. Cuz part of it was my fault. I should have been there, but I was in jail… I should have taken care of her.”
00:54:23 Shot of a guy climbing out of the tunnel from the “entrance.” Music sneaks into audiences’ ears again unconsciously.
00:55:53 Starting of a sequence about the homeless searching for garbage on the street.
00:56:10 Close up of the guy’s hand holding some leftover fish. Gross image in contrast with the cheerful soundtrack. The guy says, “good stuff.”
00:56:50 Two guys picking up garbage while eating the foods they find. “Pretty good, man. They are fucking good. All good!”
00:57:33 Two rats sharing a bottle of milk on the floor. Intellectual montage here. Symbolic!
00:57:41 Impressive CU shot! Just because of the fact. The object – a toilet lid on top of a basket and the text written on the lid “shit spot” with an arrow pointing at the spot. This is probably the climax of the documentary. Funny, pathetic and ironic.
00:57:48 A guy dumps the stinking basket. Another guy trying to get rid of the smell by flipping his hand back and forth in front of his nose. “Dump it, man; dump it!”
00:58:14 Dee talks about her kids in tears. “They get the education they need”
01:01:01 Subtitle summary: In response to external pressures, armed Amtrak police are ordered into the tunnel to tell the residents that they have 30 days to pack up and evacuate or face a forcable eviction. Filming was prohibited.
Fast rythemtic music.
01:01:16 “Drop the gun mole” a sign on the wall. The music, along with the interview, set up the conflict between the police and the homeless.
Close up of a newspaper/document with the key words “evict them.”
“I don’t wanna go to a shelter.”
“I got three words, and it is not ‘I love you,’ it is ‘Leave us alone!’ ”
01:04:36 Interview of Rich Rubell, Amtrak community relations officer. He talks about the disease and the danger of living underground, near the high speed trains.
01:05:20 An old man cleaning the floor. People discussing about the eviction.
01:08:01 Interview with coalition for the homeless officer, Mike Harris who says he will help the homeless people.
01:09:58 People living in the tunnel start to tear down their houses and prepare to move out. “I cannot believe this… Im so excited”
01:11:22 A guy using a big hammer hitting/smacking the wooden wall, parrellel-edited with another guy talking about his excitement and plan for the futrue.
01:13;01 Upbeat hip hop music enters and strengthens the cheerfulness of people breaking down their houses. Another climax of the documentary. A sign that the “dark days” are over.
01:14:20 A wide shot of a big building, the new housing for the homeless. A guy opens the window and the sunlight comes in. A metaphor of the bright future.
01:14:56 Tommy eating oatmeal in his new living room.
The young guy talks about his plan for the arrangement of his new apartment.
Violin like music rises. Tommy refers to the “dark days” as nightmares.
01:18:15 The closure.
Electronic music with scrolling credits.
The black/white cinematography is very effective, and it fits the title and the metaphor of the film. However, Im still expecting to watch this documentary in color, because it shows more details, and more facts, which is the most powerful and significant elements of this documentary. There isn’t much narrative or dramatic plot in this documentary, and it mainly functions/works as a documentation, or an archive, just to objectively represent the true living environment of the homeless.