We Are All Living In Each Other's Paranoia:

                                                     Fragmented Continuity in Mr. Robot

  The first thing I want to say about Mr. Robot is that I really admire the show, despite its

  two obvious flaws: first, it's essentially doing everything Fight Club does with its narrative

  themes, and even borrows the plot twist that the main character has made up an entire

  person in his mind(!); second, it completely undermines its ideology of “subverting the

  system” with obvious product placement, and gobs of merchandise for sale on its website

  (Buy the Mr. Robot shirt! Buy the Mr. Robot book! Buy the Mr. Robot shot glass that says

  “F*** Society on it!). The show is a fascinating paradox in that it wants to

  critique/deconstruct American capitalism, yet ends up perpetuating it to a certain extent.

  That being said, the series is a masterwork of cinematography, and effectively

  demonstrates the importance of framing as a means to emphasize the larger thematic

  issues of a given series or film. Take a look at these shots from the pilot episode depicting

  an exchange between Elliot and a man whose identity he's hacked:


  There's nothing particularly striking about these images. The eyelines and screen

  direction are consistent from shot to shot (Elliot always faces left, the man always faces

  the right, etc.). Notice that each figure is framed from a low angle, in medium close-up,  

  each character wearing dark clothes, with the soft yellow background as a point of

  contrast behind them. The two images are graphically similar, which eases the transition

  between shots, and facilitates a smooth flow of narrative action. The rules of continuity

  call for conventional exchanges such as this, however, these are largely the exception on

  the show. Characters in Mr.Robot are typically stuck into the corners of the frame,

  hunched-over in the lower third of the screen, or lost in the overwhelming space of their



  Esmail's characters are clearly losing themselves in the clutter of the postmodern world.

  Now consider these two shots:


  This shot/reverse shot exchange between Angela and her father, Donald, is a good

  example of the way that Esmail often frames conversations between characters in

  abstract ways. The genius of this framing is that it adheres to the rules of continuity (the

  characters are looking directly at each other as they converse), while at the same time,

  each shot suggests that the characters are looking in opposite directions as they converse.

  Here is a superimposition of the two:  

  Cutting from one shot to the next creates the impression that each character's head fills

  the empty space in the other's frame. Avid watchers of the program become used to

  watching conversations framed in this abstract manner. This conveys the notion that

  these are two family members sharing an intimate moment together, while at the same

  time, these are two people who are completely alienated from one another in the space.

  Here's another example from a conversation between Elliot and his boss, Gideon:


  The framing here conveys a discussion between a boss who's trying to relate to one of his

  employees, while at the same time, these are two people who are never going to relate to

  one another in the same way. This is the core theme of Mr. Robot; the postmodern subject

  has become alienated under capitalism. Esmail is able to depict this tension quite

  eloquently in the show through both its narrative, and its formal style.

posted on 09/06/17 by apw