Films – Leon: The professional

As a study of film editing, we have been encouraged to look at the films of Luc Besson. As this is a short essay, I have chosen to discuss Leon: The professional, in particular the opening scene and the final climactic scene.

Opening scene – we open with a long tracking shot over parkland and then down a street, (as a side-note I noticed that this is a very similar tracking shot to the opening of The big Blue where the camera pans across an ocean vista) we continue past a huge sign that says ‘Welcome to Little Italy’ which sets the location. The camera then enters ‘Guido’s’ restaurant. Very quickly we have been given the information – which city we are in, which part of the city, and even the exact location i.e Guido’s restaurant.

Once inside, we are introduced to two characters via a series of extreme close-ups that serve to underscore the importance of the scene. In the first shot, we only see the hero Leon’s sunglasses, reflected in them is his boss Tony who is giving him a job- Leon is a hit-man. At the end of the scene, we still have not been given a full or even a mid-shot of these two men. The last thing we see is Leon’s hand sliding a picture of the target from the table.

We then cut to the next scene and immediately we see the target going about his business. We know that there will now be a confrontation.

This succinct, efficient style is partly what Besson is known for- we have all the information we need in a very short period of time and are ready for the action.

I will move on to a pivotal scene at the end of the film when the protagonist and antagonist meet for the first time. To keep this short I will summarize under each key frame:

Leon staggers down a corridor on his last legs. He is injured badly. He almost literally sees ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’.

Back to Leon’s face, we know that if he can make it to ‘the light’ he will be OK.

The villain enters the frame

We see from the villain’s POV, with a gun pointed at the hero.

Camera turns back to villain -focused on his face.

to emphasis the gun.

The light

The light again, only this time the view is lop-sided. As we are looking from Leon’s POV, this signifies that he is falling, his body has finally given up.

I think this sequence is the perfect example of story telling through editing, and the reason Besson is renowned for his flashy and effective Hollywood style.


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