That Rug Really Tied the Room Together…

For this week’s exercise, “Look, Listen, Analyze” I looked at the the “Good Will Hunting (Bar Scene).

Camera Work Analysis (no sound)

  • The beginning of the scene has the Ben Afleck, Matt Damon and crew entering the bar in the background, with the bar and other people in the foreground.  Ebert’s acknowledgement that the background can become dominant over the foreground plays true here as the audience appreciates the context that the foreground provides (they are entering a bar), but focuses on the characters stumbling through the door in the background.
  • As Ben Afleck’s character is sharing his remarks about the bar and ordering a round for his friends, the camera view switches back and forth between different angles.  This effect allows the audience to understand the depth of the environment.  As mentioned in Camera Angles & Techniques, the different angles give the audience a 3D feel for the space, using a 2D medium.
  • When Afleck and Damon are having their standoff with the Harvard Michael Bolton, the 180-degree rule is maintained as the camera angle stays on the same side as the bar and the girls.  As the camera switch’s from speaker to speaker, the listener is kept on the edge of the frame to confirm to the audience that the speaker is speaking to the other character, and not them.
  • At certain points, the center-point perspective is used when different speakers are talking, almost as if to emphasize to the viewer, “You should listen even closer…”
  • A zoom-in effect is used to emphasize a point Matt Damon is making.  Similarly, a zoom-out effect is used to re-include the people standing around Matt Damon, presumably after he’s finished making his point.
  • As the Harvard Michael Bolton walks away into the background, the background blurs and once again the foreground, and focus on the girls (obviously impressed) dominates the view.

Audio Track Analysis (no video)

minimizing the browser window, I listened to the sound for tempo, timing, foley effects, etc.  I found that most of the sound I heard was centered on the dialogue, however, I had a few observations.

  • The background music provided context, muddled in indistinguishable, but present.  A subtle indicator that they were in a bar.
  • The sound of the music faded between Afleck’s opening remarks and when he started speaking to the girls.  This indicated that the jukebox was on the further part of the bar and that the focus was no on the conversation between Afleck and the girls.  Afleck’s opening remarks were more of a monologue placed in the context of the bar music, which would make sense of the music being louder.
  • Slight Foley effects were apparent, mainly in the sound of other incoherent bystander conversations at the bar, shuffling of chairs, or placement of pint glasses and pitchers.  Afleck’s crew makes a few distant, wise remarks to remind the listener that they are there, but set back from the two speakers.

Tying the room together

After looking at the video again, what I found was that despite the scene mainly being focused on dialogue, there as definitely timing that unified the audio and video in the scene.  An example would be the change in the depth of the sound aligned with Afleck walking down to the other side of the bar.  Another, tied the Foley sound effects (pint glasses, chairs shifting) with the movement of the other friends into the background of the scene.


This is one of my favorite movie scenes because of how it demonstrates a man’s worth is not defined by what he knows but how he uses it and with what intent.  Having spent time in grad school, I ran into my fair share of Harvard Michael Bolton’s, who would read the latest Economist or listen to the latest NPR article only to turn it around and take a position above others.  There’s nothing wrong with seeking and possessing the knowledge, but more important than anything is how you use it and to what degree does that knowledge and intent define you as a person.  To Damon’s point, we should all try to be “Original.”



2 thoughts on “That Rug Really Tied the Room Together…

  1. You chose one of my my favorite movies and titled it cleverly to connect it to the other. There is a lot to choose from in these scene, and you picked out some things I had not paid attention to (the slow zoom in and out on Damon’s character). I had a hard time not laughing out loud at the Bolton reference. And great call on the shifting audio of the jukebox, wow that is subtle.

    One new thing for me in re-watching was that their entrance was from the right and moving left; less about good/evil and perhaps more to highlight how they did not belong (class-wise) in the bar. There is also more pulled back, wide angle views in the first part of the scene, perhaps suggesting how “lost” they might be in a Harvard bar, but the camera work pulls in as the conflict begins.

    What always liked about the scene, besides the whole takedown, is that Damon’s character does not come across with a superior victor complex; in the end he even acknowledges that on some measures, Bolton’s will appear to “win” in life but also that there are more important things “be original” (as well as that offering a veil of physical threat as a knife through academic dueling).

    Excellent work, again.

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