The Florida Project and Rosemary's Baby - Using Opening Credits to Rattle Expectations
Two films you may not put next to one another are Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby and Sean Baker's The Florida Project. In the discussion of opening credits though, you can find some major strands of influence.
Rosemary's Baby has one of the best credit sequences ever in properly mis-matching two elements of filmmaking to make the watcher feel uneasy. While the camera shows off beautiful vistas of New York City and bright pink lettering, an unsettling tune plays that sets the tone for an horror under current. Watch the scene below.
Creepy as fuck all.
Now watch it with the sound off. Very different.
The visual cues and perky lettering would make one think they were about to watch a rom-com where Rosemary and a gaggle of friends prepare for a comedic trounce round the city as mommy welcomes baby.
Sean Baker uses the same idea in his opening credits of The Florida Project. The idea of presenting one tone and delivering another. He takes it a step further though in not giving the creepy music to show the duality.
We see three kids acting silly and shouting something about "Freshies at the Future!". Sounds delightful. To cap it off we stay static at a wall of purple after the kids run off excitedly and Kool & The Gang kick off Celebration while we read the cast and crew. A nice nod to the nearby community of Celebration that was first formed as a Disney run township? Possibly and it would fit with the make believe ending that occurs and other hints throughout the film of where the kids dream to be. They visit a "spooky" location, go on a backyard safari and one lives at the "future". You can make connections to various Walt Disney World locations without much thinking.
Even the font is playful as it was in the Polanski film. More importantly though, it makes the watcher feel happy. Not me though. This made me horrified as to what will happen to the inhabitants of the Magic Castle. It's all facade. As is the naming of the motel (an actual place by the way with the TripAdvisor reviews to match) to trick tourists into thinking it's a vacation spot you would want to book at. I knew that Sean Baker was setting me up and it made the film a mine field for me mentally. I saw every danger as ever present and every misstep as the one that would bring all crashing down further. It was slightly uncomfortable but then so is the situation the characters find themselves in. My comfort is secondary. Baker does give one hint when the music cuts off abruptly and we learn exactly what the kids are so excited about. He is playing fairly.
One of the best lessons I ever learned in film school was to learn all the rules of filmmaking and then to break them. You needed the knowledge first though to make the diagonal path make sense. Sean Baker showed this in his previous film, Tangerine and he continues to show a growing talent here for properly pulling off the unexpected in The Florida Project.