From Altered States to Altered Titles: A Close Analysis of the Title Sequence to Ken Russell’s Altered States (1981)

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Abstract

Although most title sequences of Ken Russell's films consist of superimpositions of a static text on film images, the elaborate title sequence to Altered States (1981) was specially designed by Richard Greenberg, who had already acquired a reputation for his innovative typography thanks to his work on Superman (1978) and Alien (1979). Greenberg continued these typographic experiments in Altered States. Although both the film and its title sequence were not personal projects for Russell, a close analysis of the title sequence reveals that it functions as a small narrative unit in its own right, facilitating the transition of the spectator from the outside world of the cinema to the inside world of filmic fiction and functioning as a prospective mise-en-abyme and matrix of all the subsequent narrative representations and sequences of the film to come. By focusing on this aspect of the film, the article indicates how the title sequence to Altered States is tightly interwoven with the aesthetic and thematic structure of the film, even though Russell himself may have had less control over its design than other parts of the film.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-571
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

Keywords

  • Ken Russell
  • Richard Greenberg
  • Saul Bass
  • fictionalisation
  • mise-en-abyme
  • motion graphic design
  • paratext
  • psychedelics
  • title sequence
  • typography

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