The opening minutes of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Last year I was tasked with analyzing the opening 10-15 of any film of my choice for a Film & Literature class. My choice was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Thought this would be something interesting for everyone to read, and an awesome way of seeing how crucial the first 10-15 minutes of your film/script can be. Enjoy!
Opening shot of a typical Chicago home. Our story begins normally in a suburban area. Enter FERRIS, staring into the abyss as his parents watch on. This opening scene between Ferris and his parents is shot mostly from Ferris’ perspective with an upward angle looking at the parents and a downward angle looking at Ferris. This is used to show his innocence and the vulnerability of being sick. Enter ANNIE, Ferris’ sister; we can instantly see there is some form of rivalry going on between the two.
It is revealed through Annie’s entrance that Ferris’ illness is all staged to stay home from high school in his senior year. This shows Ferris’ deception of his parents as well as his uttermost confidence in himself that he can pull this off while taunting Annie. Ferris’ dialogue while he pretends to be ill is over dramatic and spoken like a greek tragedy almost making fun of his parents naivety.
Now this scene starts to get very strange. After his parents and sister leave, Ferris begins to speak straight to the audience like we are his friends or he is aware that we are about to view his day off as a paying audience while he proclaims his fake sickness was “one of the worst performances of my life”. This use of breaking the fourth wall really helps Ferris establish himself more as a character without really driving the plot forward (minus the fact that we know he is “taking the day off”).
Ferris reveals that it’s his ninth day off. This already reveals that Ferris is quite rebellious against society and his hatred for the school system. It also shows that this is now like a job to him in being able to pull these days off. His training of the audience of how to “fake out the parents” supports that Ferris is beyond capable of skipping school on a regular basis. It is also within his “fake out the parents” speech that he slides in his belief that high school is mostly childish.
Ferris presents himself as a present day philosopher proclaiming how “life move pretty fast; if you don’t stop to look around you might miss it” as well as his attitude towards not really caring about European socialism because in his mind none of european history pertains to his current problems (narcissism). He then goes on to say how he thinks “-isms” should not exist because of what they create and instead a person should believe in himself instead of an -ism. He then uses a John Lennon quote to support his statement which is a comedic reminder that we’re still just listening to a high school student talking, while he’s taking a shower.
It now cuts to a quick scene within Ferris’ high school (the infamous “Bueller?….Bueller? scene) to better establish both the boredom that Ferris envisions of high school as well as how deep his “sickness” story goes.
Enter CAMERON; he lays in bed alone in a house that is held up by sticks on a large hill. This already establishes that this character is a very edgy person. Next to his answering machine is an array of pill bottles and medication. In bed he’s wrapped up like a mummy. His behavior and the items around him instantly tell us that Cameron is a very uptight and nervous person. This is confirmed when he is trying to convince Ferris that he’s sick and dying when he is really is not in the mood to go anywhere. This conversation between Cameron and Ferris comedically intercuts between Cameron in bed and Ferris relaxing by the pool drinking a tropical drink.
Eventually Ferris is able to convince Cameron to come pick him up. While this shows Ferris’ ability of talking people into doing things, it also shows how Ferris has some power over what Cameron does (as well as Ferris’ narcissistic behavior).
Enter EDWARD ROONEY the dean of students at Ferris’ school. He is instantly established as Ferris’ antagonist. He is a very orderly person (pencils all in a neat line, as he flicks a speck of lint off his desk) and he is highly suspicious that Ferris is not really sick nor has he ever been during his eight other days off. He relishes in holding Ferris back senior year, which shows some evil in this man’s personality. The fact that he enjoys holding students back from their future lives almost helps us liken Ferris more in comparison to Rooney. Rooney also supports this idea of Ferris being able to control everyone around him when he tells Ferris’ mom how he is “leading you down the primrose path”. As he says this, Ferris hacks into the school computer and changes the number of absences on his computer. Ferris even has power over Rooney.
Ten minutes into the film, and already most of the characters have been established. Ferris is the cocky narcissistic main character of the film. Cameron is his good friend who Ferris basically manipulates and tricks into doing things for him. Rooney is a control freak who is hell bent on catching Ferris (even though we see within minutes that Ferris already has the upper hand). And Annie is Ferris’ sister who knows that Ferris is faking his illness.
Within these ten minutes we are introduced to 95% of the main characters (excluding Ferris’ girlfriend) but we are able to pretty much see what this story is going to be about through the uses of dialogue and character development.