Analysis of Paranoid Park

114 views 5 pages ~ 1269 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park is a movie written and directed by Gus Van Sant released in 2007. The film is based on a novel written by Blake Nelson, and the action takes place in Portland. During an interview, Van said that he wrote the draft script in two days after reading Blake Bleson’s novel. In the past few years, few movies have been released with the level of artistry and emotional impact experienced in Paranoid Park. At first, the film gives an impression of high school drama, but as the movie progresses, other things surface. The director Van used this film to explore the secrets that people carry, with a focus on what they hide beneath. Van used home video techniques with an ultra-realistic method, using non-actors with ad-libbed dialogue. Van crafted a movie that feels like a dream which starts beautifully but gets darker as it progresses.


The movie is about a teenage skater Gabe Navins who plays as Alex whose initial problems involved skating; use his mom’s car and satisfying his girlfriend who is high maintenance. His problems are however later pushed to the background as he becomes involved in the gruesome accidental death of a security guard. The majority of the movie is focused on the psychological struggles faced by Alex after the accident.

After the accident, Alex goes home wondering who he could call and how he would explain the whole scenario. After weighing his options and deciding that telling some would jeopardize his freedom and risk going to jail, Alex throws away his skateboard which is splattered with blood. This act begins the long spiral of cover-ups.

The movie begins with Alex sitting on the beach with a notebook which he was busy recording his life events. His voice over navigates through the events that had taken place previously. In the film, there are several parts which are repeated a couple of times. This is a technique that Van uses in his movies to show the individual perspectives of characters (Cameron, 2006). These perspectives changes as more information is revealed, for example, at the beginning of the film Paranoid Park, we see Alex being interrogated by police and the first reaction from the audience is to sympathize with Alex. His answers are calm and convincing until later after he recounts the actual events that the audience realizes he was lying. Not until later in the film that the audience find out precisely what transpired throughout the night and how the security guard died and why Alex had lied to the cops. This technique is known as a non-linear narrative and repetitive editing which tells the story in bits, almost like a puzzle that the police haven’t solved (Buckland, n.d.).

The director, as far as acting goes, he seems to understand the intricate and the self-searching minds of teenagers. Teenagers are aware of the identity crisis which is further complicated by the society telling them who to be and has been experienced in the film where they are seen walking in small groups defined as micro cultures. A scene where Alex is driving his mom’s car, flipping radio stations and reacting differently to various songs shows some character and a search for identity.


Christopher Doyle who is the cinematographer in this film allows the cameras to make some extreme close-ups of the faces creating quivering handheld shots which are played in slow motion.

The camera’s angles and movement are created uniquely. He uses the traveling camera technique when the camera is placed on the skateboard to get a low angle from the ground at the skate park. Through-out the film, there are delayed super eight sequences which feature low-angle shots of the skateboard. While these bits might appear as misplaced in a typical narrative, they fit well in this film giving it a classical effect (Cameron, 2014). Van uses these sequences to give the film an artistic feel while allowing the audience to pause for self-reflections. Most of the scenes from the film are done with long shots without a dialogue. An example of a powerful extreme close-up shot is on Alex’s face as he showers after the accident. From this scene, there is an emotion which is expressed through Alex’s desire to wash off the terrible memory of the accident as the reality of what happened kicks-in. This scene has been repeated several times in the film. The first time Alex is seen in the shower, the first thing that comes to the minds of the viewers was that Alex was taking a shower to cool down after a long day of skating. However, it is after Alex fills the gap in his story that the audience sees what happened that night.

Visual effects

Visual effects have not been widely used in this film, and the ones that have been used are limited to in-camera techniques. This organic way of shooting brings a more substantial emotional impact in the violent scenes in which visual effects must be applied (Kiss and Willemsen, n.d.). For example, the film Star Wars is filled with many special effects which immerse the audience to an imaginary world. Star wars, however, lack emotional impact. Paranoid Park is the opposite of star wars as the film is made believably, through the restrained use of visual effects making the audience feel as if they are witnessing the body of the security guard split in two by the train. The result of the visual effects makes this scene to be the most emotional and disturbing moment in the film.

Van’s directing style

Van’s directing method is influenced mainly by the fact that he understands and knows people well. He knows what makes people feel uncomfortable and he finds ways to express unsettling truths in his movies. Some of his other movies are based on drug addiction (Drugstore Cowboy), school shootings (Elephant), and falling rock stars (Last Days). Van uses experimental sequences in many of his movies, unlike Hollywood style which is based on narratives (Wood, 2007). His films as seen in Paranoid Park have unconventional structure characteristics, with many flashbacks and repeated action used in the narrative to help tell a story. The film also has limited dialogue but many images filled with naturalistic sounds that express the character’s inner thoughts.


In conclusion, Van showed that people could not keep a life-altering event as a secret as shown in the film where Alex is seen as an individual consumed by his guilt and shame which makes him unable to focus on his daily life. After finishing his story on his notebook, he plucks the pages and puts them in a bonfire. This represents the release of his stress and serves a glimmer of hope that he would be able to move on with his life without ever being discovered. All in all, Paranoid Park is a good movie with minimal writing, natural acting, refined editing, and fluid camerawork.


Barsam, R. and Monahan, D. (n.d.). Looking at movies.

Buckland, W. (n.d.). Hollywood puzzle films.

Cameron, A. (2006). Modular narratives.

Cameron, A. (2014). Modular narratives in contemporary cinema. [Place of publication not identified]: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hven, S. (n.d.). Cinema and narrative complexity.


Kiss, M. and Willemsen, S. (n.d.). Impossible puzzle films.

Ratner, M. (2008). Paranoid Park : The Home Front. Film Quarterly, 62(1), pp.26-31.

Saldívar, R. (2013). The Second Elevation of the Novel: Race, Form, and the Postrace Aesthetic in Contemporary Narrative. Narrative, 21(1), pp.1-18.

Wood, M. (2007). Contemporary European cinema. London: Hodder Arnold.

September 25, 2023




Subject area:

Film Analysis

Number of pages


Number of words




Writer #



Expertise Film Analysis
Verified writer

Samuel has helped me on several occasions with my college assignments. It has been both simple and complex for my Cinematography course. He is a creative person who will always inspire you. When you need a person to boost your forces, contact Samuel.

Hire Writer

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro