How do the camera angles represent gender and the nature of the relationships in Harley Street?

The popular TV Drama ‘Harley Street’ is a representation of how the NHS differs from a private surgery through the observation of a male doctor and his antics.

As the episode begins immediately there is a tracking mid shot of a male doctor. He is shown wearing the traditional teal green overalls and stethoscope which directly informs the audience as to who he is and his importance. The camera shows him walking down the middle of the corridor however he is interrupted by several nurses who query him about what appears to be all severe traumas. The importance and message of this shot shows that the doctor is male and juxtaposed against the idea of the female nurses in the ‘wings’ of the dominant corridor. It also implies that because they are unsure they are unskilled and have a reliance upon his presence and knowledge to succeed. The diegetic sound is of his voice giving technical instructions to a variety of people against a background of diegetic generic hospital noises. The doctor – Robert Fielding- is privileged by the camera in that this scene is one long uncut tracking shot, dollying around, keeping him in focus at all times. Also the over the shoulder shots
make the audience aware of the contrast between the male doctor and female nurses sometimes showing him fore-grounded in a low angle shot with the women in the background. As the scene changes the doctor in a two shot is filmed having a conversation while all the time moving on, laden with sexual suggestion with an attractive nurse, showing him in control both at work and in a private sense.

This is broken by the sudden entrance of a screaming woman of African race, seen in a long shot, wearing a blood stained top and followed by a scrum of young people crowding round a blood covered boy lying on a stretcher as he is rushed towards the doctor. The significance of this is to dramatise what the NHS deals with routinely against the Harley Street practices. It also shows the difference between social classes with the working class being represented to be associated with criminality, gangs and violence. This is shown in an over the shoulder wide shot to establish a context but also to emphasise the doctor’s expertise and importance as he gives orders and acts in a controlled, professional way unlike the woman and others shown in a group shot to be threatening and out of control.

Jump cuts are now used to bring the scene to a close having given us an idea of an average day in an NHS hospital. A complete change of pace is heralded by a fade to black opening on a high angle shot of a man (Fielding) lying sprawled in exhausted sleep on a bed. Close ups of his trainers and dirty scrubs are later contrasted with his smart suit, jacket and shoes in Harley Street. A long shot completes this section with a male friend opening the door and reminding him that it is time to ‘sell his soul.’

The scene moves outside to what appears to be the city of London, tracking shots follow Dr. Robert Fielding speeding in his expensive sports car. The camera then films a close up of the street name ‘ Harley Street’ which clearly shows the viewers where he is, but also this is the first moment they learn the basic storyline. The action takes us via a series of swift jump cuts to a scene of him in the shower accompanied by non-diegetic music, which increases the rush and frantic mood that he seems to be in a rush. As he pulls back the shower curtain, he is unperturbed by the presence of a woman. The over the shoulder shot shows us the first woman of authority. She is dressed in a dark, tailored suit and sharp cut hair which differentiates her from the previous NHS nurses. The relationship between these two appears to be very different as the roles have changed and she is the one in control, apparently showing his vulnerability whilst in the shower. Yet the deliberate over the shoulder shot from behind his naked back focuses our attention on her face as she too is unfazed by his nakedness. Their banter carries connotations of a sexual nature but here she is leading it.

As the storyline continues, the pair are framed in a two shot in his office, with a potential private client, Ms Gill. The camera conveys authority on each of the three characters through close ups of Dr Fielding and a wide over the shoulder shot from behind and between the female boss and Fielding talking formally to the well dressed older client who seems positioned in the middle of the pair. In a close up the authoritative woman indicates she has seen his blood stained NHS teal green overalls by making eye contact with the doctor and with a minute movement of her head implies they must not be seen. A close up of his slight smirk followed by a mid-shot of her movement to pick up and hide the offending item immediately makes us reappraise their power relationship. This also familiarises the audience of the ‘double’ life he leads.

 


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