We’re analyzing the opening 10 minutes of Steven Knight’s crime drama Peaky Blinders.
How does Steven Knight grab our attention in the first few moments and draw us in?
Let’s study the action and dialogue:
EXT. BUSY MARKET – DAY.
A CHINESE MAN runs through a busy market, followed by a teenage GIRL carrying a baby.
Hurry up, or they will kill us all.
The Man and Girl reach another GIRL. Girl 1 hands the baby to Girl 2 (who looks about 12).
The next line is both shocking and funny.
Do your tits still have milk?
Girl 2 nods. Girl 1 hands her the baby.
(What?!! This 12 year old girl has milk in her breasts? She has had a baby?)
The Chinese Man looks desperate and worried at an OLD CHINESE MAN.
OLD CHINESE MAN
Where are you going?
They have asked for her.
Zoom in close to the anxious Old Chinese Man’s face.
So, how does Steven Knight grab us and draw us in in his opening moments?
1. He creates intrigue. Who are they? And why have they asked for a girl?
2. He shocks us.
3. He delivers an unexpected, funny, unusual line of dialogue.
And bang! We’re in.
That’s the opening 18 second scene of Peaky Blinders.
But what are Chinese nationals doing in Birmingham in 1918? It’s a little known fact that during WW1 more than 140,000 Chinese ‘volunteers’ were recruited by the British government.
The Chinese thread continues with Thomas Shelby’s opium trafficking storyline in season 5.
The Chinese Labour Corps 中国劳工旅; traditional Chinese: 中國勞工旅; pinyin: Zhōngguó láogōng lǚ) was a force of workers recruited by the British government in the First World War to free troops for front line duty by performing support work and manual labour.
Click here for Scene 2.
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